I feel like I’m an active member of the sometimes quiet and forgotten faculty of arts here at Ryerson. I enjoy promoting our presence despite how small and unimportant we may seem at a university that seems so focused on its journalism and business programs.
I love volunteering for the arts orientation where I have the opportunity to give advice to the inspired and excited freshmen who can’t wait to experience university life. But underneath this pristine sense of romanticism, I see students who are concerned about whether or not they can survive the rigours university presents, or are pressured by their parents to achieve for greatness.
It annoys me when I get questions like “Is this course easy?” or “Will this help boost my GPA?” When did education become so obsessive towards grades? This is a large problem and it affects students of all years. Universities used to be about experimenting with ideas, appreciating the things we learned, and seeing where our curiosity takes us.
I was foolish to believe Ryerson would be different. I was told that I had choice, but my choice is divided into a rigid set of tables in order to fulfil the requirements for my degree. I feel this is damaging the education system. We’re conditioned to see education as means to an end goal (a job) and that even if we just scrape by, we still have that piece of paper that tells us we graduated and therefore should have opportunities. We go to university for the sake of getting a job, not for the sake of learning, or being knowledgeable, or following our creative imaginations.
Ryerson advertises itself as an “urban university with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.” It believes these two things are keys in being successful. But what about the possibilities given by an arts degree? Don’t get me wrong — innovation and entrepreneurship are valuable, but it seems as though the arts isn’t a path that’ll lead to success.
I feel an arts degree makes you see the world differently. It makes you care about people, cultures, societies, philosophical ideas, and the complexity of history. We owe a lot to people like Hobbes, Montesquieu, E.H. Carr, and Hemingway. These people shouldn’t be devalued to something as a means to fulfill a requirement. Education has the ability to be life changing when we approach it with enthusiasm and interest. Being apathetic is useless, the arts makes you care and better understand the world that innovation and entrepreneurship can’t possibly give us.
I feel Ryerson is stuck at crossroads. It doesn’t know what it wants to be. When I was in first year, Ryerson was a humbling experience. It didn’t feel like it oozed with pretentiousness. Eventually, though, I realized that Ryerson is fixated on reputation, just like every other university. It believes that reputation can be built by constructing new buildings that look pretty on the outside but feel hollow on the inside. It believes that slightly changing the logo to make it look more fresh or painting the road will help boost reputation.
I think the best way to boost reputation is to appreciate and care for all programs equally. Ryerson should emphasize the arts too, not just business or communications programs and zone learning. I believe that the arts and sciences are the tenants of every great university because they innately nurture our insatiable curiosity to invoke change.
Let us be defined not by our commuter school status or our ability to get Drake to perform during orientation. Let us not be apathetic. Let us be defined by our ability to care and embrace the brilliant minds here at Ryerson who seek change.
Be curious. Be empathetic. Be you and love what you learn. This is the Ryerson I envision.
Let us instead embrace curiosity, embrace knowledge, and embrace empathy towards students who are looking to fulfil their minds with the knowledge they seek.
Featured image by Augustine Ng