Texas A&M University-Commerce is considering a name change that some have argued will erase the university’s roots in East Texas.

The main campus in Commerce, Texas, about 65 miles northeast of Dallas, sits on 2,101 sprawling acres and includes dozens of academic buildings and seven residence halls. The university was founded in 1889 as East Texas Normal College in Cooper, Texas, but relocated to Commerce after the original campus was destroyed in a fire in 1894. The college underwent several name changes in the ensuing years, including East Texas State Normal College, East Texas State College, and East Texas State University.

In 1996, the university became part of the Texas A&M system and took on its current name.

The university has several satellite campuses, offering classes in Corsicana, Mesquite, and McKinney. Texas A&M-Commerce also recently opened another location on North Central Expressway in Dallas for its School of Education and Human Services and its School of Business headquarters, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Leaders within the Texas A&M system are having preliminary discussions about what it could look like to include Dallas in the name of the university, per The Dallas Morning News. One suggested iteration of the name is Texas A&M University-Dallas at Commerce.

Texas A&M Commerce president Mark Rudin shared his thoughts on how he believes including Dallas in the school’s name would “better tell the story of who we are” since the school serves the growing Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to DMN.

“When I first got here, we were a rural unit university with DFW at our footstep. Now we’re a DFW university with rural Northeast Texas at our doorstep,” Rudin explained.

However, the university is facing opposition from more than 8,000 people who have signed an online petition since the potential name change was announced. Matthew Middleton, a 2014 alumnus of Texas A&M University-Commerce, posted a video to the online petition feed to share his opinion on the potential name change.

“Please do not change the name,” he said. “It means a lot to those of us who took our time and really worked hard to get our degree.”

Maria Jones commented: “This University is a landmark for Commerce. They are proud of it, and they are proud of its history. Adding Dallas to the name negates the importance of Commerce and its long relationship with the university. It is not needed and not wanted.”

Several alumni commented on the petition to express the sense of loss they felt when the university changed its name after joining the A&M system in 1996, losing its “East Texas” name association.

Gary McMillian offered an alternative name, writing, “The name being proposed is not a good one. … If a name change is necessary, a hybrid of old and new would be a far superior choice. After becoming a part of the A&M system, ‘East Texas A&M University’ was, and still is, the most rational renaming of the institution.”

The petition was created on July 2 by Madi Lovett-Pittman, a 2017 alum of Texas A&M Commerce, who wrote that it is “crucial to preserve the distinct identity of Texas A&M University-commerce for the sake of continuity, tradition, and local economic stability.”

“I began the petition with the student body and the local economy in mind,” Lovett-Pittman told DX. “Students and alumni have worked hard to make this institution what it is today, and this change will diminish those efforts. Alumni and student voices will be heard, and my hope is that the petition to stop the renaming of the university has some weight in the final decision.”

University officials said that if they were to include Dallas in the institution’s name, it would not deter them from serving those in rural communities, DMN reported.

“We will never forsake or draw attention away from rural Northeast Texas,” Rudin said. “It allows us to simultaneously serve the rural and urban needs of Northeast Texas.”

Regents from the Texas A&M system would have to vote on the name change; however, nothing has been announced yet on the board’s agenda for August, DMN reported.

Some have speculated that the name change may indicate that the Dallas satellite location would become the primary campus for Texas A&M University-Commerce, but Rudin stressed that this is not the case. He told DMN that he intends to meet with campus groups this week to “bring them up to speed and correct some misinformation that’s out there and let them know what I know.”