I am tired of Portal and its user-unfriendly design. I hate being greeted by the chaotic home page when I log in, and having to click on 10 different things to get where I want to go. The mobile version for its website is non-existent — I refuse to make room in my already cluttered phone for the app. So when I heard that Portal was changing, I was ecstatic.

My joy was dimmed, however, when I learned that the new Portal would be called ‘Quercus.’ McMaster has Avenue, Laurier has MyLearningSpace, Western has OWL, and Guelph has CourseLink, while U of T has Quercus? One of these things is not like the others — and by ‘others,’ I mean a solid, serious name befitting a university as renowned as U of T.

Admittedly, not all universities are so creative with their choices. Waterloo’s portal is called Portal Waterloo, Ryerson calls theirs my.ryerson, and York has Passport York. Though these three are a smidge unoriginal, compared to Quercus, I’d take something like ‘My UofT’ any day.

Quercus is the Latin word for the oak tree genus, which is in line with U of T’s motto and crest, and evidently one of the reasons it was chosen. Despite its distinguished roots, however, Quercus is a poor choice of name for a learning system at a university as esteemed and as large as U of T.

For one, Quercus is hard to say. It’s pronounced as ‘qwhere-kis’ according to the bulletin posted by U of T — but how many people will read that bulletin? All I imagine whilst contemplating the phonology of Quercus are variants ranging anywhere from ‘quirkus’ to ‘queerkiss’, and professors wasting 10 minutes of class debating with their students about the correct pronunciation.

More importantly, Quercus is easy to mock. Quercus shares an ending with the words ‘circus’ and ‘ruckus,’ rhymes with ‘ridiculous’ and, if you’re ambitious, ‘worthless.’ One of these will surely be adopted by U of T students to refer to Quercus mockingly, and non-U of T students will probably start using it, too, once they hear what our portal is called. 

To gauge how students felt about Quercus, I posted a poll in a group comprised of majority U of T students asking them what comes to mind when they hear the name of our new portal. Admittedly, the group is a meme group, which means frivolous answers are a foregone conclusion, but it seemed like the only group in which participation in such a poll was guaranteed. Out of 135 students who filled out the poll, 38 of them responded with ‘How do you pronounce it?’. ‘Eh wot’ and ‘Ridiculus’ were other popular choices. One brave soul responded with ‘I want to transfer out.’ The most popular choice by far, though, was ‘Ignorant and hurtful’ — a meme born from a post in the UofT Memes for Edgy Teens Facebook group that called its members “straight up ignorant and hurtful” for mocking other universities — which garnered70 responses. This answer, meant to be comical, is beginning to seem truer with every passing moment that U of T wastes by not recognizing the name Quercus for what it is: a mistake, “magnus incursitamus.”

Quercus is currently still running on pilot, with full integration expected by Fall 2018. Until then, U of T still has time to change its name to avoid a potential circus around Quercus. In the meantime, I’ll be acting ignorant and hurtful like the rest of my peers by pretending that Quercus doesn’t exist, and continuing to use Portal.


Zeahaa Rehman is a third-year student at UTM studying Linguistics and Professional Writing.

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