“And the people in the houses all went to the university,/ Where they were put in boxes, little boxes all the same./ And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers and business executives,/ And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.”
While many of you may recognize the words to “Little Boxes,” a song now popularized by the hit show “Weeds,” in truth they reflect the sad reality of the career search frenzy currently underway on campus. As a university that takes pride in the breadth of opportunities offered to students inside and outside of the classroom, Queen’s seems to fall short on providing students with true options for career paths once our years of school have ended.
The Graduate & Professional Schools Fair offered a fair degree of variety—that is, if you’re interested in medicine, law, education or studying in Australia. The Career Services Career Fair offered even more exciting opportunities—for engineering students, commerce students and students interested in business. Students interested in pursuing further post-secondary education have been presented with few opportunities outside the doctor-lawyer-teacher career paths, despite arts and social sciences students constituting a significant portion of the undergraduate population.
Outside of further post-secondary education, the other option most often pursued is that of employment. Here again Queen’s has fallen short. There are some students who aren’t interested in schmoozing with recruiters to get a one-up on resumés for Corporation X, Y or Z. This then seems to rule out the numerous info sessions offered each year that draw students in with free food, booze and a dubious corporate video on “teamwork.” What then for the rest of us? There seems to have been no effort to invite or encourage employers in alternative fields to come to the table. While these invitations may have proved largely beneficial to commerce, engineering and limited other groups, there has yet to be a single “info session” that caters to students interested in pursuing non-government, non-corporate employment. Furthermore, what options are there for those students who may not only find these info sessions banal, but also problematic?
What is there for those of us who may oppose the invitations offered by corporate entities like Encana? Encana Corporation, an Alberta-based oil and gas company, held an info session promoted by Career Services on Sept. 23. Though it went unmentioned at the info session, Encana’s record is not clean. The company is currently building an oil pipeline through the Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest of Ecuador, one of the most ecologically sensitive (and earthquake prone) regions of the world, and an area where local populations rely on ecotourism as their primary source of income. Local activists in the region were met with increasing resistance from Encana’s hired paramilitary troops, culminating in the death of three activists during a week-long military crackdown in the region. Yet, three weeks ago, this same corporation was welcomed to campus with open arms and invited to recruit Queen’s students to further participate in this venture.
For a university whose main principles and values encompass those of “Social Responsibility” and “Sustainability” (see “Engaging the World,” p. 10) how is it that these corporations are invited to recruit the “best and brightest?” Social responsibility includes the responsibility of this institution to educate students on the importance of their decisions once they leave the Queen’s bubble. Corporate info sessions do benefit Queen’s students, but more discretion should be exercised before facilitating the recruiting drives of corporations with less-than-stellar records. By allowing socially and environmentally irresponsible corporations to recruit Queen’s students, the University provides the ‘leaders of tomorrow’ with few choices but to continue along the same paths that have led us to today. By failing to even provide options for students wishing to branch out into alternative paths of employment, the University’s rhetoric seemingly falls on deaf ears.
The onus, however, does not fall entirely upon the University. The job search process becomes a time when students themselves need to decide the path they are going to take. As young adults that have experienced the privilege of attending a post-secondary institution, there does come a time when we must recognize that we have a responsibility to use that privilege. It has now come time to shoulder the responsibilities of “future leaders” and attempt to truly effect change and growth in our world. Given the limited scope of opportunities that have been presented, it is now up to us as students to do as we’ve been taught and think critically, research and reflect upon our potential employment paths.
Stephanie St.Clair is the vice-president (university affairs) of the AMS.
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