“small community” is a term you hear a lot when talking about uoft. an institution that has hoarded so many resources has a lot to be proud of, but there is one thing it cannot get away from. with all its additions, faculties, departments, and colleges, uoft has gotten big. very big.
no matter how much uoft trumpets its award-winning programs, brags about alumni, and pumps money into research, there is one thing it can’t get away from, and it’s the one thing prospective students have been asking for years now.
“how can i be part of a small community on campus? how can i avoid being just a number in this massive institution?”
fair question. uoft is notorious for lacking community. turnout at varsity games is a frequent target for people who’d like to kick the stuffing out of uoft. the sheer size of campus and the student body is more than enough to discourage folks. and it’s not something that’s escaped uoft’s notice.
because it might be our biggest weakness, connecting with students has become something of an obsession at uoft, and the constant attention paid to this issue has actually resulted in a lot of small communities. more, paradoxically, than you might find at a lot of smaller universities.
so here are just five ways to get involved with small community on campus:
1. First Nations House
i could spend all day talking about how great First Nations House is. located at 563 Spadina Ave. on the 3rd Floor, FNH provides “a positive environment for all students to engage with UofT’s vibrant and diverse Aboriginal community.”
FNH connects aboriginal and Metis students with bursaries and scholarships, academic counselling and tutoring, and a fabulous resource centre with printed and audio materials specific to aboriginal culture. Elder in Residence Andrew Wesley and Traditional Teacher in Residence Lee Maracle are also available to provide students with guidance and support.
2. Chestnut Residence
Chestnut Residence is the only UTSG residence not affiliated with any FAS college. if you’re not a part of the faculty of arts & science or you’re not interested in living in a college-specific residence, consider chestnut!
as a converted hotel with 24 floors and a dining hall that looks like (and probably used to be) a ballroom, it’s a truly unique place to live. with three graduate floors, two single-sex floors and residents in all uoft faculties, it’s a diverse and robust community. check it out here.
3. Hart House
i sometimes wish Hart House was a college – except that would be totally unfair, since it has its own pool. however, the community atmosphere around Hart House is a very collegial one. with its own student spaces, creative and fitness classes, and student organizations, it has all the cogs of a collegial clock. and it’s the students who really make Hart House tick.
Hart House hosts student musical groups, social justice/civic engagement groups and artistic/creative clubs and committees. they also have a gym, creative and fitness classes, and a library. they it’s a really, really cool place to be involved with.
4. Multifaith Centre
the multifaith centre is located at 569 spadina ave., and it’s a great resource for people of all faiths (the name kinda gave that away, huh?). the centre’s Campus Chaplains Organization has chaplains from a dizzying number of faiths, all available to help you.
5. Sexual & Gender Diversity Office
located in Room 415 of 21 Sussex Ave. – also known as the Clubhouse – is uoft’s Sexual & Gender Diversity Office. i only have one complaint with the SGDO, and that is with the naming. to call it an ‘office’ is to limit it immensely; it’s so much more than that. the SGDO is a community hub, a hangout space, and a network of kind and supportive people.
the office “work[s] towards equity and challenging discrimination.” they do this by providing a student study space, hosting a film series, and providing lots of opportunities for community-building between LGBTQ students and allies.