Review of Journalism takes interim step to remove the name ‘Ryerson’ for this semester
The Ryerson School of Journalism (RSJ) has created a committee to consider renaming its two affiliate publications, the Ryersonian and the Ryerson Review of Journalism (RRJ).
The group consists of 11 RSJ community members and is headed by Karyn Pugliese, a professor who started teaching at Ryerson last year. Pugliese, a citizen of the Pikwàkanagàn First Nation in Ontario, currently teaches both the “Journalism Capstone Project” and the “Reporting on Indigenous Issues” courses for the RSJ.
“I don’t know what the answers will be, but I’m sure that we can accomplish something that lets (students) feel they had input and made a difference,” Pugliese said.
The establishment of the working committee comes amid larger calls for Ryerson University to separate itself from the man the university was named after, Egerton Ryerson. A 19th century educator, Ryerson was influential in creating the residential school system, a racist and inhumane program that targeted Indigenous Canadian children for over a century.
Aside from Pugliese, the only two other self-identified Indigenous committee members are resident journalist Duncan McCue and Thohahoken Michael Doxtater, a professor for the school’s creative industries program. McCue and Doxtater both fill the “Indigenous community member” positions on the committee.
“I’m hoping, for everybody on this committee, that this is a really positive experience,” Pugliese said. “This is a way to share and understand each other, especially if there are diverging points of view.”
The RSJ school council passed the measure to create the working committee on Dec. 7. Candidates applied to sit on the committee earlier in February.
The application consisted of a brief description of the positions and a space for potential members to explain their interest in 100 words or less. There was no specific space on the form for community members to identify themselves as Indigenous.
While many roles received just enough applications to be filled, the undergraduate and alumni positions received more applications than there were spaces available. To determine which applicant would fill these positions, the RSJ’s school leadership group “drew names from a hat” according to RSJ chair Janice Neil. While Neil helped organize the committee, she now plans to separate herself from the process.
“I think it’s really important that the working committee makes their own minds up,” Neil said. Although the working committee has the power to make recommendations on what direction Ryerson should take, the working committee cannot make any final decisions, according to Neil.
Some RSJ students have already taken steps of their own. The RRJ masthead, composed of fourth-year undergraduate students and second-year graduate students, released a statement on Wednesday morning, announcing changes for the 2021 academic year to remove Ryerson’s name from their branding. The masthead unanimously voted to pause using the name until the the RSJ’s working committee and a separate task force established by the university release their recommendations.
The RSJ committee has not met yet, which means there is still no set structure or timetable for the meetings and it is still unclear whether committee meetings will be open to the public. The first meeting will likely be held behind closed doors in order to figure out many of these points.
“Everything is still on the table,” said Pugliese.