Seton – La Salle v. Seton LaSalle: Why it Matters

By: Ryan Kendrick

“New year, new me” seems to be the motto for the 2016-2017 academic cycle here at Seton LaSalle. There have been multiple physical changes to the school, like adding the STREAM center and replacing our athletic trophies with school spirit apparel for sale, but also a change in the school’s name. Originally Seton – La Salle, the school administrators thought that by making La Salle one word, and getting rid of the dash, it would be more easily identified and clear. They have, in fact, only increased the confusion and are misguided in their attempt at ‘clarification.’ The newly punctuated name, which has been decided on with advice from rebranding experts, is Seton LaSalle High School. It is to be abbreviated as SL.

In order to get an idea on how many people knew about the recent change in spelling and abbreviation,  a poll was administered to the whole student body and approximately half responded. The results were extremely interesting. Of the responders, only 44.6% knew the correct spelling of the school and 29.2% know the correct abbreviation.

what-is-our-school-called

 school-abbreviation

According to Mr. Thomas Dattilo, President of Seton LaSalle, “We did consult with branding experts who did agree that it (our school’s name)  was artificially complicated and that not only google searches, but at the end of the line of print, if it’s a hyphenation at the end of a line you now have two hyphens in one word, and that’s impossible to understand. All those things went into the decision.”

“Take a look at— the confusion that exists If you take a look at this year’s, 2016 Cross Country Uniform, you’ll see a hyphen between the La and the Salle. It is just typical though that without strict guidelines you don’t know what is the right way. And we know that there is going to be mistakes made for years and years and years to come. Not mistakes but people are going to go back to what’s in their computer or on their speed dial and it’s going to have a hyphen and that’s going to be fine. We are trying to tamp down that confusion.”, according to Dattilo.

However, the efforts to implement and share the new naming of the school have been weak at best. If a minority of our student body knows what the correct spelling and abbreviation of our school is, how can any alumni, potential student, or donor know? By offering a new possible name into the picture, it increases the chance for error. It appears that the plan to stop confusion has backfired, as Merrick Field, school required shirts, athletic gear, and the stone sign in the front of the school all have either Seton – La Salle or SLS embedded in them.

If you are confused, it is not you.  It’s your school. 

Dattilo admits, “We haven’t really done it formally, it’s spelled both ways by everyone, ourselves, the newspapers, even the diocese have people that spell it with a hyphen; some do, some don’t…. Well, the proper way is whatever we agree is the best way. And we think this is, based on our advisors, this is the simplest.”

In response to Dattilo, Mrs. Bridget Parker, English teacher said, “This ‘do what you feel’ approach to punctuation is interestingly out of tune with our typical objectives as a school. I agree the spelling has been confusing over the years, but so is math.  Just because you’re confused doesn’t mean there’s not a right answer.”

Adding to Mrs. Parker’s point, there actually is a right, definite way on how to spell our patron saint, Jean Baptiste de la Salle’s name, because he is an actual person with an actual name. There is no debate that there is a space between ‘the’ and ‘great’ in Alexander the Great, so it is grammatically incorrect to say Alexander TheGreat. La means ‘the’ in the French language and ‘Salle’ means wall, but LaSalle means nothing.

“It is the spelling that made LaSalle one word, especially when all of the capital letters are all combined together. La should be lower case because it means the in general. The abbreviation has taken away what it means if it was translated. If the S stands for Seton and the L stands for La, where is his name. It is sort of illiterate. A frenchman would laugh at it.” reiterates Mr. John Manear, who has been teaching here since the first year it became Seton – La Salle.

Another reason why keeping the dash and space in La Salle is because it represents two different saints and schools.  In 1979 , Elizabeth Seton High School (all girls), and South Hills Catholic High School (all boys) decided to merge. This decision addressed declining enrollment and the fall-from-favor of single sex education, in preference co-educational model.  

The importance of this is that an agreement was reached in which the name of the newly merged school would reflect both patrons, equally.  Seton – La Salle was born. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Jean Baptiste de La Salle are each represented, equally, across the single “hyphen.’  

Class of 2016 graduate Leo Wilson says, “I did not know about the change in the school’s name, and I feel indifferent about it. I think it is so microscopic that I don’t find it offensive, but I could see someone feeling differently and finding it slightly demeaning.”

“I did know the name of the school changed, but I find it’s dumb. The new abbreviation, SL, sounds like the size of a t-shirt. I also don’t think it will help promote the school in any way because people who grew up knowing Seton – La Salle won’t know who or what SL is. It is also offensive because they are discounting his (Jean Baptiste de la Salle’s) name.” states Sophomore Domenic Viskovicz.

A recent Rebel Report twitter poll shows that an overwhelming majority agree with Viskovicz opinion. Out of 95 votes, 87 people agree that the abbreviation SLS makes more sense and is therefore better than SL.

poll-abbreviation

“It seems ignorant of them (the administrators) to go ahead and change a saint’s name, especially one who is the patron saint of teachers.” points out Junior Mark Mitchell.

For almost four decades the school has been called Seton – La Salle. It would be naive to neglect the fact that there has always been some confusion on the name, but by making a half-hearted effort to publish and enforce the new naming only creates more uncertainty. Adding to this, most mainstream newspapers still call us Seton – La Salle because they have not been contacted about the change. If we wanted to effectively rebrand and get the new name out, wouldn’t this be one of the first steps? It is understandable that major renovations cannot be done immediately, but the old spellings and abbreviations around and in our school still exist and must not be ignored.

As a concerned student attempting to help address the problems in the school, for all of our benefit, I suggest that this must be addressed seriously and not as a ‘flavor of the month’ event. Without complete commitment from everyone; administrators, teachers, and students, we appear as a group of people who cannot spell. In some way, the new spelling and abbreviation of the school must be enforced by at least the administrators and teachers, and major newspapers like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Tribune Review must be contacted to promote the new name.

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