There Is Always An Alternative
Remarks presented to York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies Graduating Class of 2023.
Author’s note: On June 20, 2023, York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies awarded me an Honourary Doctor of Laws. I was privileged to present the convocation remarks to the graduating class. This is a transcript of my remarks.
Goodness me, it is a gigantic honour to be here today, and to be recognized in this way. I’m profoundly grateful to the faculty and administration here at York, and to my friends and family in the audience, especially my parents, who put up with a lot — as you’ll shortly hear.
I want to tell you a funny story about York.
When I was 21, I visited this campus to inquire about enrolling in an interdisciplinary humanities program. I’d had a weird education, taking seven years to graduate from a four-year high school, SEED school, Toronto’s great, original alternative school. I was accustomed to designing my own curriculum and taking charge of my own education, and one of the reasons I’d stuck around at SEED so long is I loved its writing workshop, which was student-led and full of great writers and critiquers.
I started selling short fiction when I was 17, so I came to York and told the guy who ran Humanities I was already selling my short science fiction I’d like work on that here.
He called the head of the creative writing program and said something like, “Hey Bob, it’s Tom in Humanities. I’ve got a young man here who is selling science fiction stories and if he enrolls here at York, he’d like to take creative writing courses. What have you got for him?”
Then his face fell. He hung up and said, “He says they only teach literature.”
I enrolled anyway. I didn’t take any creative writing courses. I only lasted a semester, but that’s no indictment of York. I dropped out of three more universities in the…