If you pause for a moment in the middle of campus at around half-past the hour mid-day, McMaster is a sight to behold. Thousands of students of every gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, nationality and personality possible will flood past you.
It’s a far cry from who composed the student body when McMaster first came into being. Who we were in 1887 versus who we are today is vastly, wonderfully different. Yet unfortunately, our motto, that short little phrase chosen for its efficacy in encapsulating the beliefs and ideals guiding an institution, has not changed since those early days.
The McMaster motto – written in Greek – reads, “Ta panta en Christoi synesteken” which translates to “In Christ all things hold together” or “All things cohere in Christ.” While this may have been appropriate when McMaster was first established as a Christian college, this faith-focused motto does not reflect the non-denominational academic environment of our campus today.
It was back in 1957 that the University became a private, non‐spiritual institution, dissolving formal ties with its Baptist roots. And yet despite McMaster’s religious birth, as University President Patrick Deane identifies in his open letter to the McMaster community, Forward With Integrity, “The purpose of the institution from its inception [was] through education and research to develop and realize the potential both of individuals and of society at large.” This principle, which McMaster has so wonderfully achieved, is secular, academia-centric and entirely unrelated to religious practice.
I mean no offence to McMaster Divinity College, the Religious Studies program, or any Christian students, staff or faculty. Rather, I feel it would be more in line with their religious values to foster a community of inclusively through religious diversity and the creation of a motto that speaks to what truly unites the McMaster community: a passion for learning and the pursuit of knowledge.
Change could easily be made, although stubborn bureaucrats will say otherwise. Perhaps Latin students and professors could create several new potential mottoes upon which students and faculty would vote. The favourite would be instated as the official new motto of the University.
The current crest is printed on Mac paraphernalia, looms large over Council Chambers where countless critical decisions are made, and is even the major image on McMaster’s Wikipedia page. This continued presence of a religious motto on Mac’s symbolic brand is simply unacceptable.
A change to McMaster’s motto would be a statement that the University is a community that welcomes all peoples to join together in pursuit of excellence in research and academics.
Now that would move us forward with integrity.