SFU’s Legacy Song Contest is a sham

Photo Credit: Brandon Hillier
Photo Credit: Brandon Hillier
Photo Credit: Brandon Hillier

By the year 2065, SFU will be closing for good. At least, that’s the only explanation I can come up with to justify SFU’s 50th anniversary Legacy Song Contest: it must just be a mid-life crisis.

While it may seem like an innocuous move on the part of the administration’s Ceremonies and Events Office, instigating the creation of a school anthem is a poor if not insulting way to celebrate this institution’s half-century milestone.

President Andrew Petter clearly understood and exemplified the spirit of our school in his online letter launching the 50th Anniversary Campaign on September 5, 2013. He stated that “SFU has grown up without growing old; we still have the same spirit of adventure, hunger for new ideas, and willingness to do things differently that characterized SFU from the beginning.”

Unfortunately, this contest is a clear betrayal of that idea.

A school song is not in tune with the bold and unconventional nature for which SFU is known. In Canada, universities with official ‘school songs’ seem limited to very old and proper institutions, such as McGill, Bishop’s University, and Trinity College — all of whom were established prior to the 20th century. While ‘fight songs’ (chants tied to athletic programs) are more common, SFU’s history of anti-war pacifism renders this style inappropriate to adopt.

Quite simply, an anthem is not a tradition that matches the spirit of a school that opened so recently, and was made famous through its activism and radical figures.

As the “instant university,” SFU’s original chancellor Gordon Shrum also insisted the school have “instant tradition.” Though artificial and sudden, elements like our school’s crest and its Scottish themes were instantly made traditional, and have remained so since. However, a school song just wasn’t one of these instant elements.

SFU’s history of anti-war pacifism renders an anthem inappropriate to adopt.

In 1967, at SFU’s first convocation ceremony, an instrumental piece entitled the “Simon Fraser March” premiered. The suite was a gift from New York composer Paul Reif, and was performed by the Kitsilano boys’ band. While this could have become SFU’s song, clearly an anthem just wasn’t a tradition that people cared about enough to continue with. To try and resurrect the idea now doesn’t reflect our history; it ignores it.

This isn’t to say that SFU should not attempt to create new traditions. New traditions are great, but it doesn’t make sense for SFU to make new old traditions. In fact, the new song’s goals listed in a press release — including something to chant during sporting events and at convocation — have already been achieved through traditions that have evolved naturally.

As someone who has attended many Clan sporting events, I know that the audience has never been at a loss for what to chant at the end of the game. Cedric Chen’s off-key rendition of Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” meant to get in the heads of opposing players, will always inspire more pride in me than anything this contest could possibly generate.

And when it comes to something to play at convocation, SFU’s internationally renowned pipe band will surely make this new song look silly. The SFU Pipe Band is an enduring part of a real tradition and pride at our school.

I’m for chanters, not chants. I’ve always been proud that SFU has a different culture than that of a standard university, and a school song will do nothing but move us closer to being like everyone else.

So when it comes to the Legacy Song Contest, I’m singing an out of tune “baby, baby, baby, no.”