Massey University is in the midst of an identity crisis. The problem is the uni is named after William Ferguson Massey, the former New Zealand prime minister, who has recently been outed as a disgusting racist.
Massey lecturer and PhD scholar Steve Elers came across comments made by Massey while he was researching Maori representation in newspapers. Massey was originally a farmer who served as prime minister from 1912 until his death in 1925. Following his passing, the Massey Agricultural College was founded in 1926, and has borne an updated version of his name ever since—with an administration that was apparently unaware Massey was a white supremacist.
Of all races, the Chinese particularly attracted Massey's disdain, as highlighted by Stuff.
"I am not a lover or admirer of the Chinese race. I should be one of the very first to insist on very drastic legislation to prevent them coming here in any numbers, and I am glad such is not the case."
Conversely, Massey felt his own lineage represented the highest form of genetic achievement, as all white supremacists usually do.
"New Zealanders are probably the purest Anglo-Saxon population in the British Empire," he once opinioned. "Nature intended New Zealand to be a white man's country, and it must be kept as such."
Massey student Ruby O'Rourke told VICE the comments made her "physically cringe" when she first heard them. But then she was even more surprised by the "get over it" response from the New Zealanders public.
"Classic New Zealanders not understanding the broader implications. Imagine being a Chinese student at Massey and reading that," said Ruby. "Every university has the ethical responsibility of reflecting their teachings with their own name."
However, not all students share this sentiment. Another student of Chinese descent told VICE William Ferguson that Massey's identity is "irrelevant" to her university experience at Massey.
"I feel disconnected to the legacy of William Ferguson Massey," she said. "The name has acquired a different definition from the person who it was unfortunately named after.
"I find it amusing that he would be turning in his grave knowing how the legacy of his name has become so multicultural."
However, both students said they'd endorse a name change, and suggested Massey should ask the local Iwi to rename the institution.
Several American Universities have come under similar pressure in recent years to rename buildings named after known white supremacists, such as Duke University's former Charles Aycock undergraduate dormitory.
In that case, Duke removed the name agreeing it was no longer "appropriate to honour a figure who played so active a role in the history that countered [Duke University's] values."
A name change for Massey University doesn't look likely at this stage. While university spokesman James Gardiner said the matter would be raised formally with the university's management he stated the institution doesn't "form views on the opinions of academics."
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