Mayors of Oak Bay and Saanich want University of Victoria renamed

Nils Jensen, Frank Leonard opine that USOB is much more realistic

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard and Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen plan to ask the province to change the University of Victoria’s name to University of Saanich-Oak Bay to better reflect where the campus is located.

“We’re excited that Oak Bay and Saanich will have a chance to have the identity on the university that’s been long overdue,” Leonard said.

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“People have always been confused where the university is. Now when they get off the ferry and they’re looking for where their kids are going to school, they’ll know it’s actually in Saanich and Oak Bay.”

Leonard said he and Jensen planned to notify university president Jamie Cassels “as a courtesy” and send the letter to the province today, April 1.

“It reflects where the university actually is. Interestingly enough, the University of Victoria is not in Victoria. It’s half in Saanich and half in Oak Bay. Why shouldn’t the name of the university reflect its actual physical location?” Jensen said.

UVic was established in its current location in 1963. Its roots date to the early 1900s, when it was Victoria College and affiliated with McGill University, teaching arts and science courses and sharing facilities with Victoria High.

In 1921, it moved into Craigdarroch Castle, then to the Lansdowne campus of the Provincial Normal School in 1946 and to the Gordon Head campus in the 1960s.

“Clearly, they didn’t think through the geographic change. That would have been the perfect opportunity [for a name change],” Leonard said.

The idea of renaming UVic to USOB is not new.

In 2006 — Oak Bay’s and Saanich’s centennial years — pranksters erected a sign, complete with a logo combining an Oak Bay tea cup holding a Saanich swan, over the sign at UVic’s main entrance. But the sign was removed by security almost as soon as it went up.

Leonard said the municipalities receive a small grant in lieu of taxes for hosting the university, but it’s nowhere close to covering the costs of services.

“We haven’t got our hand out asking for more money for all we provide the university but we think it would be more than a token of appreciation for them to bear the names of the municipalities that host them,” he said.

Leonard thinks the acronym — USOB — would be a merchandising boon for university sports teams. “I think it would sell like hotcakes. Any time the University of SOB was competing somewhere, the other university would want to be swapping their shirts and hats.”

When Murray Coell, a former Saanich mayor and MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, held B.C.’s advanced education portfolio, Leonard unsuccessfully lobbied him for the name change.

Asked what he thought the provincial response would be, Leonard said it depended on whether they answered before or after noon, the traditional cutoff for April Fool’s jokes — which this is.

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