Pulling the wool off your eyes

Students are some of the most naive people I know—in a good way. It’s in these lecture halls that we interact with the university’s brightest minds and analyze scholarly material. Everyone is still fresh, still moldable. Professors will tell you they don’t want you to regurgitate facts, but instead engage with the material, question the legitimacy of the information you’re being fed, and investigate to uncover the issues that lie at the heart of the matter.

I’m thrilled to see that so many new students want to practice the skills they learn in university, not just solving problems in the classroom but applying it to real-world scenarios.

Students interested in writing for The Medium scurried up to our office in hoards last week. I was reminded of my first trip up the main stairs in the Student Centre to meet the News Editor. With a lump in my throat and a huge burst of courage, I knocked on the door and set out on an experience that would last throughout my whole university career. In fact, I’d say The Medium defines my time on this campus.

My first article was bad, and that’s being nice. But I worked at it. Every week, I took on a different topic and travelled outside of my comfort zone. I listened to people twist stories, recount emotional experiences, and mischievously plug their own agendas into the discussion. I honed my instincts and learned to identify opportunities to ask the right questions. I gained these skills because I got involved.

When I first stepped onto this campus over four years ago, there wasn’t much to be said for student participation. But last year, there was a change. The new first-year students were active, inquisitive, and social. They searched for venues to gain experience and interact with other students. This year didn’t disappoint, either. I witnessed the best Frosh Week I’ve seen in five years at UTM, and a large part of that is due to the exuberant spirits of the froshies.

Large companies and large media are striking up discussions on youth volunteering. They refer to plummeting participation rates. I’d argue it’s the exact opposite—at least at UTM. Many of the froshies I met already volunteer in non-profit organizations, school clubs, and community initiatives. Whether the motive is to gain work experience and boost a résumé or a genuine desire to help others, youth engagement is on the rise and these kids coming out of high school are the ones leading the charge.

Taking on new and intimidating experiences defines who we are and what we become in the same way my time at The Medium has shaped my own path. But the single most important realization that I’ve come to after hundreds of articles written and thousands of free hours of labour is to investigate everything.

In his letter to the editor, Mr. Sajjad implores students to educate themselves about the Access Copyright agreement. The contract that was signed by the university requires students to pay $26 to enforce regulations other universities deem redundant, as Mr. Sajjad points out. Rather than passively accepting the new fee, he analyzed the agreement and took a stance. Mr. Sajjad, along with the rest of the student union at St. George, opposes the agreement on the basis that the decision was made without consultation and provides redundant protections.

Whereas Mr. Sajjad asks you to challenge the university’s decision, I hope that all students will set out on their own processes of investigation. Whether students agree or disagree with the contract, they should come to the realization that indifference creates a dull learning environment.

After all, it’s not just a question of money, as Mr. Sajjad says. The heart of the issue lies in the fact that a decision was made by an organization in which students, as stakeholders, have invested. This generation of UTM students shows great potential to invigorate their campus, scrutinized by other universities for its tame and apathetic behaviour. Whether your path is with The Medium, the student union, the Women’s Centre, or any other organization on campus, find your niche and stick to it. Ask questions and initiate the improvement you hope to see.


Stefanie Marotta

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