What Happened to UNLV’s Moyer Student Union?

UNLV_Las_Vegas_Student_UnionThis question arose during a discussion about UNLV between two UNLV alumni—myself and a current Boyd School of Law student. Confusion arose when I attempted to correct her use of “SU” (for Student Union) with “MSU” (Moyer Student Union). “MSU? What’s that?” she asked. I was stunned.

Since my first campus visit as an elementary school nerd, UNLV’s Moyer Student Union was a comfort zone amid a maze of massive buildings adorned with important names, and sidewalks teeming with “grown-up” students. With its comfortable couches, televisions and Space Age vending machines—Cold soda! Fresh coffee! Hot chocolate! Soup! All served in a paper cup!—the MSU was everything I wished my elementary school cafeteria was. Later, when studying at UNLV, the MSU’s second-floor ballroom offered a rare Vegas opportunity for numerous touring “college rock” bands, even landing legendary punk quartet the Ramones, who staged their only Vegas show at MSU on December 7, 1984. Ten bucks!

Donald C. Moyer was our university’s first president (1964-1969) when it was still known as Nevada Southern. Moyer pushed to rebrand the university, and in 1969, it happened, shedding its “Tumbleweed Tech” image and becoming the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Earlier, in 1968, a student-funded Student Union was dedicated in Moyer’s honor, and as the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported at his death in 2008, thanks to the MSU, Moyer’s name “became known to generations of students afterward,” and rightfully so.

But evidently, not anymore. As is par for the course in Vegas, in 2007 the original student union was demolished and rebuilt. While it held many memories, the old building was nondescript, and the campus now hosts nearly three times as many students as in the 1980s. A larger, more modern facility was in order, but I still wondered: What about Moyer? So I did what any college student would: I tweeted someone. “@UNLV-SUES: Is Moyer still part of the SU name?” They responded: “Moyer is still part of the name, but most people simply refer to it as the Student Union! :)”

And why wouldn’t they? While an Internet search for “Moyer Student Union” takes me to the UNLV Student Union page, nowhere on the new building itself is Moyer’s name. Digging into UNLV’s interactive online map churns up similar results: a long list of familiar buildings (BEH: Frank & Estella Beam Hall! FDH: Flora Dungan Humanities! WRI: John S. Wright Hall!). And the terribly generic “SU: Student Union.” Oddly, Moyer’s name has disappeared from the campus cultural conversation—hardly appropriate for a president who believed so much in UNLV and understood the power of a name. Are keystrokes and channel letters really that expensive?

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