To many, the name ISIS has become synonymous with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group responsible for the brutal killing of journalist James Foley earlier this week. But for students at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus, the name has long had a far more innocent meaning. The campus feminist group there goes by the name ISIS — an acronym for In Strength I Stand — and its president tells Daily Intelligencer that despite recent international events, they don’t have plans to change it.
“We’re a very visible group on campus,” says Wallis Monday, the president of the Fordham student club. “People know who we are. Nobody thinks we are in any way an Islamic terror nationalist group. So I really don’t see a need to change it because of that.” Adds Monday: “I don’t have to explain myself when I say ISIS here.”
Monday says that while a couple of friends have pointed out the connection to her, no one in the school’s administration has raised any concerns. “We have a really firm reason for why we chose ISIS for our club name, and we don’t necessarily want to change that just because of this unfortunate coincidence,” says Monday. “But if I hear people talking in the coming academic year — like, Oh, ISIS, that makes me a little weirded out — then obviously I would consider making a change.”
Monday says that she’s not concerned about the name because of the nature of the club as a not-for-profit student organization. But she says that if she were running a business called ISIS, she might want to change the name.
Indeed, at least one company is going that route. The digital payment service Isis announced last month that they’d be changing their name because “we have no interest in sharing a name with a group whose name has become synonymous with violence and our hearts go out to those who are suffering.”
Other companies, however, aren’t looking to rebrand. A spokesperson for Isis Pharmaceuticals, which trades on the NASDAQ under the symbol ISIS, tells Intelligencer that they have not discussed a name change. “Of course, as a public company, we are concerned about how our name is perceived,” says the spokesperson. “However, Isis Pharmaceuticals has been in business for 25 years and we have a solid institutional investor base that knows us well. As such, most in the investor community and the physicians and medical staff we work with know us very well and are not confused by the recent news regarding the terrorist group in Iraq.”
As for the Fordham club, Monday doesn’t think rebranding the club’s name is worth the effort. “Changing the name would just be kind of a pain, and I think that we’re doing fine as we are,” she says. “I don’t think anyone’s going to misunderstand a group of energetic, college feminists who are blasting Beyoncé outside of the classrooms on Club Day as Islamic militants.”