Every university wants to make a name for itself. But it should be unique; I doubt ‘London’ for our city does it any good. Within the dusty stampede of universities, how should that feral horse, the mustang, be best roped and branded? I can see an iron red hot burning ‘UWO’ on its haunch, but not ‘Western University. Canada.’
This year is my 50th as a member of UWO’s faculty. When I arrived as a lecturer at UWO in the agitated 1960s, my new university was on the move from a local ranch to the huge spread we are today. At that time, faculty and administration were kicking each other around; there was concern not just about dated governance practice, but the institution’s very name.
The president of the university resigned/retired, as did the chairman of the Faculty Association; the faculty talked of a full takeover.
And what about the name? ‘The University of Western Ontario’ seemed both too local and geographically mislocated, especially to outsiders with a compass; ‘University of London’ seemed to point even more the wrong way; ‘University of Ontario’ seemed too forward at the time. ‘Western University’ was going backwards and never seriously considered, especially taking ‘Ontario’ out of play. (Besides, at the time, two new Ontario schools were already ‘WU’ or ‘U of W’, each up the road in opposite directions.)
So ambitions to rename are not new, but, as I recall it, ‘UWO’ was always favoured as the short form. It has a good look and is unique. Today many of the hottest irons use three initials: CBC, TNT, CIA, BMO, ABC, NBC, UPS, CDN, KFC, KLM, PBS, CBS, TNN, KIA, USC, MSG and TMD. What was wrong with UWO?
‘Western’ for the movies and a bunch of other institutions; there’s only one UWO.
Editor, Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence
Professor of Law, Western University