MUN eyes changing lyrics to Ode to Newfoundland, 2 months after scrapping ‘dated’ anthem
Memorial University is reconsidering its decision to scrap the Ode to Newfoundland at their graduation ceremonies after the provincial government asked the school to reinstate them.
That ode was removed from induction ceremonies earlier this year after a unanimous vote by school president Vianne Timmons and seven vice presidents.
This decision ended a tradition of singing ode at conscription ceremonies dating back to the 1950s.
The presidential council said at the time it dropped the song – the province’s official anthem – because it excluded Labrador and made religious references.
But a vote to reopen the matter split the university’s Senate on Wednesday.
A motion from Gerard Curtis, an art history professor, suggested changing the anthem at the behest of the province after politicians wrote a letter urging Memorial University to reconsider its decision.
“The Senate supports the decision to stop using the current version of the Ode to Newfoundland1902 when he recognized the problematic nature of certain passages,” Curtis said.
“The Senate understands the historical significance … and the emotional attachment to it. We also note that the wording concerns the indigenous peoples of the province and does not include the various people who take the stage at Memorial gatherings.”
Curtis asked the Senate to change lyrics the university found problematic, such as “God bless you” and “As our fathers loved, so we love.”
“We encourage the university and the government to work together to find a solution to the problems caused by the current outdated versions of the odeand urge that the wording of the composition be adjusted… to be more inclusive.
Curtis cited the 2018 change to Canada’s national anthem, which removed gender references, as a successful model for the university to follow.
The motion split the Senate on Wednesday, with some supporting the motion and others arguing that it needed further discussion given the provincial government’s motion.
“I think we should pay a lot of attention to that,” said Associate Professor Ken Snelgrove. “These are the people who write the checks to Memorial … I think it’s important to weigh the importance of dropping the checks here ode of the convocation ceremony compared to the potential damage to the university as a result of going against the wishes of the people of the province.
“I think it’s clear that they have a lot of influence on the university and it’s important that we factor that into our decision-making process here.”
Another Senator, Jeremy Pridham, was not in favor of the motion, proposing the traditional ode was “rooted” in the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador and could be interpreted as a song about governing the country and changing the lyrics could come across as elitist.
Indigenous Vice President Catharyn Andersen supported the motion and said: ode often had negative connotations for people of Labrador.
After the debate, the Senate voted to refer the discussion to the school’s Committee on Honorary Degrees and Ceremonies before making its final decision.
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