Let's Talk About Campus Stereotypes

U of T is an extremely diverse campus, and with that comes a variety of stereotypes. More specifically, students at U of T are pretty judgmental when it comes to meeting people from different programs. Whether you’re studying Humanities, Life Science, Rotman Commerce, or any other faculty or program on campus, you’ve probably experienced some form of judgment based solely on what you study. And it sucks.  Having your peers form judgments about you based on a subject that you're passionate about is the worst, and I’ve experienced it first hand on several different occasions. I decided to talk to a couple friends about their thoughts on program stereotypes and to talk about my own experience with it.

                                                        Image Source: LinkedIn/ UofT Department of Political Science

 

The first person I talked to is Liz Morassut, a second-year Political Science and Philosophy student:

 

Are there any stereotypes that you have perceived of social sciences/humanities students?

I definitely perceive stereotyping about social science and humanities students on campus. There’s the stereotype that we are dumber and less valuable then STEM. For example, sometimes when I tell people I’m in Poli Sci I get a disappointed “Oh..” and it’s usually followed up with, “So do you just like, watch the news a lot?” —this is frustrating because most people criticizing my degree don’t even understand what I study.

Some other general stereotypes are that our classes are easy and we have lots of free time to party and that we are more likely to be extraverts. For Poli Sci, Public Policy, and International Relations majors, you’re probably preppy, involved in extra curricular clubs (especially student government), and love debating and for Philosophy majors, you’re probably pretentious and argumentative.

A lot of the stereotypes are really negative, and yeah sure, you’re always going to find a group of people who fit whatever stereotype you’re looking for, but there’s an overwhelming amount of people who do not identify with those qualifiers.

Do you feel that they are accurate and more specifically, do you feel like you conform to these stereotypes?

Honestly, yes, there is some degree of truth to some of these stereotypes, and I represent a lot of stereotypes for my major but it’s important to keep in mind that they are generalizations that don’t accurately represent every individual student.

I think part of the problem is there’s a lot of pressure to conform to these stereotypes.  For, example, I’m told I need to be social and join clubs to make connections and to get good experience because of competition in my program. I also need to be vocal and be argumentative in my tutorials or I won’t get marks. I didn’t start displaying all of these stereotypes all at once, but they developed as I became more involved with my program and became friends with people I met in my classes.

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I also spoke to Kaitlyn Ferreira, a second-year Life Science student studying Human Biology and Molecular Biology.

Are there any stereotypes that you have perceived of life science students? Do you feel that they are accurate?

People consider us to be very cutthroat and always trying to be ahead in studies. Coming into first year, I had this preconceived notion that no one was going to help me if I had problems in class or that I'd be on top of work while everyone was three weeks ahead.

I don't feel like this is accurate at all. Yes, a lot of us want to go to med school or pharmacy or research so that is competitive, but everyone is super helpful. If you have a question, there are 10 people in any given Facebook group willing to help you.

Image Source: Twitter/Rotman Commerce

 

Finally, I asked myself the same question.

I’m a second-year Rotman Commerce student specializing in Management, and in my opinion, many people form extremely negative stereotypes of Rotman Commerce students. Some of the common ones out there are that we’re extremely competitive and cutthroat, that we’re generally mean, that we all wear suits to class (not sure if this is a bad thing or not?), and that we’re overly confident and good at networking. I’ve met people before where when I tell them I’m in Rotman, they respond with a general "really?" or "I guess we can still be friends." 

It frustrates me because while there are a lot of people in my program that do fit into the stereotype created for us, there are so many people who are nice and helpful and, believe it or not, normal. Yes, there are a lot of commerce students who will answer your questions on Piazza with a general “it’s in the slides” or “look at the textbook” when they obviously know the answer and just don’t want to give it to you directly. Yes, when I started my second-year courses, there are a lot of people who wear suits to class because they're going to networking events after lecture.

And yes, there are a ton a people who are overly-confident and who I sometimes feel are judging me for my appearance or my shyness when I’m sitting in lecture. But there are just as many people who are willing to help you, who wear normal clothes (I know right, what a surprise!), who are kind and maybe even a little shy. 

When I first realized that I don’t really fit into the Rotman stereotype, it made me question whether or not I was in the right program. And then I thought, why am I letting other people’s view of my program deter me from studying what I want? It doesn’t matter if I fit into that specific category created for me, because it doesn’t define me and I refuse to let it. I don’t want people to think of me as pretentious or mean, but if they really get to know me, they’ll know that I’m not.

                                                                          Photo Source: University of Toronto

Whether you’re a Humanities student, a Life Science student, a Rotman Commerce student, or a member of any faculty at U of T, you’re probably going to be compared to some stereotype. Remember that it doesn’t define who you are or what actions you need to take. You can be whoever you want, and that’s what so great about going to U of T. Our student body is so diverse, you are going to find people who you can be yourself around and who aren’t necessarily in your program. The majority of my friends are in Life Science (and actually, most people think that I’m in Life Science, too) and they are people who I can be myself around. 

Don’t let yourself be confined by a stereotype, and more importantly, don’t judge the people you meet right away based on their program. Humanities students are intelligent, or else they wouldn’t be at U of T in the first place. Life Science students can do more than just study all the time, and they can help their peers while they’re at it. And while I feel that the Rotman stereotypes are right a lot of the time, there are plenty of commerce students who are nice, helpful people and who don’t fit into the cutthroat stereotype created for us. 

 

In the end, we just need to rememeber that we’re all students at U of T, and we're all just trying our best to survive the endless stream of midterms, essays, projects, and exams thrown our way. 

 

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