By Dominique Blain
Ryerson hasn’t been Ryerson Polytechnical Institute since 1993, but the first thing most people ask when they hear I go to Ryerson is still “That’s the polytechnic, right?”
“Yep,” I answer. “Well, in spirit. Sometimes. But it’s kind of changing. Actually, they’re moving away from that. Yeah… I don’t know why either. Yeah… doesn’t seem so wise, I know.” Ryerson’s claim to fame and reputation is based on the expectation that students are not only using their brains while they’re attending; they’re also using their hands — and legs and feet and anything else necessary to sew a dress, or take a photograph, or build a model, or make a documentary, or nurse a patient.
And outsiders — including companies who hire Ryerson graduates — appreciate that. In fact, Ryerson gets its best kudos from Maclean’s yearly university rankings in the reputation classification. Any sociology student can write an essay, but can that sociology student, ah, sociologize? Don’t get me wrong; we need sociology majors (so I’m told). But the fact of the matter is, the world needs people who can actually perform in their craft, whether it be nursing or architecture.
Plus, geographically speaking, Ryerson is surrounded by a half-dozen universities and colleges who churn out one essay- and exam-writing student after another. Not only can Ryerson not compete with their numbers, it won’t be able to compete with their reputation, because that’s not where Ryerson’s strengths lie. But nor is there any reason for our university to attack the world of academia.
Our polytechnic past is unique in the region, if not the country, and has been proven to work, time and time again. Having our curricula move towards the more academic makes us look like we’re ashamed that we can actually perform and do work. We can’t let ourselves be suckered into thinking that the ability to work precludes the ability to think. Ryerson is providing the world with something it needs: Graduates who can actually do something in their domain and have real-life experience.
Programs such as architecture, journalism and fashion, looking to stuff their curricula with even more fluff electives to make students appear more well rounded to outside companies, are taking time and money from students.
When it turns its back on its polytechnic past, Ryerson isn’t just harming its reputation, it’s harming its students.