RyeRev: Jillian Crocker

Ryerson Revolution, “Rye Rev,” is a series dedicated to giving students a chance to share their thoughts on what they’d like to change about the university based on their personal and academic experiences. It doesn’t matter what program you come from or your level of campus engagement.

If you had the chance to revolutionize Ryerson, what would you want to see?

A few years ago, in 2012, Ryerson launched a program called Sustainability Matters. They pledged to “pursue opportunities to improve the sustainability” of the campus in order to serve as a “catalyst for broader transformation.” Having read their (self-proclaimed) “impressive” program strategy, it remains unclear what specific tactics are being used, despite the promise of  “exceptional results.” This may leave some feeling satisfied, content that the university is doing their part. This may also leave others feeling unsatisfied, like they’ve just read a document littered with alienating jargon. I was feeling unsatisfied.

This past summer I had a lot of time to think about this. I was taking part in Ryerson’s work study program. According to their website, I was putting “academic theory into practice” while simultaneously heightening my confidence. In actuality, I spent my days talking to an answering machine and photocopying enough paper to destroy a small forest. But not to worry, I was informed it was critical to my professional development.

Needless to say, this made for a lacklustre eight-hour day. More importantly, it didn’t quite jive with a university that insists it has a “commitment to sustainability.”

This isn’t to say that Ryerson doesn’t have any good environmental initiatives. Rye’s HomeGrown provides students with an opportunity to participate in sustainable urban agriculture. A variety of spaces, including a large rooftop garden, encourages students to learn practical methods of sustainability. But, until heartfelt institutional policy is implemented, this is merely one good deed.

It’s policy and regulation that will bring about substantial change. But instead, the university continues to call up major, unethical corporations requesting they join forces — I know because I did it. This was part of my lacklustre job. I phoned companies and politely begged them to consider hiring Ryerson students. If they had previously visited our campus and were displeased with their experience, I would grovel. I would explain that we’ve changed and that we’re now bigger, better, and more like them.

Ryerson fosters relationships with corporations that actively support environmental destruction. The university refers to these as “exciting new partnerships” that support “profitable initiatives.” Coca-Cola, the largest beverage company in the world, is one of these. Aside from their well-known human rights violations, Coca-Cola has caused extreme water shortages and contamination in developing countries.

Now, my knowledge of economics is virtually non-existent. But from my understanding, whenever a profit is made, a deficit is created somewhere else. In this case, it’s an environmental deficit. As long as the university benefits financially from corrupt corporations, they can’t become sustainable. In order for this to change, Ryerson would have to undergo radical reform.

It’s Ryerson’s hypocrisy that’s most frustrating. Sustainability matters. A document of buzzwords used to satiate the conscience of an institution isn’t going to  produce “exceptional results.” If you’re going to hold hands with the devil, don’t pretend you’re walking with God.

Jillian Crocker is a photography student in her fourth year. You can reach her at jillian.crocker@ryerson.ca. In her spare time, you can probably find her working at a coffee shop or perfecting the art of procrastination. 

Featured image by Anders Marshall