A Modest Proposal


for preventing the students of the double cohort from being a burden to their parents or professors, and for making them beneficial to the University

by Douglas Stebila (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)

It is a tragedy for those who walk the halls of this great University to see students crowded into classrooms and labs. It is unbearable to know that there are students unable to find housing in this magnificent town. It is a misfortune that in this prodigious province such a fear has arisen among our leaders that the current quality of post-secondary education may not be sustainable.

The unfortunate situation in which our institution finds itself is not without explanation. There has been a real-world decline in the basic operating grant that this establishment receives. Additionally, the number of students admitted for studies has increased markedly in recent years, with ever more students (some 300 more, at last count) expected to enter our hallowed halls in coming the year. At the same time, many of our esteemed faculty have retired or found positions at other institutions. In short, there are more students seeking an education with fewer resources available to provide it.

I shall now propose most humbly my thoughts on resolving the aforementioned problem, which I trust shall be liable to none but the smallest objection.

It has come to my attention, via a wise scholar at the University of Oxford, that a university student of age 19 or 20 can be prepared as a most tasty and nourishing food, either stewed, roasted, baked or boiled. The organs can be sold at great profit to those in such medical need, the hair made available to wigmakers, and the other corporal elements offered to appropriate purchasers as well. One can reasonably estimate that such a sale shall net in excess of ten or twelve thousand dollars of Canadian currency.

We can expect that student’s flesh will be in season throughout the year, though will be most tender in May or June, when the body has recovered from the stresses of lectures and exams. The flesh of an average student will easily serve a dinner party of ten, and can be prepared and frozen to provide a week’s worth of food for a family of four.

The University will see great benefit from this scheme. In their first year of studies, when competition for places in upper year classes is intense, the freshmen shall not take unfavourably to less opulent living quarters. They can thusly be housed in barracks and stables on north campus, leaving the main campus residences open for upper year students. Moreover, since the basis of selection for commoditization would be that of low course marks, we can expect the quality of graduate produced by this fine institution will improve and that the research output shall be commensurately advance. Any distress over larger upper year classes can be dismissed since the size of the upper year population can be strictly controlled by the university administration. With greater financial resources distributed among fewer students, we can expect increased financial aid and bursaries for students. As well, there will be less competition for co-op jobs; a return to the 100% placement rate of days of yore is very likely.

We should not overlook the benefits to the public at large of the barter of this commodity. Firstly, the taxpayer can be assured that his dollars are providing a top-quality education to the best minds of our province, ensuring our ability to innovate and advance in the international marketplace. Secondly, the private and public sector employers will find that graduates have demonstrated motivation and that they understand the need to perform in a so-called “dog eat dog” world. Lastly, and perhaps most obviously, a new source of food shall become available, one from which we can expect a diverse set of culinary delights to be prepared.

Now, dear reader, you might still harbour a few reservations over this proposal. I pray you to allow me to address them straight away. You might be apprehensive that such strict academic expectations might frighten away some high school students away from our great university. I have been repeatedly assured by my colleague Mr. Lee-Wudrick that the market welcomes such competition and that the quality of the degree obtained by successful candidates will far outweigh any potential drawbacks, financial or otherwise. One might also worry that the city or the region and the landlords therein shall be disadvantaged by more students living on campus and fewer students living in the community. It is my understanding that those parties shall most certainly be able to adapt and that there are bylaws in effect to prevent the off-campus housing market from under-saturation.

I should take this opportunity to welcome from those in the community any proposal that resolves the problems laid out in this treatise as inexpensively or efficiently with as many direct and indirect benefits. I also declare that I put forward this simple suggestion without the slightest bit of personal interest, instead being concerned solely with the good of this institution, this province, and this great country; indeed being concerned only with the public interest.

[Originally printed in Volume 90 Issue 6 of mathNEWS.]

Comment by W0n6


Comment by Patrick


Pure brillance!

Comment by Donny

Pat, I’m sure you mean: Jonathon Swift, Pure brilliance! Doug, nice work. (pats on back)

Doug, thanks for giving me a reason to start eyeing the frosh again… 😉