Brock University, as every institution, has experienced controversy — especially within the last year. Between the new bronze statue and the change of roads names, there has been both angry and complex claims against Brock and it’s militaristic history and ties to the War of 1812. With these issues, it seems as though Badgers are forced to unpack reasons to continue their unconditional pride towards Brock. However, looking for Brock pride proves to be easy.
I went on a journey to love Brock all over again. I wanted to feel confident about my university with the same amount of passion that drove me to accept Brock into my life in the first place. I turned to Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Professor Gale Coskan-Johnson with my concerns.
“I want to love my school,” I explained.
Coskan-Johnson let me in on a secret to loving your institution, inside-out.
“It’s hard to say what Brock is as one single thing, without falling into that nationalist sorts of rhetoric,” said Coskan-Johnson. “It’s funny, the desire to say ‘I am proud of being from here’ is a question of nationalism as well, right?”
She made it clear that there is no use to try to classify or define Brock as monolithic. With the example of Canada, it is clear that there is no thing as a linear definition — “Canada is genocide, Canada is residential schools, Canada is a place that has welcomed a bunch of refugees… it’s complicated.”
In order to look critically at your university, you can’t just make judgments about what the university is or represents, but instead, what it does.
“It exists. It’s not like you can make an argument for it to go away. It exists, and if it exists, then what? What does it do? It does many things. It does things that build up, and it does things that tear down,” said Coskan-Johnson.
The chaotic attempt to define Brock was not easy, but the decision to define Brock as “multiple” seemed best suited and sat well. She explained to me that “Brock isn’t only its administration, Brock is also its collection of unions.”
Brock is one of the only schools where almost every worker is unionized through largely either CUPE or BUFA. With that being said, this is already something to be proud of. Brock is full of protected persons, and people with agency, even when it seems like academia is nothing but corporate subjects.
Brock is unionization. Brock is protection. Brock is multidisciplinary study. Brock is consent posters. Brock is it’s social justice MA students. Brock is its LGBTQ+ community. Brock is empowered students. Brock is its athletes. Brock is its entrepreneurs. Brock is its exchange students. Brock is its feminists. Brock is its environmental surroundings. Brock does not exist in a vacuum, but within a larger context of everyone and anything that makes Brock unique.
Any claim that says that Brock is “automatically anti-Aboriginal” because of its geography or that it’s full of money-hungry admin, seriously undermines all of the great things about Brock University. It’s fair and just to look at Brock and be proud. It’s fair to have pride towards a campus and an institution that holds memories, moments and associations that are special and unique for each individual.
“The [Sir Isaac Brock] statue is something the institution did. But the sexual harassment center, who did that? The institution didn’t do that, people [within] the institution made that happen. Students made that happen. Allowing the imagined space that is this place to be defined by the institution is a problem,” said Coskan-Johnson. “The institution is part of it, but there are people who exist here who make things happen. There are people doing research that’s really interesting.”
There are great things happening especially within the VISA and Performing Arts programs that “try to complicate these questions, so [Brock] doesn’t just become a celebration of progress because we made these big buildings.”
Earlier this year the “Art in the City” event held by the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, called “Imagining the City” brought attendees at Brock face-to-face with First Nations writer Marvin Francis’ epic poem “City Treaty” in an attempt to highlight the Indigenous presence here at Brock University. Events like these are evidence that Brock is not oblivious to the land they are on or the issues surrounding the university. Students are being taught Brock’s real history across fields, and both faculty and students are not afraid to talk about it. Why? Because it doesn’t define Brock. You can’t define Brock. You don’t even have to.
I asked Coskan-Johnson, “What does going to Brock say about me? Does it reflect on me as a student?” She gave me grace.
“To want to make a unified claim… that might itself be a problem. There is always ambivalence and there is always contradiction,” she explained. With that statement, I understood all at once why I am proud to go to and proud to be apart of Brock.
It is important to view universities as not just an institution, but as a union, a university and as a student body. It would not be useful to attempt to define everything Brock is in a simple sentence. It would be unfair to the entirety of Brock to narrow it down to a single militaristic figure or single faculty member. When it comes time to pride, everyone quickly turns to quintessential pride of their closest-to-home sports team. It is clearly larger than that.
Are you proud of Brock? Are you aware of the great things Brock is doing for the community and for the students? Do you see the potential in each of the faces you pass on your way to class? Is Brock a school or a second home? Why?
You don’t have to be proud of everything Brock is and has done in order to say you are proud of Brock or proud to be apart of Brock. The progress of Brock is not solely institutional. In fact, there are endless things to be proud of down every single hallway; it’s about looking for them.