HAYWARD, Calif. — Despite its solid academic reputation and breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay, Cal State Hayward has struggled for years to lure more undergraduates to its lush hillside campus.
To pump up the school's appeal, campus officials Wednesday won permission to change its name to Cal State East Bay -- riling the hometown the same way baseball's Angels recently angered Anaheim by adding "Los Angeles" to the team title.
The campus president, Norma Rees, pushed for the school between San Jose and Oakland to adopt the new name, which she says better reflects the region it serves. University officials also claimed that the city of Hayward's lingering, but no longer deserved, reputation as a run-down postwar suburb hurt the campus' image.
Many locals and students are incensed that the Cal State system's Board of Trustees unanimously approved Rees' proposal. Hayward residents see the change as an insult to the blue-collar roots of the city, which once housed a large cannery and is not as affluent as some nearby communities in the Silicon Valley.
"A lot of students are from underprivileged backgrounds. It's a slap in the face to us," said Norma Gutierrez, 21, a senior political science major. "They're not only dissociating themselves from the city, they're dissociating themselves from the students."
Even worse, students say, is the image of another famous Bay Area institution evoked by the new name.
"People are going to call it Cal State EBay," said sophomore Benjamin Lin, 19, referring to the Internet auction site. "I don't want people to say I got my degree off EBay," he said as he barbecued chicken on the campus quad.
University President Rees was unmoved by the arguments.
"It's not really about the students who are studying here, it is about the students yet to be here. It is about our future," she said in a recent interview in her office.
Besides, officials note, Cal State East Bay will be the university's fifth formal name since it was founded in 1957: State College for Alameda County, Alameda County State College, California State College at Hayward and, in 1972, California State University, Hayward.
The campus can accommodate more than 17,000 students, but fewer than 14,000 are enrolled, according to Jay Colombatto, the school's director of communications and marketing. Of those, about a quarter are undergraduates and three-quarters are graduate students, many of whom are enrolled in the school's well-regarded business programs. Colombatto said optimal enrollment would raise the undergraduates to 40% of the student body.
The low proportion of undergraduates hurts campus life and the university's ability to offer general education and liberal arts courses, officials say. To help fill the empty spaces, the school has actively recruited in foreign countries; about 9% of its undergraduates are international students, an unusually high number for a Cal State school.
The school also lags in fundraising. Last year, Cal State Hayward raised $2.7 million in private funds, while the Cal State system average was $8.3 million per campus, Colombatto said.
With these challenges in mind, the university about three years ago "decided it was time to look at how we were marketing ourselves," Colombatto said.
After surveying families with high-school-age children in its home region of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the university found that its name was a problem, Colombatto said.
"The Hayward place name negatively influenced perceptions ... it didn't communicate a welcoming place, a safe place," he said.
The Cal State Hayward title suggested "a small, local institution" and the city of Hayward had "a gritty, industrial image" among those surveyed.
In addition, the study found that area residents did not perceive Hayward as a school of quality equal to its Cal State neighbors, San Jose State and San Francisco State universities.
The East Bay title conforms with the geographically broad names of the two newest campuses in the 23-school Cal State system: Channel Islands, in Ventura County, and Monterey Bay.
And in some ways, the school is taking a path as convoluted as baseball's newly rechristened Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
In addition to its Hayward campus, the university has smaller sites, including a 1,500-student branch in Concord and a business development center in Oakland. Under the new naming scheme, the overall university would be called East Bay, but the branches would take such names as CSU East Bay-Concord while the main campus would be designated CSU East Bay-Hayward Hills.
Those who fought the change say the Hayward Hills designation makes a bad situation worse. The hills happen to be the toniest section of Hayward, a city of 144,000 that grew rapidly after World War II as veterans and workers found affordable houses and nearby factory jobs.
"Are they trying to say there's something better about being in the hills than other places in the community?" Hayward Mayor Roberta Cooper asked.