March 15, 1827, King's College - the precursor to the University of
Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. Throughout
2002, U of T celebrated 175 years of Great Minds. As part of the
celebration, the U of T website featured excerpts from The
University of Toronto: A History, written by Martin Friedland, University
Professor and Professor Emeritus of Law at U of T.
the 1950s, the
Students' Administrative Council concentrated on student activities,
such as running dances, organizing "snow queen" contests,
and producing various publications such as the Varsity and the university
year book Torontonensis. The Varsity editors, including
Wendy Michener and Peter Gzowski, produced lively and controversial
issues. In March 1952, the Varsity editor Barbara Browne, the news editor
Ian Montagnes, and all senior staff members resigned when SAC suspended
publication of The Varsity following a "gag issue"
containing part of Sidney Smith's last annual report, in which he had
complained about the lack of proper training in English at the high
school level and stated a need for remedial English instruction.
staff members Peter Gzowski and Michael Cassidy in 1956. Gzowski
became the editor-in-chief the following year.
substituted the word "sex" for the word "English"
in the story, and the rest followed. Although "standards have been
stiffened," The Varsity reported, more or less using
Smith's exact words, there was a high failure rate in an examination
"designed to test the student's knowledge of punctuation, range,
and ability," and the result was "frustration and a weakening
have no faith," Smith is quoted as saying, "that teaching
in technique will provide a magic cure. The saving virtues must be scholarship
and a passion for the subject."
disciplinary body found the material "in shockingly bad taste."
This was one of the great controversies of the decade. It would probably
pass unnoticed today.
most part, SAC was not involved in wider issues until the late 1950s,
when it investigated ways of combating discrimination on the campus,
an issue that had arisen in 1959 when a black woman student was denied
entry into a sorority. This type of social concern intensified in the
respects, the 1950s were like the 1880s and 1890s, enlivened by drinking
and student pranks, particularly surrounding initiations. The Varsity
is full of stories about clashes between various student bodies and
run-ins with the police.
students were arrested for causing damage to the TTC during Frosh
for example, Trinity frosh were sent on a scavenger hunt, one item to
be obtained being a streetcar advertising sign. Seventeen students were
arrested for causing damage to the property of the TTC. A month later,
some students, allegedly engineers, painted the word "Skule"
on arts buildings throughout the campus. Principal F.C.A. Jeanneret
of University College said that he could not remember "a worse
case of vandalism in all my years at the University."
women frosh from Victoria were taken by bus to the stockyards in the
west end of the city, heavily sprayed with perfume, and, after each
had had one shoe removed, required to find their way back to Vic on
their own. In the course of the event, eight windows of the bus were
broken. When Hal Jackman was sworn in as the University's thirtieth
chancellor in 1997, he reminisced about "swiping" the chancellor's
chair in the early 1950s to be used for the annual picture of Burwash
Hall students. "I don't want you to think that I spent all my university
days doing this kind of thing," he said, "although it did
seem to take quite a bit of time."
Hal Jackman recalled
once "swiping" the Chancellor's chair.
it continued throughout the decade. A three-hour battle between Trinity
and Wycliffe students ended in a bonfire and the arrival of three fire
trucks. The next year, UC students dumped eighteen cans of garbage over
Trinity's front steps. One of the perpetrators was quoted as saying,
"We felt it was time one of the Arts Colleges did something."
Football weekends gave rise to a number of stories - a thirty-minute
melee around the goal posts at a Varsity-Queen's game in Kingston in
which five Queen's students were injured, and a train trip from a McGill
game in which windows were broken and silverware stolen. A particularly
serious incident occurred in the fall of 1954, when hundreds of engineering
frosh, to the accompaniment of the engineering cannon and the Lady Godiva
Memorial Band, were sent on a "tour" of the campus. They entered
UC looking for material that could form part of a later auction. In
the course of the raid, the UC registrar, Professor W.J. McAndrew, was
question of retaliation," UC Lit president Marty Friedland was
quoted as saying, self-righteously, would be "as juvenile as the
entire incident itself." It was a sobering experience for everyone.
The constitution of the engineering society was suspended for several
months, and the society was fined $4,000. Shortly after the event, however,
many engineering students were commended for taking part in the clean-up
after Hurricane Hazel. By 1957, part of the engineers' initiation activity
involved cleaning up debris in High Park.
of course, went on to a sterling career in Canadian print, radio and
TV. He passed away last week. Prankster Hal Jackman is now Chancellor
of the University of Toronto. UC student body president Marty Friedland
is the university's official historian. And The
Varsity, Canada's largest-circulation student newspaper, is still