Second-class students

Munk School of Global Affairs sends students to the side doors

Move to the back of the bus. Give your vote to your husband. Let them eat cake. Now, use the side door only, please.

History is littered with examples of the powerful using their wealth and influence to push the little guy to his knees. Now the University of Toronto is falling in line. U of T is accepting tens of millions of dollars in private donations to create the Munk School of Global Affairs. But in so doing, they are letting Canada’s elite decide how the university’s lowly everyday students will be treated.

Tucked away on the on the bottom half of page 14 of the agreement between the U of T and the Munk Charitable Foundation, sits this paragraph:

“The main entrance of the Heritage Mansion will be a formal entrance reserved only for senior staff and visitors to the School and the CIC. Usual and customary traffic for any occupants of any future developments adjoining the Heritage Mansion will be through one or more entrances on Devonshire Place.”

The agreement also notes that the building will be the headquarters for the new school and at least 75 per cent of the building is to be reserved for that purpose.

This paragraph of the agreement makes the Munk Foundation seem more interested in the appearance of austerity, than the delivery of a high quality academic program. But that could be too generous. They could be more interested in the significant tax breaks their donation offers one of Canada’s wealthiest couple.

Either way, by reserving the gilded front entrance of their new school for senior staff and guests to be impressed, the school is sending a very clear message to students: This is now a class-based system, and students are at the bottom of the pile.

Alone, the move could seem innocuous. But so did asking a segment of society to move to the back of the bus. The University of Toronto needs to make sure that, in accepting the donation from the Munk Foundation, they are not also allowing donors to dictate how students should be treated.

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