Columnist clubbed to death

By Corky Thatcher

Carleton University in Ottawa welcomes their frosh students to campus life with a week-long party which includes wearing funny, spray-painted t-shirts, ridiculous games, and lots of drinking. Yes, drinking-focused events-the lowest common denominator kind that despite apprehensions, make you begin to feel connected and accepted into an intimidating new group. Hey, it’s no U of C 101, but at least it’s a start. I’ve seen it and I know the new students have a great time.

Elsewhere across this country and down South in Yank-Land, college students supposedly meet and mingle with interesting like-minded people, start relationships, join clubs and other organizations, and enjoy the social component of higher education which invariably serves as the stronger memory long after one leaves school. Before I came to university I had some vague (TV-induced?) notion that all schools welcomed their students like this, ours included. How do we measure up? Is it all a myth?

Maybe this idealized notion of student life is entirely false, but I’ve visited more Canadian campuses than you can count on two hands, plus spoken to many people who have studied in the us, and I can confidently say that the sense of community enjoyed by University of Calgary students is weak, insular, limp-wristed and all-around lame by larger standards. It sucks that a student can commute here week in and week out for four years and then get a degree without ever feeling a sense of pride in our school, or feeling connected to the campus and the people.

Thankfully that’s not me. But I had to work hard to get to a point where I felt pleased about going to school here. I made good friends and threw myself into activities I believed in, but it was an uphill battle. Surprisingly, my most consistently positive interactions at school have come from professors who rewarded my unique abilities and encouraged my talents. Unfortunately, as much as there were good people and interesting things to become involved with outside of the classroom, other obstacles made the effort questionable: Who wants to take part in something when the people involved are opportunistic charlatans who thrive on control and influence rather than enthusiastic ambition?

I’ll graduate this spring without any club memberships to speak of. Walking through MacEwan Student Centre and seeing the cheery faces of members of the various clubs and organizations reminded me of what I’m writing here, and why I’m not a part of “the club.” Ironically, the people I saw manning the tables are probably some of the good ones: friendly students genuinely interested in including new members in their ranks and sharing their knowledge and piece of school identity. There are good clubs and organizations on campus with students who work hard and want to make U of C more positive and welcoming for anyone who’s interested in taking part. To them, I say keep up the good work.

What our school needs to get rid of are clubs, organizations and individuals who repudiate others and perpetuate a feeling of elitism and exclusion that most students have felt at one time or another from certain groups. It’s pathetic: these students looking for an identity and something to believe in glom onto a certain group, elbow their way into a position of acceptance, then use their membership in “the group” as a platform for trumpeting holier-than-thou attitudes and behavior. You can find instances of this anywhere on campus: political clubs, the Students’ Union, some of the more close-knit faculties and departments, ethnic associations especially, and even student media such as the Gauntlet you’re holding.

It’s depressing that many people I have spoken to say they have had a negative experience in the context of approaching a club or listening to the rants of one of its members. Who else besides me has had the pleasure of listening to the hard-done-by feminist debutante rallying together similar ilk and talking about chauvinist men and sexual stereotypes, then excusing herself so she can drive to her modeling agency for another photo shoot? How about the Muslim or Chinese or Jewish (feel free to insert any nationality or belief here) student who complains bitterly to others about not getting a fair shake in today’s prejudiced society, but works at a cushy job provided by the family and drives a $20,000 Jeep which was a high school graduation gift from mum & dad?

They overlook the hypocrisy and shallowness of their thoughts and ideas because it’s a purchased sense of self: join an incestuous group and define your attitudes through them instead. Who cares if the reality of your experience is not what you think you stand for? Make yourself feel better by criticizing others and excluding those people different from you. Don’t worry about actually accomplishing anything-hangers-on are always part of this game. Exercise your sheep mentality before being authentic and original. I know there are lots of you out there. All of you can gather up and meet me in the Jack Simpson Gym on Friday at 3 p.m. so I can simultaneously tell all of you to shut the fuck up and show some real identity. If you don’t show up, I just might have to start my own club. On second thought, I’ll do it right now! The brotherhood of critically-minded, well-read, acerbic-witted, irreverent perpetual outsiders meets next week at my house. Come and compliment me, agree with what I say, put down everyone for sport and make sure our student community remains polluted by mediocre identity politics. I will be your leader.

One more thing: no fat chicks.

Gareth Morgan can be reached at

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