by Jessica Long, Stuff.
Goodbye Victoria, hello Wellington.
The capital’s oldest university is a step closer to becoming the University of Wellington after the campus’ council has voted “yes” to change its name at a meeting on Monday – nine votes in favour, two against.
The institution’s council agreed in principle to a new name of University of Wellington on July 27, and to adopt a new Māori name of Te Herenga Waka.
Campus management gave the name change the go-ahead last week, but the university council still needed to debate on whether it proceeded or scrapped the exercise on Monday.
A final sign-off by Education Minister Chris Hipkins will be needed now the decision to drop ‘Victoria’ has been made.
Monday’s three-hour council deliberations in the historic Hunter Building was filled with emotion. The public filled the rafters who cheered at any comment against the name change and shook their heads in despair at any for it.
Victoria of University Faculty of Law professor Geoff McLay told the council people felt the process was “foreclosed”.
“Changing the name defeats 120 years of identity. Something like 10,000 people, give or take, have expressed a view on this in submissions, petitions and polls … 9000 of them opposed this change.
His comments mirrored those of international students Vivian Tan and He Han Chng who study law at the university. They said they were concerned the name University of Wellington would impact future employment, it sounded “like a polytechnic”.
Council member Traci Houpapa agreed the university needed “strategic repositioning” but was not convinced a name change, solely, would achieve the desired outcomes.
“I am of the mind that there is a lot more work that council and the university must do to engage with the student community and wider university whānau.”
She questioned how the university showed it had not been dismissive of concerns over the name change to which vice-chancellor Grant Guilford said to disagree did not mean concerns had not been taken into account.
Council member Isabella Lenihan-Ikin broke down as she spoke about the importance of working on student welfare and her hope for the council to move on to address those issues.
Having read through 2000 pages of submissions, she said the voices of both sides were heard.
“We do need to unite the name of our university with the name of our city. We do need to address the issues of confusion.
“Yes, without denial, consultation could have been better.”
Last week, Guilford continued to back the change, saying the university’s international brand was muddled and that confusion was costing it in donations and prestige.
He spoke, in favour, to the proposal at the council meeting on Monday.
“We’ve had great empathy for that sense of loss that some alumni are feeling. The overwhelming response to our process was actually a lack of engagement.”
Chancellor Neil Pavious-Smith said the outcome was just “one decision in a much broader strategy to try and help the university really achieve its potential”.
Council members Traci Houpapa and Farib Sos voted “no” to change Victoria University of Wellington’s name.
Chancellor Neil Pavious-Smith, and members John Allen, Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, Carwyn Jones, pro-chancellor Dame Therese Walsh, Robyn Bargh, Alexandria Mark, Alan Judge and Kate Hunter voted “yes” for University of Wellington, Te Herenga Waka.
Vice-chancellor Grant Guilford did not vote.