Last week, I was pleased to count myself among hundreds of proud graduates who walked the stage to shake the hand of Jack Perraton, the university chancellor. To cheers and applause, we the took our seats, replete with the satisfaction of a job well done.
For myself and approximately 100 other kinesiology graduates, the plan hit a glitch when Mr. Perraton stood up and joked: "This has been an interesting ceremony because the kinesiology graduates crossed the stage last. I can tell they all spent the morning working out next door and they were really anxious to shake my hand!"
While the audience snickered, my fellow kinesiology graduates and I exchanged tired, resigned looks and stared at the stage, our moment of glory tarnished by a spectre we've been shadow-boxing the last four years.
Jack's intention was likely not to slur kinesiology graduates, but nonetheless, his comment was a popular topic of conversations bearing decidedly hostile tones. I don't want to vilify the chancellor, but unfortunately he's presented himself as an example and I intend to seize the moment.
One of the toughest aspects of a kinesiology degree is battling the myth of the muscle-bound, knuckle-dragging workout-addicted jock, perpetuated by people who haven't set foot in the kinesiology complex.
Strangely, none of the people that paint kinesiology majors as "jocks" have actually bothered to sit through a physiology lecture, a cadaver lab or a statistical analysis of a field fitness test. I highly doubt they realize that kinesiology graduates are qualified for a bachelor of science degree. They probably don't realize that of the direct entry faculties, the kinesiology admission requirements are the highest. Do they realize that over half of my fellow graduates are gainfully employed in their field of study--researching, training and healing?
It doesn't seem to matter how many kinesiology students trot off to top medical schools or set to work curing cancer, when there's a joke to be made involving physical prowess, kinesiologists bear the brunt. It's irreconciliable to the general population that kinesiological pursuits are as intellectual and deserving of respect as those of any other student in any other faculty. Had Jack made a comment about "nerdy" engineers, a chilly silence would have ensued--you don't diss that kind of hard work. In spite of the equal toil produced by the kinesiology majors, no internal monitor tapped Jack on the shoulder to say "That was inappropriate." Even worse, no one had a problem laughing about it.
For myself and every other kinesiology graduate who convocated last week, our degrees were cheapened. With one comment, on our day of glory, suddenly no one cared that we had spent four years writing research papers, conducting labs and writing exams like every other student at the U of C. We alone, it seemed, were doomed to finish as we started: nothing but a bunch of jocks.