No to New Hall's new name

July 24, 2008

I was glad to read that 66 New Hall alumni had signed a letter of protest to the college over its "rebranding" and the change in its name ("Week in higher education", 17 July). I also would have been pleased to put my name to such a document.

When I received the letter New Hall sent to all its ex-students, I felt betrayed. I was proud to have attended a college so committed to the education of women in an age where women are still subject to the widespread discrimination that is endemic in almost every aspect of our lives, and in almost any career that we might choose. Indeed, I can trace much of my feminism to my time in New Hall, to the friendships I made there, and also to the sense that pervaded the college at that time that it was worth educating women, and that some of us would not "just go and get married", as one of the arguments against that investment had it. Hence, I find it extraordinary that the college decided to re-name New Hall after a man. Yes, £30 million is indeed a lot of money - but however grand the sum, it is still a derogation of principle. The letter writer quoted called it "ironic". I might have been more tempted to use the term "travesty".

Perhaps New Hall might make a public statement detailing what consideration it gave to the political implications of naming a modern women's college - New Hall - after a man. And perhaps Ros and Steve Edwards might reconsider the relation between generosity and immortality. They, and New Hall, should rescind this misguided decision, and - if they must honour someone - confer that distinction only on the college's founder, Dame Rosemary Murray, whose own surname will otherwise henceforth be eternally misunderstood as a male Christian name, as generations of future students wonder "who was Murray Edwards?"

Susan Bruce, Keele University.

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