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(Oct. 3, 2002, Gazette)

Name change not final
Dear Editor,
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 province’s 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” – Newfoundland.

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.
Thank you,
June Harris, MD
Faculty of Medicine, juneh@mun.ca