UWS, WSU or Whitlam ?

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By Aldric Chuah:

So the established board of directors has decided to rebrand the logo/image/name of the University. First off, hats off to Barney Glover our new VC.  When Education Minister Christopher Pyne was trying to push education reform legislation through the Senate, UWS became the first university in NSW to freeze student fees in 2014. This was a monumental decision as it went against the established orthodoxy of the sandstone universities.  In his words, UWS “provided certainty for students enrolling anytime in 2014.”  I state this as a form of qualification.  As of August 30th the University of Western Sydney has been known as Western Sydney University. The stated purpose of this was to reflect the University’s commitment to the region. It certainly is a noble pursuit of the University to emphasise its focus on the Western Sydney region.  Without any shadow of a doubt this name change is very ennobling and imbues residents/workers of the Western Sydney region with a sense of pride. It certainly is the case that UWS has done a great deal for the region. However, it is my unrepentant belief that citizens/institutions should not be coalesced into a certain corner.  This evokes Gramsci’s espousing of cultural hegemony and of ‘us vs them’.  Other universities (particularly sandstone ones) ought to consider establishing campuses in Western Sydney too.  Whilst there is explicitly no geographical identification, we all know that UTS, Sydney and UNSW are in the CBD, inner west and eastern suburbs of Sydney. We live in a magnificently fantastic city (and country) with equally fascinating people living throughout; North, South, East, West.  Universities ought to establish campuses/identity throughout Sydney – within budgetary constraints of course!

I would now like to turn your attention to Lachlan Macquarie. Governor of NSW from 1810- 1821, he is regarded in high esteem in contemporary society. We don’t have room to cover everything he did. Here’s three main points

  • Inclusion of former convicts into mainstream society (see Francis Greenway)
  • Investment in public infrastructure
  • Benevolence (in past standards) towards Indigenous Australians.

As such, Lachlan Macquarie has many places (Macquarie University) named after him.  Macquarie is better regarded amongst mainstream Australian society and is deserving of the accolades.  It is arguable that Whitlam also transformed Australian society in a small amount of time. I’m not asking for streets to be named after him but surely we, as the custodians of his legacy, ought to recognise his work/efforts by considering rebranding this university as Whitlam University. Surely a man of his vision and outlook on the Australian psyche ought not have the implicit feature of being geographically specific? His vision extended throughout Australia and arguably in the region as well. His government argued the case for social justice and equality over prejudice and old habits of the past. He sought for an independent Australia and one in which the cultivation of knowledge was deemed more fundamental than the accumulation of wealth. Well may we say God Save The Queen to that.

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