UTSC Students Share Perspectives on Life in Scarborough
By Jennifer McKelvie, SCRO President
Students, faculty and community activists gathered in the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC) council chambers on February 1 to launch the Scarborough Studies Symposium. The symposium was crafted to highlight the vibrant work being conducted in the humanities with a focus on Scarborough at the UTSC.
This unique event was championed by two UTSC alumni, Niyosha Keyzad, a course instructor at the Department of English, and Felix Chu. The event “recognized that the social sciences have paved the way towards a holistic understanding of Scarborough [through] local history, fine arts, food cultures and literature.”
The Hon. Mitzie Hunter, a proud UTSC alumna and MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, kicked off the event by sharing her experiences growing up in Scarborough. She emphasized that “People from Scarborough deserve a place at the bigger table” and that the “Rich diversity in Scarborough isn’t a social experiment. It is the way we live.” Her remarks were followed by a series of 4 minute lightning talks by students who spoke of their experiences in Scarborough from their wide range of academic backgrounds. Students spoke of the lack of arts and transit infrastructure in Scarborough and how it affects their daily lives. They also did an extraordinary job of capturing the beauty of its landscape, the creativity of its people, and their pride of belonging to Scarborough.
The lightning talks were followed by a panel of faculty and academic staff who gave their perspectives on Scarborough, and the merits of a dedicated course to Scarborough Studies. All the panelists saw considerable merit in Scarborough studies. Guest Panelist Lily Cho, an English Professor at York University, noted that “Scarborough Studies can look at what happens between the urban/rural divide” as the distinction between the two is not binary. She went on to say that with an “overwhelming focus on cities, what gets lost is the spaces outside the core.” I know this is a sentiment that echos across Scarborough, we continually feel that as a suburb, we are left out of the conversation.
Soon after the symposium, I gave a guest lecture at UTSC in a course I took 18 years ago. Inspired by the Scarborough Symposium, I spoke about the importance of community engagement and about my volunteer work with the SCRO. I started off the lecture with an exercise asking students “What do you love about Scarborough?” followed by “How do you feel others see Scarborough?”
The results were engaging, with students mentioning positive things like the beauty of Scarborough’s natural environment, its diversity, and its wide variety of cuisine. But UTSC students still worry about negative stereotypes outsiders have: that Scarborough is dangerous or violent.
Combating these stereotypes and emphasizing Scarborough’s vitality and diversity is central to SCRO’s mandate. UTSC is an incredible resource for students and for the city as a whole, and we hope that as their alumni grow up and have a greater impact on the world around them, they can continue to renew Scarborough.