Dominick Han​/THE VARSITY

On Thursday July 16, the University of Toronto Campaign for Community hosted the U of T student talks, which were inspired by the TED talks series. Twelve speakers presented at the event — David Fishbayn, the leader of the University of Toronto Campaign for Community, organized the event.

The Campaign for Community initiative is a student-run project aimed at making life at U of T less lonely. The initiative is active in many fields, and allows for students to take a credited course that enables them to play a direct part in improving the U of T community.

Students were allowed to choose their own topics, which included the meaning of courage, the making of a leader, and the struggles of studying music within a science-oriented institution. Many of the student speakers felt passionate about their topics and wanted to share their experiences, while also seeking affirmation by communicating with their peers. Anne Jeyanthy, who gave a speech entitled “To Love is to be Vulnerable,” explained that in a society that often pretends that everything is okay, it is important to acknowledge the validity of negative emotions. “I struggled a lot and I wanted students to know that it’s ok to not feel good,” she explained.

Graduate student Rohail Tanoli gave a talk called “Life does not always work according to plan, and that’s okay.” Tanoli spoke of his time mentoring students and recalls that many students couldn’t graduate in four years, or they would switch their majors continuously. “I feel like I was in that situation and I’ve gotten to where I am now through the help of others,” he explained.

Others viewed the event as an avenue for communicating some of U of T’s issues. Zach Morgenstern, a recent U of T graduate, discussed the necessity of eliminating “weed-out” courses, which some students allege are deliberately difficult and designed to reduce the number of students enrolled in the program. “The Campaign for Community can’t fix U of T alone,” Morgenstern argued, stressing the importance of “creat[ing] pressure for structural change,” and adding “There is a need for protest rhetoric at Campaign for Community events like this one.”

The turnout for the event was strong and the response students received for sharing their experiences and ideas was encouraging; many students stayed late to listen to every speaker. The overarching theme urged students to accept setbacks and stay motivated and to keep pursuing their goals even if they are not entirely set. “There are few opportunities for students to share their experiences at U of T,” Fishbayn said when asked why students needed a different channel through which to talk about a topic of their own choosing.

“I was dying to be heard,” student Caroline Vander Crussyen stated after her speech in which she recounted the painful yet at times enriching experience of moving across the world all her life. In her talk she emphasized that failure was a part of our nature. “I failed tonight,” said Vander Crussyen reflecting on her speech, encouraging students to embrace failure fully in order to touch upon success.

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