“But we aren’t doctors, we aren’t engineers, we’re not curing cancer, we’re not making F-35 fighter jets. So our funding is cut. Our education is undermined.”
– Elise Milani, a Humanities Student Representative on the McMaster Student Union
Growing up, I was under the impression that one goes to school, from kindergarten until university, and then gets a job. No stress – simply a series of events that occur one after the other in a natural manner and then you die. I genuinely believed in that – until it was my time to apply for universities. I have always been interested in the arts and it only made sense that I would choose to enroll in an arts department, regardless of where it would be.
My major of choice was Multimedia. I was very excited to get started; my university was supposed to be one of the best in the country, and it did not matter to me that multimedia is is lumped with the humanities – I just wanted to design! Instead, I have had to spend two years being talked at about hands-on topics without actually being shown how to do any of them (I apologize, but one hour tutorials per week are a joke), under the excuse that “this is university, not college. In university we only teach you theory, if you wanted hands-on experience you should have gone to college.” I could go on another rant regarding the fact that multimedia is a hands-on major and had I been Chemistry major I would be getting hands-on lab experience. So, yes, it appears I should have gone to college and I plan on doing so after finishing my university education; because as it is now, I would not even hire me.
Do not get me wrong, I never thought university was going to be easy nor do I think it should be. I still prefer being in the humanities to, say, engineering (I could write a whole other article on this one) but I do not enjoy being in the humanities within a university that does not seem to give much of a damn about the humanities. My peers and I are exhausted and worried. Jessica Marshal, a humanities student currently enrolled in multimedia and theatre and film, echoes these worries: “humanities is left underfunded and in the end we are paying over $6000 for classes that to me feel equivalent to the ones I took in high school…I would feel more confident in my line of work if I had just gone to college.”
What next? Do we stand up and fight for our right to proper education and lower tuition fees like the students in Montreal, only to be snarked at for being a bunch of hippies destined for a career at McDonald’s anyway? Or do we continue on with an education that only offers us, as humanity student Ameet Kang angrily states, “criticism that curbs our creativity rather than helping us create projects that we are happy with”? Of course, we could just go to graduate school but, as Elise Milani says and many already know, “even MAs are becoming a norm, we need viable work experience.” I know many humanities graduates who have had to work for free because even the firms they were working on did not have sufficient funds. How is that fair, but more importantly, how is that legal? Humanities students are very hard workers and are some of the smartest people I have ever met, so why must we keep fighting to be taken seriously as students and later as professionals?
The optimist in me wants to believe that the system will soon come to the realization that not everybody is supposed to become a doctor, lawyer, or an engineer and maybe then we will have a voice that gets the attention it deserves. For now, I will close by saying that I love my program, but I do not think it reciprocates that sentiment.