Since I’ve joined the Community Crew this year, we’ve come across a few students expressing shock at the fact that we are real people. Perhaps they thought we were professional models hired by the university. I would love it if I was a professional model, but alas I am not. I am a full time student like the rest of you. I’m guessing the reason people think we aren’t real people is that they see the Community Crew as an attempt by the university to make everything peachy and nice. My response to that is a) I’m not an android and b) I’m on a student union — I realize not everything is peachy.
That being said, last week I was scrolling down my Facebook feed and discovered all these curious U of T pages on Facebook. I don’t have to mention the specific page names, these are the pages where you share anonymous thoughts and feelings and I noticed a collective sadness. A lot of people feel lonely, disconnected, lost in what seems to be a vast campus of faceless individuals. It can be disheartening. Admittedly, for myself in first year, during exams especially there were times where I felt anxiety and frustration with my situation. I think every student goes through this. I have had friends go through worse, dealing with depression, panic attacks, anxiety disorders. My question is: if we can share these feelings and support each other online, why can’t we feel like we can do so in real life? Clearly, we have a problem. So how do we address it? There is no simple answer, but I think there are a few things we can do. This month, the Office of Student Life is launching a new campaign called joy at U of T. It’s about collectively expressing what we as students take joy in at U of T. This campaign about supporting each other as students and helping us find the brighter side of the campus. Because, sometimes on a big campus, it’s easy to get lost in the negative and forget about the positive. My #joyatuoft is relaxing in the Junior Common Room, or having a good time with fellow students at an event. Cooperating and having a good time during our BIO220 labs. Starting a FB group for classmates to collaborate on understanding course material.
I think there are things we can do as students to make our campus better. Interact with each other! I am making a more concious effort to introduce myself to people in my lab section, engage in friendly conversation with people who walk into the ASSU office and just generally project an image of positivity. This doesn’t mean we have to be Pippi Longstocking all the time — just, collectively, we have to be more open to each other. Smiles, holding the door for people, listening to what students have to say. These are small things that we can do to make our campus better.
But admittedly, there are some things that seem like they are out of our control. So, we resort to wallowing in our collective sadness and complaining on the internet about our problems. But, my friends – collectively, we can do something. Each of us has a voice and I urge you to share it with your fellow students. Not just to complain, but to write to the Varsity, get involved in town halls, and student union commissions. Become part of the dialogue, have your grievances recognized and move towards a solution. Things may seem hopeless, but remember progress is possible. This is the campus where Robarts Library used to be restricted to undergrads, until the collective action of students reversed the decision. Now, I’m not saying go occupy the Presidents’ office. But, what I am saying is that we as students, need to work together with administration, with faculty to make this campus a better place. U of T is great and we can make it even better for each other, and that brings me joy.