A brand-name school

Charlotte Yun
Charlotte Yun

It’s 2:26 a.m. and I’m sitting, red-eyed and sleep-deprived, in front of a fluorescent monitor, typing out the last words of what is to be my final editorial for the Journal. I have just finished writing my longest essay of the year for the least interesting class and, in desperation, I’m surfing the Internet for a scrap of entertainment that can mask my fatigue.

Surprisingly, an article by Molly Fischer, of the Yale Daily Press, did the job. Fischer writes that the Yale experience is portrayed unrealistically and inaccurately in pop culture.

From the point of view of outsiders looking in, the school’s place in the world is privileged and glamorous, coloured with ivory towers and ivy-covered buildings. The students are preppy, elitist WASPs and resemble characters such as Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf. Realistically, she notes, it’s not like that.

But when a university like Yale is a luxury name akin to brands such as Prada and BMW, reading about how students view their school represented in pop culture is like reading about someone who knowingly turns down compliments in an effort to be modest. It’s both weird and mildly touching to observe, but ultimately an exercise in exhibitionism. It’s showing off inadvertently.

That said, how much of the school’s reputation and image is really a reflection of its students? Is being a “Yalie” the same thing as being a student at Yale?

And is Queen’s any different, when we have certain disillusioned principals who, in an effort to salvage public relations, dub Queen’s a “Canadian Ivy League” school? (Which it isn’t.)

In other words, is attending Queen’s and calling oneself a Gael an implicit attempt at labeling one’s educational background as an expensive cultural accessory? Are we using our school as a brand name to indicate the values and talents we share with society?

Our educational background does, to an extent, give way to accounting for our social status; it’s unavoidable as members of a Western capitalist structure. But to conjure an image of the Queen’s experience is dangerous when combined with the false pretense that it genuinely represents our talents and successes.

It borders on a lie, and engages us in self-deception by turning our experiences here into a status symbol. We become naïve by thinking any “Queen’s degree” gained is an accurate sign of our employability or intelligence, giving way to a sense of entitlement and a misinformed sense we can win everything.

It is, dare I say, very stupid to think so. A student attending Queen’s is diverse and variable in his or her talents and abilities, and this should hardly be reduced to the university he or she studied at for four years.

Our undergraduate experience is nothing more, nor less, than a starting point for further learning. School name or image is but a sketch in pop culture, unreflective of reality.

We should find pride in our own talents, not in which university we attended.

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