(Oct. 3, 2002, Gazette)
Some people have the impression that the name change of Memorial University
of Newfoundland is final; this is not the case. The Board of Regents
recommendation to shorten the name to Memorial University must be considered
in the House of Assembly at its first meeting in the fall. At that time,
a petition against the name change will be presented. Here are the considerations
for retaining the name.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has always acknowledged that
Labrador is part of the province. Now, our provinces name reflects
that. However, one should carefully consider whether the names of long-standing
institutions that represent the history of the day and that have served
us well should be changed just to be politically correct.
Our university is dedicated to those who laid down their lives for freedom.
Labradorians, like Pte. William McKenzie and L/Cpl John Shiwak, signed
up in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, a regiment in which only Newfoundlanders
were eligible to enlist. These soldiers were killed when fighting as Newfoundlanders.
We should honor their allegiance and their sacrifice to their country
The shortened version to Memorial University is acceptable within our
own familiar surroundings but no one outside this province or Canada will
automatically know where we are. Memorial University of Newfoundland is
on the island of Newfoundland.
Some argue that because this is the only university in our province it
should reflect the new name of the province because it has a pan-provincial
mandate. Like us, virtually all universities are dedicated to the education
of local, regional and international students. Anyone would be reluctant
to support the idea that Memorial University of Newfoundland would serve
only the people on the island of Newfoundland or that such an assumption
is made by not adding and Labrador to its name.
When Newfoundland was the name of our province, the university reflected
the entire provincial name. Now it is named for a region of the province
and this is not unlike in other provinces In addition, other provinces
had established universities before a university reflecting the name of
the entire province was erected. We are not breaking with tradition to
have the only university currently in this province not reflect the entire
name of the province.
It has been suggested that history was erased when we changed from Memorial
University College to Memorial University of Newfoundland and therefore
we should be petitioning to revert back to the original name. However,
upgrading from a college to a university is a part of growth and development
and a step forward for the institution and its students, promoting status
and reputation. Our alumni have built our reputation using the name Memorial
University of Newfoundland. It would be a huge disservice to all of our
former graduates if we now changed the name of an institution that they
worked so hard to establish over the past 53 years.
I was surprised that the Board did not give more consideration to the
overwhelming support on a petition to retain the name as it stands. One
might think that over 3,000 names (now over 4,000) are more representative
than the majority of 150 responses within the university community.
We should all be concerned about the long-term implications of this change.
There may be numerous advantages to conserving and developing what we
have. Although it is sometimes progressive to make change, it may sometimes
be wise and practical to maintain the status quo. We should make sure
that there will be a benefit and, if not, maybe we should not be so eager
to discard the things of the past.
Retaining the name as Memorial University of Newfoundland would be the
best option. A change of any kind may result in unfavorable repercussions
for this university and ultimately for this Province. If you would like
to help us get our message to the government, please write your own MHA
with a copy to the premier and voice your concerns.
June Harris, MD
Faculty of Medicine, email@example.com