Maclean’s asks if U of T is “too Asian”

Maclean’s asks if U of T is “too Asian”

University College at the University of Toronto (Image: Cameron MacMaster, from the Toronto Life Flickr pool)  

Apparently, the arrival of excellent students is a problem in Canada’s universities. The 20th edition of Maclean’s University Guide issue hits newsstands tomorrow, asking, among other things, whether Canada’s top post-secondary institutions are being disrupted by an influx of high-achieving, hard-working students. This would normally not be a controversy, but the weekly magazine is focused on one kind of student (those of Asian descent) and one university (University of Toronto).

When Alexandra and her friend Rachel, both graduates of Toronto’s Havergal College, an all-girls private school, were deciding which university to go to, they didn’t even bother considering the University of Toronto. “The only people from our school who went to U of T were Asian,” explains Alexandra, a second-year student who looks like a girl from an Aritzia billboard. “All the white kids,” she says, “go to Queen’s, Western and McGill.”

Alexandra eventually chose the University of Western Ontario. Her younger brother, now a high school senior deciding where he’d like to go, will head “either east, west or to McGill”—unusual academic options, but in keeping with what he wants from his university experience. “East would suit him because it’s chill, out west he could be a ski bum,” says Alexandra, who explains her little brother wants to study hard, but is also looking for a good time—which rules out U of T, a school with an academic reputation that can be a bit of a killjoy.

We weren’t aware of U of T’s reputation as a killjoy, what with the high density of bars and clubs a short distance from the downtown campus.

The article isn’t entirely about U of T; Waterloo and UBC also get mentions as hard-working schools where white kids just can’t keep up with those Asians. Of course, there is a nasty side to all of this. One Asian student talks about getting yelled at by a white parent for taking her son’s spot in university. (Gee, multiculturalism isn’t flawless—stop the presses.)

Part of the problem is that when discussing this stuff, it’s easy to make rookie mistakes, like when the Toronto Star, bouncing off the Maclean’s article, contrasts “Chinese-Canadians” with “those born in Canada,” as if many, many people weren’t both. Maclean’s, using the same data, was much more careful in its wording.

At least nobody’s gone for the cheap laugh and joked that Maclean’s let Rob Ford guest-edit the university issue. Oh, wait.

• ‘Too Asian’? [Macleans]
• Asian students being forced into university: Maclean’s [Toronto Star]