StFX has wonderful professors, lively campus life, and boasts an excellent group of alumni. As Xaverians, we chose the university for many different reasons, and school spirit is certainly not lacking.
That being said, to what extent do universities talk themselves up to appeal to every possible potential applicant? On the university website, there is a page titled “Top 10 Reasons to Attend StFX” in which the university boasts about rankings, opportunities, and a stellar reputation. Some of these claims hold true to any doubts, but many others appear to be lacking in credibility.
To begin, the article opens with the chance to receive “an academic education of the highest quality, [as] StFX focuses on intellectual and spiritual development, global awareness and a commitment to social justice.” StFX is a proud member of the Maple League of Universities, along with Acadia, Bishops and Mount Allison. The four undergraduate schools share the same philosophy that “an extraordinary life starts with an extraordinary way of learning.” Through the Maple League, there are many events and talks that are now available to the four communities with a much broader array of resources and opportunities.
However, the transparent dichotomy between the Maple League and American Ivy League is laughable. The elite status of universities like Harvard and Yale have exceptionally high expectations and demand more than any Canadian university would ever contemplate. The League is effective in getting four smaller universities recognition at a larger scale, but from a student’s perspective it does not offer much else.
Global awareness and a commitment to social justice is seen through the Social Justice Colloquium first year program offered at StFX and through Service Learning, both local and global volunteering opportunities. On paper, these look exceptional, yet many students do not get the chance to participate. Service learning is frequently only made available through certain courses, while Dr. Langdon is the Development Studies department's only full-time faculty member. All the others are cross-listed, which leads to a diverse course selection yet not as sturdy a focus on the topic of global development.
Further down the list StFX claims, “our small classrooms foster lively debate and discussion where professors inspire you to achieve.” While only having 5000 students certainly means that classrooms will be small (and shrink further in 3rd and 4th year especially), lively discussion is in the hands of the professor and the students. When the professor is engaging, provocative and pushes students to challenge their beliefs, then a classroom is likely to stimulate conversation and debate.
However, with many classes, such as in some sciences and business courses, there are no concepts to question or form opinions about. Occasionally, the class sizes are too large to be conducive to debate and discussion.
Small classes ensure that students feel comfortable speaking out and asking questions, and this would likely become difficult at a larger university, yet there are many more aspects than class size that come with inspiring students to achieve.
A third point states, “You’ll join a thriving academic environment where community involvement is expected and encouraged.” While StFX offers many different talks, events, and societies, it is clear that there is a select group of students who participate and the rest of the student body is content to remain uninvolved.
While Antigonish is a small and welcoming town, it is easy to stay within the campus grounds and only stray when Liquor Lane calls. It is no challenge to become an active member of the StFX community, but to say that involvement is expected implies that a much larger percentage of students participate than the reality.
While some of these claims are certainly a bit overblown and exaggerated, others cannot be refuted, such as number nine: the opportunities to study abroad with any of the 40 universities StFX is connected with. Furthermore, the pride that comes with receiving the X-Ring and the sense of community on top of that are certainly not exaggerated.
Each of the statements made in the “Top 10 Reasons to Attend StFX” are true in certain ways. There are no outright lies and the university certainly does have many strengths which attract a multitude of diverse students, but it is still important to assess such things critically.