Why is Glendon so White?: A Reply
“A man should look for what is, and not what he thinks should be.” – Albert Einstein
I have been at Glendon for five of my six academic years of study, and every Thursday I pick up a copy of our student newspaper. I love reading about the thoughts and opinions expressed by my fellow students, especially since we are all well-educated individuals with interesting things to say. However, in issue seven I came across a particularly disappointing article: Why is Glendon So White? An interesting question which could produce many fruitful discussions but is, unfortunately, filled with ideological ignorance.
The article begins with comparisons to the Keele campus, noting how “at the Keele campus, one sees the population of Toronto reflected more accurately…” (even if there is a very large percentage of commuters from the 905). It then points out the lack of diversity in the alumni graduation photos dating back to York’s founding (Glendon was founded in 1959). Surely things have improved since the sixties, right? Apparently not.
Liberal arts are racist: the thesis of the article. Shocked, I nearly didn’t read the rest, but continued out of sheer curiosity. “The Greco-Roman origins of liberal arts which filtered through European, then American civilization reflect the whiteness of the education provided at such institutions.” Clearly the author knows little of how the ancient Greeks and Romans were influenced by their Egyptian and Persian neighbours.
Indeed the ultimate Greco-Romans, the Byzantines, sent out many priests and philosophers to learn about eastern societies while developing trade routes with China and India. It was their collapse which also kick-started Europe’s renaissance by introducing these texts to the rest of Europe. Liberal arts, as they are, have also been studied by every civilization in one form or the other, and the way the article was written makes it seem as though the origins of our school’s education system have been confined to a vacuum since before Christ, that is.
However, the main problem with this article, in my opinion, is not the historical fallacies, but rather grand and shallow statements made by the author. The article is quick to point out many perceived institutional problems at Glendon, but offers no real solutions. From blaming graduate students for advancing into professional careers, to attacking the lack of diversity of faculty and staff. What solutions, if any, can be drawn from this article? According to the author, historically the upper and middle classes have dominated the study liberal arts. That is true, but simply is not the case anymore, as many of us, and indeed myself, are part of the working class and need to work either full or part time to continue paying for our education. Although our OSAP grants are a little risky right now, clearly the situation is much more complex.
The fact that linguistics was not brought up by the author shows the lack of depth in the arguments presented. Glendon is by default exclusive; you must take French courses to be a part of the bilingual college, however that does not stop Keele students from attending courses here. The population at this school is made largely of Franco-Ontarians and international (francophone) students. These students face their own challenges: Franco-Ontarians are trying to keep their culture alive in an anglophone city, and international students face many obstacles such as high tuition costs and problems obtaining visas.
In my humble opinion, the real problem of Glendon’s “lack” of diversity is due to these factors. My solution, although not glamorous or grand, would be to make the school more accessible to international students by reducing their extremely high tuition costs. These obstacles prevent many working-class international students from studying at our school. This solution would not only increase the diversity at Glendon, but it would also Canada’s diversity as a whole. The problem is not liberal arts, nor is it (by any means) the faculty or staff. The problem is also not the french language restriction, as there are no francophone universities for us Franco-Ontarians to attend in Quebec. So, although not as provocative statement, by looking at what is—and not what ought—to be the status of Glendon’s diversity, a concrete solution can be provided for the issue at hand.