By: Natasha Tar
We all know that SFU’s current motto is “nous sommes prêts,” which means “we . . . is . . .” and some other word in French that I’ve forgotten since my last eighth-grade French class. It’s definitely either that or “engaging the world,” but not even SFU is sure which one it is. That confusion aside, you may not know that the university has cycled through a number of mottos over the years.
“Je ne sais pas” — September 1966
Suggested a year after the university’s founding, “je ne sais pas” was adopted so SFU students could easily explain to other universities what their motto meant. If anyone asked what the French translated to, an ignorant SFU student could reply, “I don’t know.” They’d be right!
“Toot toot, toot toot!” — November 1986
To commemorate the first bus out of the Burnaby Transit Centre, SFU decided to temporarily adopt the slogan “toot toot, toot toot!” as a nod to the buses’ iconic melodies as they struggled up the mountain. Then-SFU president William Saywell commented that “there [was] no better way to celebrate the faithful chariots that carry our cash cows to our incredible facilities.” Alternate suggestions were “honk honk” and “back door, please!” but they were eventually rejected for being “too coital,” according to Saywell.
“Burnaby Mountain and two other campuses no one cares about” — March 2003
This motto came into existence a little while after SFU’s Surrey campus opened. Frustrated with the lack of events and recognition their campus got, IAT students joined forces with the publishing and dance students of the downtown campuses, and together they stormed the mountain. Unfortunately, the raccoon led administration at the time was too strong. Defeated, the students returned to their respective campuses and adopted this motto out of justified saltiness. To this day, the SFSS avoid Surrey and Vancouver, afraid if they give the campuses even the smallest notice, they will revolt again.
“Marry the World” — April 2017
SFU, acting strangely out of character, finally decided to tie the knot with whomever they were engaged to for so long. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last long, as the campuses were having an existential crisis, constantly changing their appearance, and being loud, annoying, and toxic. A blushing Andrew Petter remarked that “there’s no need to change our motto to ‘divorce the world’; SFU has already found someone else.”
“We are worse than UBC” — November 2017
Following the infamous and emotionally charged Meme War of 2017 between SFU and UBC, Wikipedia editor Mufflebuns decided to make a few changes to our beloved Wikipedia page. For a full second, our motto was the above, with Mufflebuns commenting that SFU is “[. . .] one of the most bland universities in Canada, with the quality of their memes really dragging down their position in ”[[Maclean’s]]” annual University Rankings [. . .]”
“Welcome to the North Pole” — Many times over the years
Every time SFU faces a snow-in, the motto is temporarily changed to this gem. Used as a ploy to make the university seem more homely in times of administrative failure, the motto reminds students that they are little more than tireless, unpaid elves.