A letter to UVic: It’s not you, it’s me-ortgage rates

Even this place would go for at least $1200 a month in Victoria. Photo via StockSnap.

Even this place would go for at least $1200 a month in Victoria. Photo via StockSnap

Dear UVic,

I have a confession: I’m a nerd. That’s right; a pun-loving, glasses-wearing, life-long learner, a lover of science and politics and all things academic. I am involved in departmental clubs and avidly uninteresting at parties unless I have someone to talk to about some article they just read or the latest weird science-y news. I have always been the teacher’s pet, and I am that person who will stop in the hallway to chat up my professors or go for a beer with my past teaching assistants whose books I have borrowed.

Despite this nerdy passion, something is getting in the way of my love of learning, and I’m not talking expensive textbooks, food plans, or tuition fees that just won’t quit. What I’m about to admit is profoundly upsetting for anyone in my position . . . but I think I might have chosen the wrong place for post-secondary.

I mean, based on my interests, it sounds like I should be at least a promising university candidate. Right? The University of Victoria is supposed to be a world renowned centre of research that welcomes nerds like me with open arms. In the beginning, it was like that; you could say it was love at first sight. My first-year professors were inspirational world-travellers who left me feeling empowered, like I could change the world and be the next Al Gore. By second year, most of my faculty knew me on a first name basis. I was involved in clubs and other clever department acronyms. I knew my office administrator’s life story, I knew which professors were doing research projects over the summer, and I received glowing recommendations from faculty for upcoming exchange opportunities . . . the future looked bright.

But I’m not coming back. Nope. This nerd can’t do it. You know why? Because I’m having panic attacks about what might happen to my mental health if I end up living in a basement suite with no windows, no heat, and four small screaming children living upstairs . . . again. Or worse: I could be living in a tent, which is what one of my friends was forced to do for two weeks last semester. Or, even worse: I could end up in the homeless shelter, which is where one student told me he was living as he desperately asked when he could come check out my $600 per month illegal windowless room in an unfinished basement located 40 minutes away from the university.

It doesn’t help when I call my friends from Kamloops, Calgary, or Quebec about these problems. (Sorry, we’re saying ‘challenges’ these days, right?) They tell me something along the lines of “I’m so sorry. My house is great, and I found it in August. Have you tried looking earlier, like July?” Or, “Maybe you should join the gym to work out some stress.” That’s a good idea, I say; except we have to pay more than $200 per year for a full gym pass. At this point, there is usually the deep, awkward silence of disbelief and pity over the phone, and I can’t help wondering why on earth I chose to study at what seems to be the only university in Canada where it’s next to impossible to find housing and you have to pay that much for a gym.

So, as I was looking up tenant rights, B.C. building codes, and panicking over where I might live next year, I remembered the new motion that Victoria mayor Lisa Helps proposed on April 2 which would allow people sleeping in their vehicles to be exempted from getting ticketed. This was great news for more than a few friends who had put time and effort into making a liveable travelling van as a solution to the housing crisis, only to find out they had nowhere to park it.

Which brings us to where I am now: writing this open letter after having seriously decided that taking a year off to work and build a tiny house is actually a good solution to the total insanity that is finding a place to live in Victoria. The fact is that this city has less than a 0.5 per cent vacancy rate, and I’m not willing to risk my mental health for an overpriced illegal basement suite living with screaming children anymore (for which, of course, I will have to find a subletter — and then do the whole process over again next year, and the year after that).

Essentially, I would rather stop going to school to build a tiny house to live in so that I can afford to go back to school. I’ve done the math. Logistically, this is actually a reasonable option for anyone willing to put in the time and effort into a longer-term lifestyle change. And you know what? As ridiculous as it sounds, I think it would be a great change for a lot of students who are struggling to pay ridiculous amounts of rent for illegal suites. Because it’s not fair for me, as a student, to be worrying about having a roof over my head and a quiet place to study on top of actual academics. How am I supposed to concentrate on deadlines and grades when I’m trying to figure out my tenant rights and go to dispute resolution with my landlords during finals season every year? And between all of this, I’m still trying to feed myself, find part-time jobs, and be a functioning human.

The only part about UVic that I’ll miss while I’m building my tiny house is CARSA. It’s a shame I won’t have the option of paying more than $200 per year to lift things up and put them back down again to relieve the catastrophic stress that being a student here has put me through.

I’m not upset, just disappointed.


Sonia Hrynchyshyn


Avatar D Rock

Uvic just wants your money. I paid to have transcripts faxed and they did not fax them and will not return the money. They say it is because they only fax them to other schools. While I understand that I don’t understand why they believe they have the right to take my money and not provide a service.

Avatar Karen_Dedosenco

Forwarding transcripts directly to another institution ensures accuracy and hasn’t changed since at least when I attended college almost 30 years ago. Perhaps before you pay for a service you should find out what you can expect for your money.

Avatar D Rock

Actually, they forward them anywhere. They just won’t fax them. Hence the confusion. And any reasonable business refunds money if they cannot provide a service.

Avatar Jake

UVic has shown time and time again that it sees students as little more than walking tuition cheques. First-year students are promised dorm rooms, then forced to sleep in common areas for half the year. Other students fight over expensive residence off-campus. The campus gym costs hundreds of dollars to access. The library closes before midnight. On-campus food options are limited and overpriced.

If UVic really cared about its students, these issues (and others) would have been addressed by now. But the university does nothing. Jamie Cassels is a smart man, and he knows that students will continue to pay through the nose for 4+ years at his university regardless of its many flaws.

If I had my time back again, I would go to a different university. UVic does a great job of hiding its flaws behind impressive PR campaigns, but what has the “UVic Edge” ever done for me? All those advertising dollars would be better spent on making the university a better place to live and study.

Good luck to all the incoming freshmen. After a year or two in Victoria, you’ll think back fondly on that acceptance letter to your local community college and wonder where on earth you went wrong.

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