Should Mt. A top Maclean’s list again?

IMG_1854EDITEDEvery year, Maclean’s Magazine releases its Canadian university rankings at the end of October. For 17 out of the past 23 years, Mount Allison has ranked no. 1 in the primarily undergraduate category. Other schools in this category, few of which have extensive graduate programs, include St. Francis Xavier and Acadia.

Because of the university’s prominent placement in these rankings, they have been key in Mt. A’s marketing campaigns. In order to put these rankings into perspective, The Argosy asked some Mt. A students whether they agreed with these results, and whether they thought the university deserved the first place ranking.

The results were mixed.

Adèle Gaudet, a first-year drama student, cites the atmosphere that has been present “since day one” on campus as a marker of Mt. A’s excellence.

“It’s so welcoming; you immediately feel like you’re a part of the family,” said Gaudet.

“The environment Mount Allison fosters gives its students the opportunity to be a big fish in a little pond in many aspects – not only academically, but in a community setting as well,” said Mary Emma MacNeil, a second-year Canadian studies major. “This lets students form stronger relationships with fellow students of every faculty and age, and it puts them in a better position to work closely with their professors,”

MacNeil’s parents are both Mt. A alumni, an important factor in choosing where she was going to pursue her post-secondary studies.

“The majority of Mount Allison alumni continue to support the university, and those that I have encountered only have positive reviews of Mount Allison,” said MacNeil.

Antonina Pavilanis and Mike Delong, a first-year arts student and a second-year chemistry student respectively, had similar comments. The small class sizes offered at Mt. A were a key element in their decision-making process; both students agree that Mt. A is worthy of its no. 1 position.

“It makes it a lot easier for students to build a relationship with their professors,” said Pavilanis.

Taylor Crosby, currently in her first year of environmental science, brought up the same positive characteristics. She ultimately agreed that Mt. A deserves its no. 1 status.

“I feel as though Mount Allison, where it’s smaller, makes it easier to [express your interests] whereas in a larger university, you wouldn’t necessarily get a chance to share what you’re interested in with fellow students,” said Crosby.

On the other hand, some students are doubtful about these rankings.

“I feel like although it is a very good university. the Maclean’s rating itself is pretty subjective. If you were to compare [Mount Allison] to another school which wouldn’t have such small class sizes but would have elaborate labs with better equipment, [Mount Allison] would get a better rating,” said Kristopher Russell-Murray, a fourth-year environmental science student. Murray stresses that when assessing schools, Maclean’s weighs class sizes heavier than the university’s facilities, which ultimately advantages Mt. A.

Delanie Khan-Dobson transferred to Mt. A this year, after spending two years at the University of Saskatchewan. While she remained doubtful of Mount Allison’s no. 1 status, Dobson pointed to Mt. A’s small, inclusive campus as something that differed – and was ultimately positive – from her previous experience in Saskatoon.

Olivia Hecker, a third-year psychology student, points to last year’s faculty strike and lack of a tuition rebate for students as reasons why she thinks Mt. A will not retain the number one ranking.

“I don’t think we’ll be number one this year. We had that strike last semester, which really screwed things up for a lot of people, and a lot of people were upset about paying for nothing. I think that kind of puts a bad reputation on Mt. A,” said Hecker.

“It would be nice to still be a well established number one ranked university, but I think right now we’re not necessarily where we were a couple of years ago. I still believe we are [no. 1], but I think nationally we’ve kind of tarnished that reputation,” said Daniel Clarke, a third-year Commerce student. “I think it was the response to the strike. Strikes happen, everyone knows it, but I think the response to the strike was not appropriate,” said Clarke.

A marked difference of opinion was evident between first- and upper-year students, particularly with respect to strike-related events. But, Mt. A students are generally happy with their current situation, though that some may doubt the value of the Maclean’s rankings. While Mt. A has made extensive use of these results in their promotion campaigns, it remains difficult to assess whether Mt. A’s no. 1 status truly matters in the eyes of current and prospective students.

Jean-Sébastien Comeau