Photograph/ Joanne Lau
Photograph/ Joanne Lau

The “boundless” community that the University of Toronto advertises does not seem to apply to either the Mississauga or the Scarborough campuses. U of T’s “satellite” campuses appear to be both geographically and symbolically separated from the central university, fostering a set of unique identities with ambivalent relationships to the greater U of T community.

Although UTM and UTSC are often lumped together, based on conversations with several students across the three campuses, it appears that each campus is somewhat insulated. When asked about the campuses to which they don’t belong, many UTM and UTSC students revealed that they don’t know much about them, and significantly less about each other than UTSG.

One UTSC psychology student noted that perhaps the unified U of T community exists only in theory, citing the challenges presented by the physical separation of the three campuses. A UTM commerce student, however, maintained that the existence of a tri-campus community could be defended on the grounds that “they let you switch over easily, and take courses anywhere.” Several other students made reference to university-held events and services, such as the shuttle bus connecting UTM to the downtown campus.

Needless to say, students that take advantage of these cross-campus links do report greater feelings of tri-campus identity and community. Rany Youssef, a first year student at UTSC, explained that although competition exists between campuses, there are moments when one thinks, “Hey, maybe we are a family.” This tension between competition and cooperation was something he observed during frosh week’s tri-campus parade, where hostility and support were exchanged between U of T groups.

Ivana Dewi of UTSC explained, “Some people are very hostile towards the other campuses, but I don’t see anything to be hostile about.” Another UTSC student suggested, “We’re a little intimidated by the St. George campus. People who go here feel like they’re second best –which is not true. [St. George students] might look down on us.”

This sense of inferiority and the idea that UTSG students are somehow more stuck-up or competitive was echoed from both UTM and UTSC. Kabir Tariq, a UTM student, suggested that “downtown you’ll see more competition, more aggressiveness.” In contrast, UTSC students widely consider themselves a close-knit campus with a sense of family. First year student Arnica Longonya described the UTSC atmosphere as “homey,” while referring to UTSG as a “party” campus, and also felt negatively toward UTM. Meanwhile, some students in Mississauga described their campus as having a more conservative and passive feel, differing from the other campuses in its dynamics.

How then, does one decide between these three seemingly different campuses? For one UTM student, there was no choice; UTM was the only campus that accepted her. For others, it is the programs, convenience, and sometimes aesthetic appeal that led them to UTSC or UTM. Tariq explained, “I chose UTM because I love the smaller environment. It feels like you’re actually in a school, unlike downtown, where it feels like you’re just in a city.”

Despite a lack of consensus as to whether there really is a “U of T community,” students do agree that each campus has a unique identity with an associated local community. Most notably, the majority of students spoken to definitely felt at home, proud, and happy with their campus decision.

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