We published an article this week ( see page 8 ) on the ever-present issue of student engagement (or lack thereof) at UTM. Now, you might argue that it wasn’t the most rigorously scientific of studies—we did not perform a double-blind test and our subject group was limited to only 10 people—but nevertheless, it fulfilled its purpose. It showed that many UTM students are unaware, some willfully, of the individuals involved in providing campus services—the very same services students fight for every year.
Only two of the 10 students we polled were able to correctly identify the president of UTMSU (Gilbert Cassar), and none fared any better in naming someone from the UTM administration (our dean is Amy Mullin and our principal is Deep Saini). Only six knew that The Medium was the campus paper (a shock, I’m sure, to those reading right now) and, most surprisingly, only eight thought it was important to “be involved.”
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is such a bad thing. I mean, what difference does it really make if someone knows who the president or dean or executive member is? It doesn’t affect whether you attend your classes or are able to claim your dental benefits or U-Pass. It really doesn’t change anything.
I prefer to think of it as a little added bonus. Paying for university is like paying for any other good. Any other really expensive good. Last year I dropped an equivalent amount of money on a nice vintage guitar—a 1966 Fender Custom Telecaster. But before shelling out that $4,500 I did some research: I found the facility where it was built, cross-referenced my sources to make sure the pickups and neck were original, noticed that the three-way switch needed some work, etc.
The guitar still played great, regardless of whether I knew the details behind it. But I figured that if I was going to spend that money I had better know as much as I could about it. The same goes for university. You could easily spend your money, go to class, pick up a degree four years later, and never know a thing about UTM. Many people think that’s fine. But how enjoyable does that sound?
In the American Ivy League system, involvement is part and parcel of the experience. Everyone is focused not just on studying but on getting the full value of the Ivy League experience. After all, if you’re studying in Harvard, don’t you want to make that time count?
I think this is because the Ivy Leaguers have a certain pride in the institution of their university. Why we don’t have the same is beyond me. After all, we’re ranked the 23rd-best university worldwide and the second in Canada. U of T might not have the same cachet as Harvard—even the name “University of Toronto” sounds more clinical than the bearded, pipe-smoking “Harvard University”—but it is a great school, and one that I think more people should participate in.
Our school is something to be proud of. It’s a story, and by participating in that story, we all benefit.
Michael Di Leo