By Trevor Popoff
Eggy the Ram is Ryerson’s loveable mascot. As a popular figure on campus since 1961, you’ve undoubtedly seen him pop up on your Instagram feed posing with students or cheering on any one of the Rams’ varsity sports teams.
While Eggy is how we know him colloquially, his full name is actually Egerton the Ram. The name is taken from Egerton Ryerson, the university’s namesake who while is well-known for establishing Ontario’s public education system, was also influential in the development of the residential school system in Canada—a system of cultural genocide that attempted to forcibly assimilate over 150,000 Indigenous children.
A statue of Ryerson still stands nearby the intersection of Bond and Gould Streets today. In recent months, the statue has become a place of protest, having been defaced by protesters on several occasions.
As part of the recent anti-racism movement questioning statues memorializing colonial violence perpetrators, Ryerson’s own memorial has been a source of controversy for much longer than just the recent taggings—with the first petition to remove the statue being circulated in 2017.
On Sept. 2, president Mohamed Lachemi announced the appointment of a task force to “examine Egerton Ryerson’s history and relationship to [the] university.”
According to Lachemi’s statement, this new task force is expected to conduct consultations to gather feedback and “develop principles to guide the recommended actions that Ryerson could take.” This will all culminate in a final report, with “recommended actions regarding the statue and other elements of Egerton Ryerson’s history.”
As for Eggy, however, the university told The Eyeopener via an emailed statement that they have not yet considered making any changes.
Ryerson athletics sent The Eyeopener a statement via email. “Eggy the Ram is a beloved figure on campus–a symbol of Ryerson spirit for decades,” the statement reads. “The university has not polled students on Eggy’s name, so we can’t speculate. Given that no decisions have been made on the Ryerson name or removal of the Egerton Ryerson statue, it would be premature to take any action on the name of the school’s mascot at this time.”
If former Ryerson student Maaz Khan had his way, the statue would have been long gone by now. Khan started a petition to take down the statue in early 2017, which to date has garnered nearly 10,000 signatures. He’s now also pushing for a change to Eggy’s name.
“I think it’s time for a change,” Khan said. “Naming something after someone or putting a statue up of someone is celebrating them, right? So why are we celebrating a person who’s a symbol of everything against what Ryerson [University] is?”
Khan went on to add that not enough information is available to students regarding the history of Eggy’s name. “Having more information out there so students don’t have to seek it out…would be really helpful,” Khan said.
Like Khan, Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president Ali Yousaf said that he is concerned with the statue’s presence on campus.
“Egerton Ryerson’s presence on campus is undoubtedly something that students have raised concerns over,” said Yousaf. “In my opinion, before we make comments or judgement calls on the matter, we first need to educate the masses on this topic.”
Yousaf added that the RSU will raise potential concerns to the university.
“We plan on communicating with the university on the matter and hope to collaborate with them on an initiative to better inform students,” said Yousaf. “It’s a privilege to educate ourselves about colonialism instead of experiencing it. I hope we are able to give students a fuller picture about Eggy.”
If Eggy’s name is to be changed eventually, it wouldn’t be the first time Ryerson’s mascot has undergone a facelift. In 1991, heeding pressure from the Humane Society, Ryerson retired the practice of using a live ram as their mascot, opting for the costumed iteration of Eggy we see today.
The changing of a sports-related name also wouldn’t be unprecedented on a national level. Just last year, McGill University dropped its “Redmen” nickname, due to the term’s derogatory nature towards Indigenous peoples.
The Eyeopener reached out to Ryerson’s athletics department and Aboriginal Student Services for comment, but neither responded in time for publication.
Correction: A previous version of this article misattributed a statement from Ryerson athletics to Ryerson media relations officer Brian Tran. The Eyeopener regrets this error.