By Annie Arnone
Members of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) are demanding the university change its name due to Egerton Ryerson’s affiliation with residential schooling in Canada. According to Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi, it would be a “years-long process”—but at what cost?
Ida Berger, a professor of marketing in the Ted Rogers School of Management, said she believes a change like this would cost “millions of dollars,” considering that a simple font change for Ryerson cost $200,000.
In 2015, Ryerson changed the fonts on campus banners, documents and online logos.
RSU vice-president equity Camryn Harlick said, “I’m confused as to how a font would make our university a better space, but changing the name from a man who partook in, and created the biggest genocide in Canadian history, and actively spoke against Indigenous people would not benefit our university.”
Lauren Clegg, Ryerson’s media relations officer, said determining a hypothetical variable when discussing a name-change is a difficult thing to do at this time.
“Given the many unknowns involved, we couldn’t even begin to hypothesize the logistics or costs involved in such a step,” said Clegg.
Lachemi added that “a potential university name change would not only affect our community of 50,000 current faculty, staff and students, but also our 180,000 alumni.”
In February, Yale University changed the name of one of its colleges after student protests centred around its controversial name, Calhoun College—named after John. C. Calhoun, an American who promoted slavery.
The University of Western Ontario changed its name to Western University in 2012, due to their increase of international students, and believed the word ‘Ontario’ was limiting to their diverse student population.
To drop “Ontario” from their title cost the school $200,000. Similar to Ryerson’s 2015 text change, this only applied to online branding, signage and official document fees.
In 2016, the Houston Independent School District in the U.S. approved the payment of $1.2 million in order to change the names of several schools named after Confederate leaders, following controversy. The amount was intended to cover costs related to branded facilities, uniforms and banners bearing controversial appropriative imagery, including mascots wearing Indigenous headgear.
The RSU posted a list of demands to their official Facebook page in July, following controversy surrounding the Canada 150 celebrations. Included in the requests was “Remove the Egerton Ryerson statue from Gould St., change the name of Ryerson University to a name that does not celebrate a man who supported and created the structures of colonial genocide and put a plaque on Gould Street where it is visible and easily accessible, and include Indigenous students in writing and drafting of this plaque.”
Almost three months later, the school has responded to the demands by implementing the installation of a plaque, intended to outline Ryerson’s history. The plaque will sit alongside the statue.
“My background is engineering, I like to build things, I don’t like to destroy things,” said Lachemi. “We need to find a way to build bridges, and for me building bridges starts with education. I’d like to see more opportunities for Indigenous students at Ryerson.”
Harlick, who is Haudenosaunee and Metis said “if the president is so keen on building things, why can’t he build a statue to commemorate Indigenous folks?”
President Lachemi will meet with the RSU on Sept. 29 to discuss these demands further.