Respect takes more than a name

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By Lori Fazari

Would a school by any other name be taken any more seriously?

This question is now under intense scrutiny in the upper reaches of Jorgenson Hall.

In their efforts to enhance the quality of their name brand, Ryerson’s administration is proposing to drop the “polytechnic” tag when marketing the school. Just press delete, wipe the slate clean, erase any trace of what makes Ryerson stand out in Canada’s university landscape.

For the sake of your valued education, the marketers want to make sure you’re recognized as a university student. University is they key, noe some rag-tag lower-class polytechnic university that used to be a polytechnic that used to be an institute.

Before scrapping this decades-old polytechnic tradition though, the school’s board of governors, which is set to vote on the issue Nov. 27, might want to swing by the bookstore for new dictionary. The definition leaves no doubt about it — Ryerson’s a polytechnic.

As defined under the word in out copy of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, we attend an institute of higher education. Ryerson offers courses in many subjects, and there’s no denying the fact that its programs are vocational: nursing, fashion, urban and regional planning.

Even though the degree comes with a requisite liberal arts component, that takes second billing to the reason that most people come to Ryerson — for four years of specialized training at a place with the name recognition to hopefully land you a job in your field when you’re done.

The sticking point for those scratching their heads over the polydebate may be the dictionary definition’s clause that a polytechnica offers “degree level or below” courses. The school still bears a certain self-consciousness to it since joining the ranks of degree-granters in 1993. Having earned university status only seven years ago, Ryerson is a relative newborn still crawling around in the diapers of mostly undergraduate degrees. The hope is that being called nothing but a university will help the world understand Ryerson students earn nothing but university degrees.

But polytechnic is our standard-bearer; it suits us. We’re smack in the core of downtown Toronto. We mean business.

What other branding options do we have? If we didn’t confess to our true nature, we’d become like every other plain Jane-named postsecondary institution in Canada: Ryerson University. Maybe the University of Ryerson, to shake things up a bit. Or we could throw college in there, like Ryerson University College, or Ryerson College University.

Of course, that would bring us back to the same problem: People would think our degrees aren’t worthy of a university. Maybe Ryerson Polydegree-Granting University is the way to go, if it weren’t for the clunkiness.

This fair question is bound to be tossed around long after Ryerson’s board decides whether to ditch the poly or not.

In the end though, it takes more than a name change to alter the course of years of public opinion. And it takes more than a catchy name to earn respect.

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