By Siri Agrell
In a debate that would have made the Bard blush, members of the board of governors discussed what’s in a name. Whether ‘tis better to drop one and sell another, or not to have debated at all?
They eventually approved a policy at Monday’s meeting that would see the school’s buildings, labs and awards named after top dollar donors, as well as basics of a marketing campaign policy that drops “Ploytechnic” from the school’s name.
Odelia Bay, RyeSAC’s v.p. education and a student board member, battled against the naming policy. She said she is concerned the school would eventually sell its name away.
“The integrity of this school is already being questioned,” Bay said. “Journalism students are being taught in the Rogers Communication Centre, they go to class in the Eaton’s lecture hall and write up their stories in the Toronto Star lab, what message does that send?”
Another board member, Michael Guerriere, was concerned private and corporate donors would try to influence university policy.
“They had this problem at U of T,” Guerriere said. “We need to be very clear about the role these benefactors are going to play.”
In 1997 the University of Toronto faculty association protested when businessman Peter Munk donated $6.4 million. They said conditions attached to the gift gave Munk influence over course content. After public backlash the university was forced to change the terms of the agreement.
Gordon Cressy, v.p. of university advancement, is heading Ryerson’s largest-ever fundraising drive and said the policy does protect the school’s interests. He said the school would not name anything that would imply the school’s endorsement of a political or ideological position, or a commercial product.
“People are now naming everything but boiler rooms,” said Cressy. “You have to be careful that you don’t embarrass yourself or the company, and it’s our intention to protect ourselves against any questions of integrity.”
Under the proposed policy, the office of university advancement can approve donations under $1 million. Larger gifts have to be reviewed and accepted by the board of governors.
“Even for donations less than one million [dollars], if in my opinion it’s questionable then I’ll take it to the board,” Cressy said.
The board approved the new naming policy on the condition that Cressy amend the approval process to screen for any breach of university integrity.
A proposed communication strategy that would drop “Polytechnic” from the school’s logo was also contested by the board.
Ryerson Polytechnic University would still be the school’s official name, but it would only appear on legal document such as degrees and contracts.
After a prolonged haze in which many board members made their confusion known, several finally voiced their disapproval.
“A business card isn’t a legal document, but I bet a lot of faculty who feel strongly about the word would object to it being taken off,” said board member Don Jackson.
Despite the objections, the communications strategy was approved and the amended name will begin appearing in Ryerson publications next spring.