Ryerson students, staff adopt "University X" name to denounce residential school ties

Jun 2 2021, 9:43 am

Staff and students at Ryerson University in Toronto are adopting the name “X University” when referring to the school.

In a call for reconciliation regarding the school’s namesake Egerton Ryerson, who played a pivotal role in developing the residential school system in Canada, affiliates are replacing the name with an “X.”

The movement started with a call to action by the Yellowhead Institute, a First Nation-led research centre within the school’s Faculty of Arts. In an open letter, Yellowhead asked the university to change its name officially.

“For us, there is no debate about reconciling Ryerson’s legacy. It doesn’t matter how many non-Indigenous historians send their fawning letters of support for Egerton. From an Indigenous student perspective, it cannot be reconciled,” the letter reads.

Egerton Ryerson lived from 1803 to 1882, and is considered the architect of residential schools. Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families to assimilate into Christian settler-colonial culture through the schooling system. Many of the children were abused and killed by the nuns and priests who ran the schools.

A statue of Ryerson on the university’s campus was marked with graffiti and doused with red paint this week after the bodies of 215 children were discovered in an unmarked grave at a Kamloops residential school.

Until the university changes its name, Yellowhead has asked students, faculty, and staff to remove the school’s name from email signatures, CVs, and other professional communications in solidarity with Indigenous students.

The School of Journalism announced this week that it would change its masthead publications’ names in the fall. The former Ryerson Review of Journalism will temporarily be known as [   ] Review of Journalism just the Review until a new name is decided on. The Ryersonian will also have a new name by fall.

Students at the journalism school voted unanimously to approve the name changes.

“The Review’s mission is to probe the quality of journalism in Canada. One of the central tenets of our mission is to ‘foster critical thinking about, and accountability within, the industry.’. This means we must also foster critical thinking and accountability within our own publication,” the journalism students said in a statement.

There is currently a task force reviewing Egerton Ryerson’s legacy at the school, and it will present its findings to the university president and Board of Governors in September 2021. Many students hope the task force will recommend a name change.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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