“Sticks and Stones May….”

What do you call a group of college and university presidents?

Distinctive labels abound in the animal kingdom: a colony of penguins, a pride of lions, a gaggle of geese, a school of fish, etc.  Now, at long last, the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster has announced that it will use the term “Alamo” to refer to leaders of institutions of higher education — as in, “an Alamo of Florida college presidents recently attended the inaugural convocation at the new DeSantis University for Twisty Minds in Key West.” 

Gregory Barlow, President of Merriam-Webster, observes that “Alamo” captures the sense of unrelenting challenge that college leaders face today: “The embattled, courageous volunteers who defended the Alamo in 1836 fought against overwhelming odds.  The same can be said of university presidents in 2023.”  

Barlow notes that “we are considering names for other groups in higher education: a gathering of department chairs could be called a ‘kerfuffle’, an assembly of deans is without question a ‘disaster’ (the alliteration is a bonus!), a roomful of provosts definitely qualifies as a ‘bottleneck’, a group of chief financial officers constitutes a ‘spreadsheet’, and a bunch of tenured professors would, of course, be an ‘annoyance’.  

“We’re still working on what to call students.”