Sunday, November 14, 2010

In Defense of the University of Toronto - From Alumni, With Love

I love UofT. No, I don`t think love is the correct adjective here. Let`s rephrase that. I adore UofT to the point of emotional and academic attachment. What can I say? I`m an appreciative (read: loyal) alumna.

I love UofT. There. I said it again. I know I`m not the only one who shares these sentiments, so I take comfort in the fact that I`m not alone in my academic fandom.

What has triggered this sudden blog post in defense of an institution I`ve already graduated from? Don`t get me wrong, I love Queen`s. Actually, let me further re-phrase that statement. I adore Queen`s. It`s everything I would have wanted in a university experience away from home. However, I feel the need to defend the institution I received my undergraduate degree from due to several conversations I`ve had in the Queen`s community. Because really, when you`re as awesome as UofT, there`s a tendency to be misunderstood (read: hated). This blog post aims to convey, dear readers, why I think UofT is awesome. And I`m not just saying this because I`m Asian.

Unfortunately (and I will probably receive some anonymous defensive hate mail for this a statement), I`ve run into far too many people in Kingston who despise UofT. Yes, despise. Utter derision, really. Accusing UofT of elitism? Behold, Exhibit A. A conversation I had with an individual I met at the beginning of the year. Let`s call him Anonymous.

Anonymous: Where did you do your undergraduate degree?
Me: I went to UofT.
Anonymous (completely serious): Oh. I hate UofT. We`ll have to undo the damage it did to you.
Me (taken aback): Excuse me?
Anonymous: I said, I hate UofT. It`s a stuck-up, elitist school who think its ivory tower is better than everybody else. It`s a right-wing machine producing elitist snobs who do nothing but contribute to the world`s unequal distribution of wealth.
Me: Well, I--
Anonymous (interrupts me): God, I hate UofT. It`s the best school if you want to get rich. It`s not the best school to save our planet. UofT thinks its better than everyone else, I hate it.
Me (indignant): I loved my time at UofT.
Anonymous (stands up and walks away): Then there`s no hope for you.

Really? Well, I think you`re a maniac.

It pains me to say that this wasn`t my only encounter of professed spite for UofT. Believe me, I`ve had several of these encounters in Kingston. I don`t fully understand this academic hate-on, but it`s irritating. And I will publically say that for every eye-roll I received, every face that was made when I admitted that I`m UofT alumni, I roll my eyes back. In exasperation. And pity for such blatant disrespect.

Elitism? There were 2000 students in each of my first-year classes. Fostering elitist attitudes and snobbery? I highly doubt that each student who attended UofT has aspirations to take over the corporate world. Assumptions much?

Purely from the context of the life-changing experiences I had at UofT, I (obviously, subjectively) think it`s an incredible school, both in terms of academics and overall environment. I will forever remember my years at UofT as some of the best years of my life. I met unbelievable individuals who have changed the academic world with their ideas, their thoughts. I made lifelong friends who adore this institution as much as I do. I met and befriended renowned professors who challenged me more than I anticipated. I learned so much from these individuals, and I would never regret my choice of attending an institution that provided me with such quality education. Is it really such a crime to be educated by individuals who have taught at and attended Harvard and Yale? And if that`s what makes individuals hate UofT so much, I roll my eyes in exasperation. Learning from these individuals was a challenging experience I`ll never forget. It was a life-changing experience that I`m (humbly) grateful I received. No need to hate (link), really. Shhhh, the Black Eyed Peas wouldn`t approve.

I`m not claiming that UofT is better than other universities. I just (subjectively) claim that (cue Barney Stinson) UofT is awesome. And if you tell me otherwise, just provide me with sufficient (read: respectful) justification. Which I will honestly accept and respect, given that you give me yours. Respect(ful) being the key word. It`s an ingredient missing from these conversations. What`s that, Aretha? Please and thanks.

I love UofT. And if I`m negatively judged for doing so, then so be it. Nothing will change my mind about an institution that will forever have my loyalties. And if that makes me a stuck-up, elitist snob, then we don`t have to be friends. Really, I have no problem with that.

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.”
- Albert Einstein


  1. Don't forget the whole "people who survived U of T are all scary cutthroat 24/7 study machines" trope. There's a similar perception of graduate/professional schools at U of T as well... I know that at U of T meds we get comments from folks at the other medical schools about how U of T is really cutthroat and 'intense' and the students are bordering on sociopathic (not true).

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Ana, I know exactly what you mean. The "24/7 scary & sociopathic study machines" stereotype is something we heard throughout undergrad (and it was not true, of course!). Hope medical school is going well for you! All the best!

  4. I am guilty of this... but only because I can't imagine living in that huge a city. Toronto is just way too scary for a Northern girl.

  5. "It`s a right-wing machine producing elitist snobs who do nothing but contribute to the world`s unequal distribution of wealth."

    Really? If anything I felt there were more left-wing activists complaining about the world's unequal distribution of wealth. This person likes to imagine U of T as one of those Brooks Brothers wearing, rowing at 5AM elitist headquarters...but it simply isn't. I prefer to think we aren't elitists, just well educated. Real Talk.

  6. Holly, Toronto isn't that scary, I promise! :)

    "I prefer to think we aren't elitists, just well educated."
    That statement pretty much sums up this blog post. Awesome ;)

  7. I'm glad to hear some positive things about U of T from an alumni! It's currently my first-year there and was hesitant on attending because of all these stories of how it's a horrible cutthroat school but I'm glad I chose to attend in the end! I agree with Matt's statement; "I prefer to think we aren't elitists, just well educated."
    Every time I tell someone that I attend U of T, they always give me weird looks as if I'm an idiot or something :S

  8. Exploremf,
    I'm glad you chose to attend UofT! It's a huge campus, so it may be hard meeting people at the beginning, but if you join some clubs and extracurricular activities, I think you'll get to meet a variety of interesting people beyond your program. I loved loved loved my time at UofT, and I hope your first year goes well! :)

  9. No offense but UofT students are kind of snobbish. I did my undergrad at a school with a relatively poor reputation and did a Masters at UofT. It was a tough transition dealing with UofT grads because they really did think all of us coming from other schools were weak and dumb. It is okay though, I put them in their place pretty quickly :). That being said, UofT is a pretty good school with alot of talented people. Toronto as a city is pretty rough on a student. Its too urban...

  10. I did my undergrad at U of T, and make no mistake, you have to work very hard to get those coveted As. Most U of T students are in the top 15% of their high school graduating class, and yet, the majority of them have to get Bs and Cs as their final marks. After first year, people begin to realize the level of competition that they are up against and it forces people to become cut throat to position themselves for grad school or good entry level jobs. No one wants to have Cs on their transcript, even though a C at U of T is like an 80 in high school.

    U of T is steeped in tradition, history and academic recognition so it fosters a more conservative environment than other schools. Attending lectures in the "dungeons" of University College that probably looked like they did back in the 1800s is a humbling experience. At Trinity College where the students have to have a 92 average to be admitted, it is mandatory to wear traditional gowns at dinners at the College. Overall, it's just a very serious environment and it's definitely not a party school. In fact the only "public" party that I can recall was frosh week.

    I now work in management consulting in NYC and can tell you that U of T has prepared me well for dealing with the cut throat, dog eat dog, laddered performance rating, up or out culture in the industry and can tell you that the school enjoys a good reputation in the city as a result.

    Queens Commerce is also very well respected worldwide, so maybe this whole argument is a moot point!

  11. Thanks for your comments! :) @Anonymous #2, congratulations on your consulting job in NYC! You're right, UofT prepared me for the working world as well. There's nothing like competitiveness that makes you work that much harder. Good luck with everything!

  12. I couldn't agree more. I have loved every second at U of T and I have never regretted for a moment my decision to attend it. I cannot speak for Sciences and Engineering, but Arts is certainly not cuthroat. you work hard for your marks, but you don't undermine others, except indirectly by your own achievement i suppose. I too adore U of T, especially because I am a medievalist and it has an amazing medieval program.

    Also whoever said U of T is conservative is either a mega communist or just an idiot. I am generally more conservative and I am usually the only one in my tutorial who is (which ends up making the arguments better because instead of people just patting each other on the back and telling each other how much they agree they have an actual argument). in any case you will find a wide range of opinions and beliefs at U of T, and I for one would not have gone anywhere else in the world.