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Should Ryerson or any University change its name ?


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Barry
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The fact that he was relatively less racist when compared to much bigger racists of his day doesn't really make me that much more comfortable with naming universities after him, but that's just my opinion. 

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Five years ago, I would have agreed with a lot of the takes in this thread. And I was reflecting, recently, on what changed for me. Why did I used to care so much about the preservation of the na

Queen's University's name doesn't really have a lot of relevance to students these days, given the band's terminal decline since Freddie died.

So everything else aside, I am kinda excited that we are having this forum’s first Big Discussion That Pisses Everyone Off. While I vehemently disagree with some of you and very much applaud others, t

Barry
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I don't seem to be able to edit within the hour, but also wanted to add that I don't disagree with the mob rule argument made earlier. It's a slippery slope on both sides I think. I just think the fact that it's linked to a painful part of history that has great relevance currently is enough to warrant the name change. I don't know what else could be done in a situation like this other than pressure from a mob. 

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Jaggers

Edmonton, doing the right thing. It's hard (well, not hard, but sad) to believe this mural was up until today.

https://globalnews.ca/news/7929340/edmonton-rename-grandin-lrt-station-mural-residential-schools/

Quote

The Francophonie jeunesse de l’Alberta board of the day commissioned mural in 1989. It depicts Bishop Grandin and a nun removing an Indigenous baby from their family. Behind them, is Bishop’s house, according to the Francophonie jeunesse de l’Alberta.

 

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penguin
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5 hours ago, luckycharm said:

"Historical people are almost always going to be flawed from our perspective"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_McGill#:~:text=A fur trader%2C slaveholder and,in excess of £100%2C000.

James McGill- A fur trader, slaveholder and land owner,

 

To be fair his statue has also been vandalized a couple of times at McGill and the student body has publicized the fact that he was a slaveholder. There has been calls by students to rename McGill but it never gained much traction. 

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LMP
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15 minutes ago, penguin said:

To be fair his statue has also been vandalized a couple of times at McGill and the student body has publicized the fact that he was a slaveholder. There has been calls by students to rename McGill but it never gained much traction. 

The relative strength and weakness of McGill's and Ryersons names likely impacts the willingness of the student body to push for a change. 

And I mean that with full respect for both institutions. I legitimately think that the prestige, imagined or otherwise, is a pretty big factor in garnering student and alumni support in situations like these. 

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Pantalaimon
  • Articling Student

I think there's a meaningful difference here: Ryerson's name is on the building because of his achievements in education, but that's also the problematic aspect of his history. To me, that's different than the usual arguments about cancelling a historical figure because they were a slaveholder, racist, sexist, or what have you.

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epeeist
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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Pantalaimon said:

I think there's a meaningful difference here: Ryerson's name is on the building because of his achievements in education, but that's also the problematic aspect of his history. To me, that's different than the usual arguments about cancelling a historical figure because they were a slaveholder, racist, sexist, or what have you.

That's a fair point. At the same time, essentially (quick Internet skim) he said everyone should be educated (albeit women only elementary school due to, again, by our standards sexism...) including Indigenous people. Taking kids away from parents to school, wrong. Killing them through inadequate food and heat (EDIT: disease also, though more complicated analysis given deaths due to disease generally), and the Canadian government refusing to spend the money to send their bodies home = buried where they died (just as many other historical institutions like asylums, prisons etc. had mass graves, including institutions for disabled children, the loaded comparison is deliberate) was by people who cared less about education and more about eradication. After Ryerson was long dead. In some ways it's like blaming Mendel (discovering inherited characteristics in peas) for the wrongs of eugenics.

EDIT: re Alexander Wood statue and BIA saying it should be removed. Hello, you just put it up in 2005. And even at the time, regardless of what his sexual orientation may have been, allegedly he used a fabricated rape case to inspect male genitals. That's not consensual. In Canadian LGBT history could they not have chosen a better subject for a statue, one, and two, why is and was not the non-consensual behaviour more problematic than a tenuous link to residential schools?

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/church-wellesley-bia-city-statue-alexander-wood-removal-gay-village-1.6058561

http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio.php?id_nbr=3734

Edited by epeeist
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luckycharm

More name changing request to come... 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-petition-rename-dundas-street-racist-past-1.5702072#:~:text=The petition requested that Dundas,enslaved in the British Empire.

The petition requested that Dundas Street be renamed because it was named after Scottish politician Henry Dundas, who is accused of being instrumental in delaying the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, causing more than half a million more Black people to be enslaved in the British Empire.

"Street names and monuments should reflect our values and priorities," the petition argues

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epeeist
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4 hours ago, luckycharm said:

More name changing request to come... 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-petition-rename-dundas-street-racist-past-1.5702072#:~:text=The petition requested that Dundas,enslaved in the British Empire.

The petition requested that Dundas Street be renamed because it was named after Scottish politician Henry Dundas, who is accused of being instrumental in delaying the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, causing more than half a million more Black people to be enslaved in the British Empire.

"Street names and monuments should reflect our values and priorities," the petition argues

Not that money should determine everything, and more stuff even before Covid is electronic, but everyone and every business on a street faces costs of dealing with an effective address change - for individuals new identification both provincial and federal (and possibly as a foreign registrant in other jurisdictions), business letterhead, business cards, registration documents, etc. Multiply by everyone and every business the entire length of the street. Or is it cosmetic only, the official address remains Dundas? How about finding a non-objectionable person in history with the surname Dundas and naming it for them? Reminded of an item in some sci-fi movie or book where a character comments that when it was decided that no monument could be named for a slaveholder, the Washington monument was now named for his wife and thus was called exactly the same thing... For an individual institution like Ryerson (or McGill...) of course there are expenses, but generally borne by the institution itself.

Incidentally, assuming name change, will every single graduate, ever, be entitled to issuance of a new degree, without charge? If so, essentially the public purse paying for all that, is it not?

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luckycharm
5 hours ago, luckycharm said:

More name changing request to come... 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-petition-rename-dundas-street-racist-past-1.5702072#:~:text=The petition requested that Dundas,enslaved in the British Empire.

The petition requested that Dundas Street be renamed because it was named after Scottish politician Henry Dundas, who is accused of being instrumental in delaying the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, causing more than half a million more Black people to be enslaved in the British Empire.

"Street names and monuments should reflect our values and priorities," the petition argues

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dundas_County,_Ontario

Dundas County is a former county in the province of Ontario, Canada. It was named after Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, who was the British Home Secretary at the time, with responsibility for the colonies

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epeeist
  • Lawyer
On 6/8/2021 at 4:51 PM, Barry said:

The fact that he was relatively less racist when compared to much bigger racists of his day doesn't really make me that much more comfortable with naming universities after him, but that's just my opinion. 

Specific example, Abraham Lincoln (who I was thinking of as being racist and sexist by today's standards). I think he's worthy of commemoration. Many others do also. Some people are greatly offended over his treatment of Indigenous Americans, or because he was, by today's standards in his behaviour and words, a racist.

See e.g.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/04/13/dont-cancel-abraham-lincoln-but-appreciate-what-he-did-column/7018817002/

[I have not checked all the examples the author of the opinion piece gives about Lincoln statue removal or school renaming etc.]

In the case of Lincoln, from what I've read elsewhere of e.g. Frederick Douglass' opinions and a few other black people at the time including reaction to his assassination, black people of the time, even if highly critical of his actions in some respects (as was e.g. Douglass), were generally laudatory of him (Indigenous Americans, I don't know). So for someone today to substitute their opinion that Lincoln is not worth honouring because by today's standards he was a racist, over the opinions of people who actually suffered as slaves in America, seems to me to be arrogantly ignorant of history (and/or, consciously or unconsciously discounting the opinions of historical black people).

Now, Ryerson was certainly no Lincoln. But like Lincoln he was racist and sexist by today's standards, but it's more complex than that. I mean, the last residential school in Canada didn't close until 1996. ( https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_residential_school_system/ ) It strikes me that focusing on Ryerson - while e.g. the Canadian government still litigates against residential school survivors instead of acknowledging a financial duty, not merely empty words - is a convenient misdirection. Of course, the mob has never been known for its analytical abilities...

To be clear, maybe the name Ryerson should be removed, statues likewise, etc. I just want some process that involves discussion and consideration, not rushing to judgment or a fait accompli. EDIT: And to some extent, given Ryerson is a public university, who pays for everything associated with name change?

Edited by epeeist
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Barry
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3 hours ago, epeeist said:

-snip-

Fair points. Maybe if there were better ways for people to give input on these things and they knew it wouldn't fall on deaf ears. Vandalism is a shitty way to go about it, but petitions are also always useless. 

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luckycharm

https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Navigation/Community/Arcadia-and-THP-Blog/June-2016/Why-It’s-Important-That-We-Study-History#:~:text=History gives us the opportunity,of this concept at work.

History gives us the opportunity to learn from past mistakes. It helps us understand the many reasons why people may behave the way they do. As a result, it helps us become more compassionate as people and more impartial as decision makers.

 

 

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epeeist
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1 hour ago, Barry said:

Fair points. Maybe if there were better ways for people to give input on these things and they knew it wouldn't fall on deaf ears. Vandalism is a shitty way to go about it, but petitions are also always useless. 

Being heard not= being obeyed. There's a huge difference between, ignoring a petition, vs. paying attention, but disagreeing. Too many people seem to think that the response to a complaint should be instant compliance.

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Barry
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Not instant compliance but also not a letter from the rich and probably white guy in charge saying “we hear you”. 

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luckycharm
1 hour ago, epeeist said:

Being heard not= being obeyed. There's a huge difference between, ignoring a petition, vs. paying attention, but disagreeing. Too many people seem to think that the response to a complaint should be instant compliance.

History is history.

We should learn from the mistakes (in today's standards) made and hope that it will never happen again. 

e.g. Chinese Head tax, Japanese and Italian Canadian Internment 

 

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Pantalaimon
  • Articling Student
4 hours ago, luckycharm said:

History is history.

We should learn from the mistakes (in today's standards) made and hope that it will never happen again. 

e.g. Chinese Head tax, Japanese and Italian Canadian Internment 

 

I don't remember attending Head Tax university. There's a difference between studying history and what we choose to honour in the public square.

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epeeist
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10 hours ago, Barry said:

Not instant compliance but also not a letter from the rich and probably white guy in charge saying “we hear you”. 

Then what? I mean, let's say someone asks for something like, change the name of York University because York being colonial British name is wrong. Now, if enough people thought that maybe it should be changed. But if just get a request like that with which one fundamentally disagrees, no indication of whether vocal minority or general popular sentiment, what more than "we hear you" is appropriate?

 

 

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SlytherinLLP
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https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/sir-john-a-macdonald-secondary-waterloo-rename-1.6057734?fbclid=IwAR2CHnZNgopzVugIJN_mRtVUJxZjC0BiDKHIme1wE48UvkaJhlXO1mJ-Ppo

John A MacDonald is next. 

Anyone who thinks this is appropriate is a child. History is fraught with flawed figures, violence, misery and suffering. No society on earth, and I daresay no historical figure can live up to modern standards of morality. 

Hell, even Ghandi was a raging racist (and his "experiments" with naked girls creepy at best) by today's standards. Should we erase his name from our institutions, history books, statutes and monuments?

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Barry
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43 minutes ago, epeeist said:

Then what? I mean, let's say someone asks for something like, change the name of York University because York being colonial British name is wrong. Now, if enough people thought that maybe it should be changed. But if just get a request like that with which one fundamentally disagrees, no indication of whether vocal minority or general popular sentiment, what more than "we hear you" is appropriate?

 

 

We aren’t talking about individual requests, we’re talking about community values. 

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Barry
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22 minutes ago, SlytherinLLP said:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/sir-john-a-macdonald-secondary-waterloo-rename-1.6057734?fbclid=IwAR2CHnZNgopzVugIJN_mRtVUJxZjC0BiDKHIme1wE48UvkaJhlXO1mJ-Ppo

John A MacDonald is next. 

Anyone who thinks this is appropriate is a child. History is fraught with flawed figures, violence, misery and suffering. No society on earth, and I daresay no historical figure can live up to modern standards of morality. 

Hell, even Ghandi was a raging racist (and his "experiments" with naked girls creepy at best) by today's standards. Should we erase his name from our institutions, history books, statutes and monuments?

History books should evolve as well, it's not about erasing history it's about reframing it based on our current knowledge. There are upkeep costs when it comes to things like statues as well, I personally don't want any statues of people from history, but if you're going to have them and have them cost money they should at least be valuable to the community at present. 

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Parker
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7 minutes ago, SlytherinLLP said:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/sir-john-a-macdonald-secondary-waterloo-rename-1.6057734?fbclid=IwAR2CHnZNgopzVugIJN_mRtVUJxZjC0BiDKHIme1wE48UvkaJhlXO1mJ-Ppo

John A MacDonald is next. 

Anyone who thinks this is appropriate is a child. History is fraught with flawed figures, violence, misery and suffering. No society on earth, and I daresay no historical figure can live up to modern standards of morality. 

Hell, even Ghandi was a raging racist (and his "experiments" with naked girls creepy at best) by today's standards. Should we erase his name from our institutions, history books, statutes and monuments?

Queen's has already removed John A MacDonald as the name of it's law school building. I don't think any historical figure should be removed from history books - it's important to celebrate their accomplishments but also to look at their flaws - we can even do that in part by making it relative to their time and holding them to those standards. I think having schools named after people does send a message. Should our schools remain named after slavers for the next several hundred years? Are there no other historical figures that we could honour instead? Who, by the way, largely weren't chosen to have a school/education building/faculty named after them because they were a women or a person of colour and when a lot of schools were being named, those people weren't even considered. Should indigenous children have to go to a school named for a man that assisted in genocide against their people? Is there not an indigenous leader that a school could be named for instead? I think a street or a statue is easier to ignore - living on Dundas st or working on Dundas st I don't feel like I'm being represented by that name. Going to a school called sir john a macdonald I am connected to and represented by that name. 

I do also understand that the Ryerson situation - like many of these - is very complicated and it would be ridiculous and time consuming if we renamed absolutely everything. I don't necessarily think all these name changes should happen but I don't think its ridiculous that a secondary school is being renamed, that a faculty building has been renamed and that there is talk and discussion surrounding names like Ryerson and McGill. 

Call me a child, but I don't think consideration of changing names of educational institutes is a bad thing if we no longer hold the same values as the people they're named after. Society changes, not a bad thing. 

https://www.queensu.ca/gazette/stories/queens-remove-sir-john-macdonald-name-law-school-building

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SlytherinLLP
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35 minutes ago, Parker said:

Queen's has already removed John A MacDonald as the name of it's law school building. I don't think any historical figure should be removed from history books - it's important to celebrate their accomplishments but also to look at their flaws - we can even do that in part by making it relative to their time and holding them to those standards. I think having schools named after people does send a message. Should our schools remain named after slavers for the next several hundred years? Are there no other historical figures that we could honour instead? Who, by the way, largely weren't chosen to have a school/education building/faculty named after them because they were a women or a person of colour and when a lot of schools were being named, those people weren't even considered. Should indigenous children have to go to a school named for a man that assisted in genocide against their people? Is there not an indigenous leader that a school could be named for instead? I think a street or a statue is easier to ignore - living on Dundas st or working on Dundas st I don't feel like I'm being represented by that name. Going to a school called sir john a macdonald I am connected to and represented by that name. 

I do also understand that the Ryerson situation - like many of these - is very complicated and it would be ridiculous and time consuming if we renamed absolutely everything. I don't necessarily think all these name changes should happen but I don't think its ridiculous that a secondary school is being renamed, that a faculty building has been renamed and that there is talk and discussion surrounding names like Ryerson and McGill. 

Call me a child, but I don't think consideration of changing names of educational institutes is a bad thing if we no longer hold the same values as the people they're named after. Society changes, not a bad thing. 

https://www.queensu.ca/gazette/stories/queens-remove-sir-john-macdonald-name-law-school-building

Can you identify one major historical figure that holds up? 

Say you do name the school after a famous indigenous leader (who may well have been impressive and worthy of veneration). I am agreeable to this. Do you expect that he wouldn't be a product of his age and hold prejudicial views about women and other races or tribes? If John A MacDonald is the threshold for "cancellation", you've set an impossible standard. 

If you go back merely 5-6 generations, the vast majority of us were either slaves, serfs, ineligible to vote, deprived of rights general, targets of religious prosecution etc. If we start parceling out moral injustices to this degree, we're going to be in an quagmire of absurdity.

Edited by SlytherinLLP
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epeeist
  • Lawyer
40 minutes ago, Barry said:

We aren’t talking about individual requests, we’re talking about community values. 

Yeah, but a petition of 10?50?500?1000? At some point, yes, there should be a response other then "we hear you" but it's not a hard and fast rule. Especially if, as I understand it, there was already an ongoing, non-mob-controlled, process about name change at Ryerson.

There are some things not about statues but more speech and the academic values of an institution (or values generally) that shouldn't be determined by the vox populi, no heckler's veto, but that's a different discussion.

As an aside, let's say Ryerson said e.g. "Costs of name change (buildings, signs, lobbying for legislation change, letterhead, etc., etc.) shouldn't be borne by the Ontario public purse. So we're going to have a special student fee levy for 3 years to cover the cost. One can opt out, if too many students opt out and get a refund of the $100 annual fee, the process will take longer." Appropriate or not, and how many students would take the $100 ahead of principle? I can recall at Queen's, free transit pass, unlimited use, there were people without cars and not in penury who opted out to get something like $30 back...

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