By Heidi Lee, Thea Gribilas and Sarah Tomlinson
Ryerson University will officially be renamed, after the Board of Governors accepted all 22 recommendations from the Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force’s final report.
“For as long as the university is named after Egerton Ryerson, our narrative will be centred on his legacy,” reads the report. “Given that our namesake is increasingly recognized as a symbol of colonialism, our identity as an institution can no longer be disentangled from separate schools, segregation, the genocide of Indigenous Peoples and cultural erasure.”
The Standing Strong Task Force was created in September 2020 to consult with community members on reconciling Egerton Ryerson’s legacy. At Thursday’s special Board of Governors meeting, the Task Force submitted its final report which included 22 recommendations, one of which was the school’s renaming.
According to the report, the name “Ryerson” does not reflect the values that define the university. Therefore, the Task Force is recommending that the university rename the school through “a process that engages with community members and stakeholders.”
“We recognize that a name change alone will not erase the systemic barriers and inequities that Indigenous and Black community members face within the institution,” the report reads. As a result, it suggests increasing access to information, promoting Indigenous and Black scholarship and using public space for community building.
“I believe this is a very fair and thoughtful document that charts direction for the future of our university that is very closely aligned with our values,” Lachemi said at the meeting. “I believe these recommendations will move Ryerson forth in a bold, new and exciting direction.”
Ryerson has faced growing calls to change the name of the institution, which has been formally called for as far back as 2017. Egerton Ryerson, the university’s namesake, is considered an architect of the residential school system.
“With a new name, the university can boldly move forward, guided by our institutional values and principles of commemoration,” reads the report. “We will have the opportunity to acknowledge and embrace both historical and current social justice movements, as well as the resilience, excellence, achievements and contributions of each and every community member.”
As previously reported by The Eye, the Yellowhead Institute published a letter on May 11 calling on Ryerson community members to remove the word “Ryerson” from their email signatures, CVs and other professional communications, and to replace it with the letter “X.”
Ryerson has changed its name three times before. In 1964, it changed its name from Ryerson Institute of Technology to Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. Then, in 1993, it was renamed Ryerson Polytechnic University. Finally, in 2002, it was named Ryerson University.
In 2015, Ryerson spent $200,000 to update its logo, which included changing the font and colour of the logo.
More to come.