WLU is 100 only in a technical sense
Walking around campus it’s difficult not to notice the banners celebrating “Laurier100.” This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Evangelical Lutheran Seminary of Canada, which eventually led to the creation of Laurier’s parent school Waterloo College in 1924. Given how little remains from that time, it’s hard to see how Laurier is really 100 years old and as a school we shouldn’t put too much consideration towards our early years.
For good or bad, so far these celebrations have put a heavy focus on celebrating our past. In a sense, celebrating our age as a university is a bizarre concept, considering that unlike many older universities across Ontario none of our original buildings still stand. Walking across the Waterloo campus it’s easy to see that our oldest buildings were built in the 1960s and 1970s, a long time after our original founding. Because of this, it is odd that we would celebrate a past that we are so far removed from, considering that despite our Protestant roots we have not been associated with any one religion since 1973.
Even our most cherished student traditions like the Boars Head Dinner, Shinerama, Winter Carnival and Homecoming were created in the 1950s and 1960s. From these facts it is easy to see how celebrating our 100th anniversary this year is a strange concept when, aside from The Cord, almost nothing recognizable remains on campus from the early 1900s. This is why as we celebrate this anniversary our university should focus on understanding how our past has developed into the concerns of the present instead of dishing out of random irrelevant facts to students about our past.
For the majority of Laurier students the last 15 years have created the most recognizable changes. In that time we have redeveloped our main campus in Waterloo and added new campuses in Kitchener, Brantford and Toronto.
As a result in that time Laurier has experienced a doubling of our student population. These recent trends demonstrate how significantly we are changing as a university and should further encourage efforts by the university and our student union to preserve what few traditions we still have.
Although some efforts have been made to make our history more relevant this year, some of them are simply a waste of university funds and scarce alumni support.
The statue of Sir Wilfrid Laurier itself is probably the silliest decision that has been made, even given the university’s claim that it will create a focal point on campus for students. It is unlikely to do this, considering that the statue is being placed outside. On a campus that is largely inhabited during the cold and wet seasons of the year, this exercise in spending carries little reasoning behind it.
Despite the fact that we are named after him, Laurier himself has nothing to do with our university history. Purchases like these only further demonstrate the problem faced with a lack of historical buildings and historical identity on campus and the need to involve students in community creating expenditures.
A centennial anniversary means nothing if we don’t have traditions to stand behind and with most of our traditions stemming from the 1950s and 1960s it’s important that the university and students act further to preserve them as our university experiences greater change and expands across Ontario. However, in promoting our history this year we should be focusing only on the aspects of our past that are and will still be relevant in the future and not on our increasingly irrelevant religious past.