Monday, September 26, 2011

Know of Foe: University of Ontario Institute of Technology

So if you’re excited for Michigan hockey season (and you damn well should be), you may be wondering if there’s some misprint regarding the first exhibition opponent. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology? Is that some kind of bad Russian or Chinese mistranslation? No. UOIT is a real school with a horrible name. With apologies to the M-Zone, we provide a “Know of Foe” for North America’s leading institute of higher misuse of prepositions.

You owe it to yourself to read this informative, entertaining, and otherwise pun-free post.

Although UOIT was founded in 2002, the story of its origin goes back to 1921, when the province on Ontario established a Grade 13. In 1984, Grade 13 became known as “Ontario Academic Credit” (OAC). Think of Grade 13/OAC as the equivalent of Advanced Placement courses - originally, by taking these courses, students would receive university credit. Of course, over time, Grade 13 became mandatory for getting into university instead of merely helpful. This is the same trajectory you can see in the US with AP.
The Conservative government of Ontario decided to eliminate OAC in 1999 as a cost-saving measure. Because they didn’t really think through all the consequences, this lead to what became known as the “double cohort” in 2002: the year in which the last class taking OAC and the first class not taking OAC graduated at the exact same time, meaning that the province’s university system had to be ready to take on twice as many incoming students.

About the same time, the city of Oshawa, just east of Toronto, was upset because it was the largest city in Ontario without its own university. The city was home to Durham College, but in Canada, with few exceptions, “College” means “community college” and only “University” means “university or college as it is understood in the US.”

(Free association paragraph! Oshawa is the largest city in Regional Municipality of Durham, a.k.a. Durham County. Durham County is a Canadian TV show that airs in the US on ION (f.k.a. PAX) about a homicide cop returning to his suburban home. Its Michigan equivalent would be Macomb County, but despite that, it’s actually supposed to be reasonably good. The show stars Hugh Dillon, whose major acting debut was in Hard Core Logo, the least funny movie I have ever seen advertised as a comedy. Before that, he was lead singer of The Headstones (*), the second-most beloved 1990s band out of Kingston, Ontario. Craig will link to “Fifty Mission Cap” again if you don’t know who the most beloved is.)

So in 2002 the Ontario legislature passed the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Act, which founded UOIT and saddled it with a name so horrible that its own Wikipedia page has a section about how confusing it is. Why they just didn’t just go with “University of Oshawa” is beyond me. Failing that, they could have gone with “Ontario Polytechnic Institute and Provincial University,” or OPIPU, which could have been the Canadian acronym equivalent of IUPUI.

Academic-wise, the closest American equivalent I can imagine to UOIT is Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, in that it’s not the best university in the province (that would be Toronto - closest non-private US equivalent: Michigan) or the best institute of technology (Waterloo - closest non-private US equivalent: Georgia Tech), but it’s still not terrible. UOIT is Canada’s first laptop-based university. All incoming undergraduates are required to buy or lease a Lenovo Thinkpad, so I guess it’s free of those annoying Mac people (ed. note: this post written on a Macbook Pro.)

The chancellor of UOIT is Perrin Beatty, who was a cabinet minister during the Brian Mulroney/Kim Campbell government of 1984-1993, holding about five different portfolios during that time. He would be the Canadian equivalent of a moderate Republican, which means that a) he’s a commie pinko by American standards and b) he’s now completely unelectable. He lost his seat in the great Progressive Conservative collapse of 1993 and has spent his time since then heading organizations like the CBC and UOIT.

As a very young university, UOIT competes at the varsity level in only eight sports: golf, tennis, rowing, soccer, lacrosse, dance, and, of course, curling and hockey. Their team name is the Ridgebacks, and their mascot is a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. Not sure what Ridgebacks have to do with Oshawa or Ontario, but they’re used to hunt lions, so that makes them a tough, mascot-worthy, breed. Wikipedia lists their school colours as “blue” and “lighter blue,” and no one has updated their stats page there in quite a while. UOIT hockey went 12-12-4 last year, good for 7th place (out of 9) in the OUA West Division.

Bold prediction based on no evidence: UOIT is a moderately worse-than-usual Canadian exhibition opponent. 12-1 Michigan.

(*) This link goes to a live performance the Headstones made on Rita & Friends. Canadians and Canadophiles of a certain age will need no explanation as to why this is inherently hilarious. For the rest of you, imagine the Offspring performing on a variety show hosted by Susan Boyle and you’ll be close.

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