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From the Archives: Ryerson has always been a corporate monster

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September 18, 1998

By Kenny Yum

Some anniversaries are more important than others. When one turns 50, for example, there’s the usual celebration of time gone by, achievements are reflected on, a joyous occasion is marked. The festivities that have been thrown by a little college that kept on growing—on its 50th birthday—are well deserved.

But at times like this, one may dwell on the past for only so long. So as you munch on the free food and bask in the fanfare, also consider the following:

Average tuition in 1948 was $25 for the 250 students, compared with $4,000 for the 15,000 students this year. In a few years, education may be totally inaccessible to those with limited financial means. Not many students graduated in the ‘50s with a debt, inflation considered, of more than $20,000.

Campus spirit has also changed. Nowadays you can’t walk around campus without having corporations or business interests pitching products or building brand loyalty among what should be a liberally-educated and critical-minded mass. Since when did it take grab bags of corporate goodies to peak students’ interest?

A university education has become a commercial venture—our degrees are shopping carts full of courses that offer little beyond their outward packaging. Post-secondary schools are no longer in the business of educating—they’re educating for business.

Ryerson Polytechnic University, its boosters would say, is the prime example of that ideological shift in education. Career first, personal development last. Yes, universities have changed. But don’t let that divert the purpose of higher education.

So take a course on the grounds that it would do nothing for your career but a lot for future philosophical discussions. Join a club, group or campus society because you have nothing better to do when you aren’t working your two part-time jobs. Or come out to watch one of our varsity teams because you can get a better view of sportsmanship than the SkyDome tickets.

Because, when some corporate dignitary helps blow out the candles on the anniversary cake, at least you’ll remember what a university—rather, a university experience—should be.

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