Ruth Bader Ginsberg and VUW name

The documentary film on US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg shows the battles she fought for justice and women.   Well worth seeing.   Ruth was excelling in law school at Harvard, but moved to New York City when her husband got a job with a law firm.  She decided if she had to leave Harvard, the best alternative was Columbia University based in New York.

New York is extraordinarily well known around the world, yet somehow Columbia University does not have New York in its name.  This demonstrates how truly fatuous is the argument by Victoria University of Wellington Vice Chancellor Grant Guilford, that VUW must change its name by dropping the word “Victoria” to put more emphasis on the word “Wellington”, which is already there.

While most of us think Wellington city is great, it simply doesn’t rank with the likes of New York in global recognition, so connecting the word “University” to “Wellington” is not going to mean much to potential offshore staff and students.  The words “New Zealand” is the only change to the name that has merit in respect of potential international students.

What is weird about his obsession with changing the name, is that, I am advised he has his main residence in Auckland, where he spends many weekends.   So his commitment to Wellington is somewhat limited.

The next step is the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins will have to decide whether the request to change the name meets the statutory tests.  We believe it doesn’t.  Academic staff, students and alumni were never objectively polled by VUW, but on the basis of other polls appear to be against the change.  This is amazing when you consider the intellectual expertise at the university – perhaps management were worried any surveys would produce the wrong result.

I have been around government for many decades and the VUW process for changing its name deserves a big “F” for fail.

Watch out also for the petition to Parliament by Ross McComish which will shortly be considered by the Education and Workforce Select Committee.  It seeks to clarify the law in respect of university names.

A thorough rebuttal of the case for dropping the historic VUW name, was written by analyst Tessa White, who was commissioned by my friend Hugh Rennie QC.   Anyone who wants a PDF copy her report should email me at:  barrie.s@actrix.co.nz

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