SuJung Lee (2L)
The first time I entered the Jackman Law Building, in 1L, I was excited about the beauty of the new space that was made just for us. All the natural light, the brand new adjustable chairs, the cozy reading room with a fireplace—these features beckoned to me the promise of a successful next phase in my life.
But, as the year passed, the building slowly began to lose its charm.
During the September clubs fair, I started to feel a weird pressure to conform to popular expectations at the law school. The atrium echoed with bits of advice like “You should apply to both PBSC and DLS!” or “You should join this club because it looks good on your résumé and is low commitment!”
During first semester exams, this pressure became palpable. Being in the Bora Laskin Library was unsettling, as I couldn’t help but be conscious of the fact that everyone else in the same room might be studying the same thing as me. Why didn’t I have a treatise on my desk? Why wasn’t I working on a practice exam? During the 1L recruit, this pressure consumed me. The Moot Court Room seemed to get bigger with every CDO event I attended, as if it could sense my FOMO about the recruit and was preparing to swallow my soul.
Eventually, everything about the building began to annoy me: the poorly ventilated single-stall bathrooms with faulty locks; the fact that we couldn’t eat lunch in the library study rooms we had paid so much to use; the lack of seating in areas where you could actually eat. The walls of Jackman, once so clean and welcoming, became sterile and unforgiving. The long-anticipated Goodmans Café turned out to be overpriced and mediocre. Walking the halls became an awkward game of eye-contact dodgeball with those acquaintances you didn’t know whether to say “Hi” to.
In short, I hated the building and felt like I didn’t belong in it.
As a result, I started minimizing my time at Jackman. I left the building as soon as class was done. I packed lunch so that I didn’t have to stand in line at Goodmans. I studied at other libraries on the U of T campus. In 2L, I even moved to an apartment that was further from school.
The physical distance has done me well. The absence of visible pressure allows me to feel more attuned to my studies and to create mental space for other important aspects of my life. More importantly, I learned I wasn’t alone in my resentment. Like myself, others associated Jackman with an oppressive climate of competition and memories of failure. We bonded over a collective sense of disappointment at the fact that studying law wasn’t exactly what we had hoped it would be. Taking a step back allowed me to reflect on what makes me happy, and to gain better perspective on what I wish to get out of law school.
So, to those of you who share a similar complicated relationship with Jackman, I hope you find your own peace in putting some distance between you and the building. And to the law school, I hope our experiences signal the need to address a suffocating culture that turns worthy students away from a beautiful building.