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UI students and staff respond to ISIS acronym

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | MAY 07, 2015 5:00 AM

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Students who Google “ISIS” looking to connect to a university website and browse for a summer class are met with horrifying headlines.

But the University of Iowa is unlikely to rename the Iowa Student Information Systems — or ISIS — despite the acronym’s connection with the terrorist organization, which is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Three states, including Kansas, Florida, and Massachusetts, have decided to change the abbreviation for their respective Integrated Student Information Systems.

“We’ve taken steps to de-emphasize the acronym commonly used — ISIS,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

Though Moore said the UI is not yet aware of any complaints from students or any confusion, he said the UI is sensitive to anyone who may have concerns.

“We have been using this name for our system for several decades, and we don’t think there is much confusion between our system name and the ISIS organization,” Moore said.

UI freshman Brianna Davis said when she personally thinks about ISIS, she thinks about the system at the UI rather than the terrorist group.

“Now that I know [ISIS] is such a violent and negative group, I think more on the negative side,” Davis said. “Usually, I’ll type ‘ISIS’ into the URL bar on my laptop, and instead of the academic site, thousands of terrorist articles come up, so that’s a negative effect.”

UI freshman Brianna Murray said she does not believe the acronym is an issue. 

“It never personally affected me,” Murray said. “I rarely have heard of it being a problem.”

Though the acronym has not received much backlash at the UI, Kansas State University has many factors that contribute to the acronym being controversial on their campus.

KSU’s proximity to Fort Riley, a U.S. Army installation — paired with lots of its students have served in the Middle East — resulted in demand for change, said Ken Stafford, the chief information officer and vice provost for information technology services at Kansas State.

That change finally happened in March, when Kansas State sent out a newsletter that its information system has been changed to KSIS.

Stafford said Kansas State recently received a considerable number of emails and letters to officials such as the president and provost.

“I received exactly two nasty emails apparently from the same person, talking about us giving in to the enemy,” Stafford said.

When the ISIS terrorist group appeared last year, Stafford said the Kansas State cabinet discussed a possible name change, but thought the issue would blow over.

However, ISIS has continued to attack, and recommendations for change soon prevailed.

“I can’t say whether it is a good or bad idea for others to change if they are using ISIS,” Stafford said. “I know that other institutions have changed it, and at least one company has changed its product line.”

UI freshman Hannah Keimig said she believes the UI should follow Kansas State’s lead.

“I think we should change the name because I can see how it might be offensive to some,” she said. “It should be named something that doesn’t have negative connotations associated with it.”


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