Five Reasons to Be Proud (and Ashamed) of KPU

Our institution’s newness makes for lacklustre culture and reputation, but every cloud has its silver lining

Nicole Kwit

Imagine a classroom filled with students from each of British Columbia’s post-secondary institutions. The UBC student would probably represent the “top of the class,” with SFU and UVic trailing close behind. These would be the “A+” students—the ones who speak up in class, get their work in on time or early, and complete any and all extra-credit work they can. Then there would be the students who half-ass most of their assignments and still walk away at the end of the semester with a half-decent grade.

KPU belongs firmly in the second group, and most of us who go to school here know it. While other universities in the province have nearly a century of prestige to their names, we’re perhaps best known these days for offering a course that teaches you how to make money selling weed.

There are plenty of disparaging things to say about KPU, but there are just as many kind things to say. We at The Runner decided to examine a few of the most prominent reasons why students here should hold their heads high when talking about their school, but—because this is KPU, after all—why those might be the same reasons you plan on transferring to UBC in a year or two.

Shame: Our Campus Culture is on Life Support

Nobody comes to KPU for the student life. Our lack of sports teams, student housing, and a centralized location has stuck us with the unfortunate reputation of being a “commuter campus.” Students who have to travel upwards of an hour to get to class, and then another hour to get home, aren’t usually in the mood to stick around for club meetings or social events like those who live on campus. The fact that we’re a polytechnic institution—where students tend to be more focused on earning practical degrees than getting a “college experience”—isn’t doing our campus culture any favours either.

Pride: You Have the Opportunity to Start Something

Attending a century-old university means that basically any club you might want to start at school was already founded at least a decade prior. The UBC Alma Mater Society website currently lists 400 student groups that you can join, making the chances of successfully starting something new and exciting pretty slim. But at KPU, if you have a passion that you want to share with your peers, you can be listed as the president and founder of a student group in no time. And the opportunity extends beyond founding clubs: want to start a publication? A speaker series? An annual, school-wide tradition? Find an organization that will help fund it and you’ll be on your way to leaving a legacy that future students can enjoy. Most other universities don’t have room for more student initiatives, but at KPU, there’s plenty of untilled soil.

Pride: How Many Universities Have Their Own Brew Lab?

Most of us aren’t enrolled in the Brewing and Brewery Operations program because chemistry is hard, but you don’t need to be an up-and-coming brewmaster to enjoy the fruits of KPU Brewing students’ labor. The university offers plenty of opportunities to try their sudsy masterpieces, and KPU beer is almost always phenomenal. The Surrey campus’s Grassroots Cafe usually has some of the program’s most recent offerings on tap, and the brew lab will personally fill growlers every Friday.

SFU and UBC might have their own pubs, but only KPU has its own brewery.

Shame: It Would Still Be Nice to Have a Pub, Though

There aren’t many places on campus where students can go to wet their whistle between classes. KPU Richmond’s closest thing to a bar is the Tim Hortons, and while the Surrey campus has the aforementioned Grassroots, there’s no replacing the atmosphere of an authentic university pub. Investing in KPU’s very own watering hole would seriously help support our underdeveloped student life, but it’s unlikely that we’ll ever dedicate the money or space needed to make an on-campus pub a reality. While UBC students will soon be able to enjoy drinks at the Storm Crow Alehouse—an offshoot of the Storm Crow Tavern which will replace the UBC’s Academic Public House—we’ll still be weighing the risks of sneaking a mickey into class and waiting for a Student Union Building.

Shame: Eagles Athletics Soars No More

In May 2015, The Runner published an article about the KPU men’s soccer team playing a friendly game against the Whitecaps FC alumni team. In it, we proudly proclaim that “KPU has been moving up in the soccer world.” Less than two months later, that team—along with the women’s team, all of the university’s other athletic programs, and all of their associated staff members—were gone. Who knows how KPU sports culture could have developed if the university had shown it some love. We have all of the delicious craft beer we could ever want, and no sporting events to overindulge in it at.

Pride: But We Do Have Two of the City’s Greatest Athletes. Sort of.

Last summer, Daniel and Henrik Sedin became honorary KPU alumni and that is pretty damn awesome. It’s not like they ever attended a class here, and it’s not like they played for our hockey team—on account of us not having one—but there is exactly one university in B.C. that can lay claim to the greatest players ever to play for this city. Sure, just about any other university in the province could have extended the same honor to our favourite Swedish gingers and they probably would have accepted, but they didn’t, and we did. Whatever any of those other schools might achieve with their fancy, still-existing athletic programs, we’ll be the only ones taking vicarious pride through our two future Hall of Famer alumni.

Shame: Ryan Reynolds

Reynolds’ relationship to KPU is a joke that gets less funny, and more sad, the longer it’s told. Prior to becoming a movie star, he attended school here in the mid-90s, and though he dropped out before graduating he has apparently left an indelible impression on KPU’s student life. Occasionally you’ll hear a rumour that he took a class with one of your professors or sat where you’re sitting in the courtyard. The Kwantlen Student Association has made a habit of including him in their affairs by springing for a life-sized cut-out of the actor, which disturbingly went missing a few months ago, and earlier this year they even made him an honorary member of the KSA.

And yet, despite this, Reynolds virtually never acknowledges his time here, and all attempts to convince him to come over for a beer, maybe—or to just hang out or whatever—have been ignored.

Pride: But, C’mon, Ryan Reynolds!

He’s Deadpool! He’s Van Wilder, to a lesser extent. And I swear I took a class with a guy that says his sister dated him when he went to school here. Maybe if we all tweet at him at once we can get him to visit for an alumni mixer. Hell, maybe we can make him our next mascot! Who cares that SFU can boast about Canadian hero Terry Fox going to school there, or that Royal Roads is astronaut Chris Hadfield’s alma mater? Did either of them date Alanis Morissette? I don’t think so.

Shame: No Prestige

KPU is nobody’s dream school. With a history only stretching as far back as 1981, it isn’t going to have the same kind of name-dropping power as an institution with origins that predate the first world war. Those of us who choose to get our degrees at KPU aren’t joining some long and illustrious tradition—we’re basically the Vegas Golden Knights of the B.C. university world.

Pride: Who Needs Prestige?

Seriously, fuck prestige. KPU has no laurels to rest on which means that everything this university has was earned recently. Only a few decades ago, our school was nothing but a collection of portables on a satellite campus for Douglas College. Look how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.

This university is still developing into the institution that it’s destined to become. We’re building a unique identity as we go, and along the way we get to shape that identity into whatever we want it to be. KPU has used its status as a new and less traditional university to offer innovative programming that isn’t available anywhere else. At less established student institutions, there’s opportunity for anyone to leave their mark. Those of us who are part of the KPU community now will get to look at the university in the future and know that we helped build it.

Let’s take pride in being the scrappy underdogs, KPU.