Let me relate an utterly fascinating story.
Walking through Mac Hall the other day I couldn't help but laugh as some poor sap walked by wearing a University of Calgary sweatshirt. "Look, school pride!" I hissed to a friend. After we finished laughing hysterically, we grabbed a Pepsi and sat down sighing.
Hours later, another thought occurred to me. What the hell were we laughing at?
Can't someone express pride in their university? Shouldn't they?
Here's how it's supposed to work.
Your university years are supposed to be the best of your life. You're young, healthy, idealistic, and free from the constraints of children, spouses, mortgages, high blood pressure and impending death. Your theories about the world are destroyed and then rebuilt with wonderful academic biases. You learn crazy things about Flaubert, competitive advantage, the properties of a fluid, and Neo-Liberalism. Because all should be able to afford post secondary schooling, you leave university debt-free and ready to solve the world's problems. You look back on these years with fondness, grateful for the opportunity given to you. Finally, you reward the institution that provided you with such precious knowledge by generously funding their alumni association.
I see several problems with this wondrous plan as it manifests itself at the U of C.
All students today can do is point out how bad they have it, citing high tuition, inferior and irrelevant education, bad professors, and indifferent administration.
What we have here is a case of rampant consumer dissatisfaction.
Are we wrong? Can the 10,000 students who last year signed the Student's Union petition against another maximum tuition increase be dismissed as whiners? Critics would argue that students will always complain about the cost of their education, but such an argument is irrelevant.
A one hundred and ninety-five per cent increase in the cost of tuition over the last 10 years is an unprecedented fact. The horde of students using the food bank is a fact, one that would have been unfathomable to our parents. And a university degree does not even assure you a job anymore.
The 'fact' of a diminishing quality of education cannot be proven so easily, but larger classes, less labs and tutorials, and an academic exodus to the us are truths. Draw from them what conclusions you will.
These are dark days for students at the U of C. Since the university seems either uncaring or incapable of addressing its problems, school spirit has diminished to a rumor; a flight of fancy enjoyed by our parents (and even older siblings).
Hence, you may be laughed at for wearing a U of C sweatshirt.
If the university really had the student's interests at heart, it would not raise tuition by the maximum amount every year. It would learn to manage better with what it already had. If fiscal responsibility was unfathomable, it would find alternative sources of revenue that would preclude exclusivity contracts. It would price its books competitively. Hell, it would even provide students with adequate
As for the university's argument for accessibility as its greatest selling feature, how can it help any of the existing students? Shouldn't the U of C cater to those angry customers at the counter before waving more in the door?
If our beloved university was a real business with any sort of competition they'd have filed for Chapter 11 by now.
Right now, the U of C is reminiscent of a Soviet-style department store--big, crowded, and not much of any quality is on the shelves. Lucky for them, their customers have no other choice.
So what has the university done to make these the best years of your life? Little. And hopefully that is the same you will do for them when they come calling for your alumni dollars.