Skip to main content

ONTech who?

By Danielle Lewis and Sarah Tsimelkas

Steven Murphy tweet about ONTechU handle change

Early in first semester, UOIT president Dr. Steven Murphy announced via Twitter that the university has taken on a new moniker – ONTechU. This led to an uproar among the student community, fueled mainly by confusion about what this really meant. Did this mean the actual name of the university would be changed? How would this affect what was displayed on degrees? Was this just a hashtag? And perhaps the most common question: why does the university need a new “handle”?

via GIPHY

Despite the array of unanswered questions and inevitable rumours, the tweet led to one important thing: a discussion. It was an extension of a discussion that had been initiated in the summer at town hall meetings and in conversations Dr. Murphy had with alumni, faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders, but this time student engagement was heightened. Following the initial tweet, Dr. Murphy held discussions with both students and faculty in October and November, respectively. In the discussions, Dr. Murphy revealed that in his new role as university president, there were five main priorities he needed to address. One of these is creating a space that better addresses student needs and encourages students to stay on campus – better known as #stickycampus, which if you follow him on Twitter, you would be quite familiar with. Another one is the development of a new, streamlined moniker to better identify and promote our school with. In these discussions, he also answered many questions, emphasizing the fact that the school’s name would not be changed, rather the focus is on the moniker that we use to identify the school.

via GIPHY

Okay, so full disclosure: we all have had to explain what we mean by UOIT to a family member or friend, or that we do not go to “U of T”, at least once. Does ONTechU immediately solve that problem for us? Probably not. But, the focus is on the future of the university and how a new moniker may eliminate the confusion around our name for future generations of students, and for us as alumni. However, if you have attended or watched any of the ONTechU discussions online, you know that ONTechU may not actually be the answer. Dr. Murphy has emphasized that he is open to other monikers and wants to utilize input from all stakeholders in making a decision before the name is taken further. And if at this point you are wondering why we can’t just be the University of Ontario, you are not alone. Interestingly enough, a school with this name already exists! It is a French university – l’Université de l’Ontario. If you don’t believe us, check out this link (it’s actually a thing): https://uontario.ca/.

Thoughts on ONTechU?

In the height of the ONTechU discussions, two Digital Community Crew members went on a mission to investigate this hot topic on campus.

Students across campus were informally interviewed and all of the strong opinions and thoughts were collected. The interview questions included:

  • What were your thoughts on ONTechU?
  • What is your understanding of the new handle? Do you think the university’s official name is changing?
  • Do you have any suggestions for a new name?

So…what did we find? Needless to say that most students were passionate to engage in a discussion. After all, it is OUR university, something that is a part of our identity as students. Nevertheless, some students were not aware that ONTechU was a thing or what Dr. Murphy meant by changing our “handle”.  And finally, for all the students who were not interviewed, do you identify with the four opinions that were expressed below?

Happy

Contrary to popular belief, some students were supportive of the change to the new moniker ONTechU. These students felt as though it’s a very different and positive change towards a different title, especially because there’s a lot of confusion between U of T and UOIT with a lot of people, so maybe this is a good way to distinguish us from the rest of the universities out there.

“I would be in favour of changing the name, changing the handle, change the whole thing.”- Anonymous, Faculty of Business and Information Technology

Sivim, Faculty of Science

Not happy At ALL

However, there are always two sides to every argument. Many students were not as open to warmly embracing ONTechU. This group of students were passionate about eliminating the moniker ONTechU from ever being spoken again on campus. Their strong opinions included the following arguments:

  • It doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily
  • It mimics other university names
  • It’s not familiar
  • It’s one step forward and two steps back in terms of university recognition

“I think it’s a mess”- Anonymous, Faculty of Engineering

Venu, Faculty of Health Science

Emotionally attached

How could we forget about the students who just can’t deal with change? This group of students expressed a fondness towards the current moniker, UOIT. They were attached to the name and could not bear to see the university referred to none other than the iconic UOIT. These students felt that there was never a reason to change the moniker and that a new moniker would not improve our reputation. They argued that the university should stand out for the things it does rather than what it is referred to.

“It’s like a joke all of a sudden. Is U of T changing their name? I don’t think so. So why do we have to?”- Anonymous, Faculty of Science

Intisar, Faculty of Science

Open minded

And lastly, some students weren’t in love with ONTechU, but they were open to the idea of change. Perhaps ONTechU wasn’t their favourite choice, but these students did validate the conflicts that arise with the current UOIT moniker and were open to changing the moniker. In fact, these students even had ideas of their own… #PolonskysPalace?

“OnTech might have been a little bit better, the U almost throws it off.”- Anonymous, Faculty of Engineering

Natalie, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities

But we didn’t want to write a biased article, so we had to speak to the President of #ONTechU himself.

Our interview with Dr. Murphy consisted of key questions that were based on the most apparent points of confusion from our discussions with students, as well as our own curiosity.

For the inside scoop on the President’s thoughts and comments in regards to this controversial discussion, watch the video interview above! We have also compiled a summary of the interview questions along with Dr. Murphy’s responses:

How did OnTechU come about? (1:16)

“I started in March, and even before I started here there was an issue with the acronym UOIT. It’s difficult to remember, pronounce and say. I got here and I spoke to the entire community… Does the acronym hinder us more than it serves us? And if it does, what do we replace it with that the whole community feels comfortable with. ONTechU was the first shot at saying, “Okay so this is what I heard, this may not be where we land, but what does the community think of it?””- Dr. Murphy

Did you expect the feedback received by changing the moniker? (4:37)

“As you know, I was making a number of changes out of the gate: The library was going to be open 24 hours… Getting Adirondack chairs out in front of fountain… Keeping fountain open… Making Polonsky commons more attractive… Sticky campus… I was kind of surprised that there wasn’t as much backlash against any of those changes, it just went through smoothly. So I think when it came to ONTechU, I had underestimated how much that students who come here, of course they are going to feel invested in what UOIT means, and me saying to them logically, “well, okay if you go stand in the middle of Yonge and Dundas and ask 99 people out of 100 what UOIT means, they’ll have no idea. And that’s actually a big problem…”” - Dr. Murphy

Was ONTechU your first choice? (8:54)

“I don’t know if it was a first choice. I mean I think when I was talking to people, I probably heard a whole myriad of possibilities of what you could use. I thought that it was one at least that was a good example because it had all of the components in it and then people could say and pick and choose as we go forward. It had Ontario in it, it had Tech in it, and it had the U for university. So I was trying to say to people “I heard you on this” and then if we decide to deviate and then go with an Ontario Tech... or you know others, that’s up to the community to decide” - Dr. Murphy

How does social media play a role in communicating with the community and how do you use social media to connect with students? (13:16)

“Social media is a double edged sword. You have the positive and you’ve got the negative and they can be so different. I think you know if you looked at my social media account that I try to use it for completely positive - I stay out of any of the negative spiral of social media. So I use it to promote the school, to promote our students, to promote what people have been doing. I think that’s really important… I do need more than a Twitter handle, right, what we’re talking about is the rebrand around a collective sense of identity and how you move that forward”- Dr. Murphy

Is there anything you could have done differently? (14:45)

Oh there’s always ways to do it differently right *laughs*… So, could I have done things differently? For sure, but I think that the point is that it ended up giving us something to talk about and to shoot arrows at to say “if it’s not this, let’s make it something better.” At some point I would have come out with saying this is where we are at at this point and I think there would have been backlash anyway. So it’s really, the honest answer is at what point do you want the feedback from the community? I want it all the way along”- Dr. Murphy

Is ONTechU going to be our moniker or are you going to drop another hashtag? (17:24)

“I don’t think I would drop another hashtag *laughs*, I would be frank enough to say with you I don’t think I would do it that way but I think that I would want students involved in saying “is ONTechU the way to go?” I think at this point, we have to start introducing some visual representations… What would that look like on a varsity jersey? What would that look like on social media? We are now reaching the stage where we have to come up with options and choices and real looks”- Dr. Murphy

Is there a timeline of when we might be seeing changes? (19:57)

“I’m less burdened by a timeline then about people feeling like they have really had a chance to chat and get their input heard. So, I would like to wrap it up early in the New Year, I’d like to spend January and February, but if we get to a point at the end of February… and then to sort of present okay this is what we heard and this is what we mocked up and leave that to the community to be able to comment on… and then actually making a decision” – Dr. Murphy

So there you have it - ONTechU covered from every side and every perspective. As we embarked on this journey, we expected to find some good, some bad, and some ugly, as with any controversial topic. As anticipated, we did capture some spirited opinions. However, it became clear that regardless of opinion on the present issue, everyone wants the same thing: a reputation that recognizes us for what we are - a rapidly growing, technology-driven university fueled by an ambitious student body. Throughout this experience, I think we really learned the importance of doing your research before coming to any conclusions, which is what allowed us to establish an informed opinion. So that being said, now that we have done the grunt work for you and gathered all of the facts, we ask again… what are your thoughts on #ONTechU?