Opposite Programs but Two Peas in a Pod 

Rotman versus Philosophy

By: Jini Seok

Photo source: https://www.epsteinlawyers.com/legally-start-business-ontario/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/sallypercy/2018/03/09/why-your-board-needs-a-chief-philosophy-officer/?sh=240a7eee42e3

A popular opinion held amongst U of T students is that Rotman Commerce and Philosophy are complete opposites. Perhaps the idea is that the fields of study are just so different from each other, but I’m not quite able to pinpoint where, when, or why this idea emerged. However, if you ask any student if they share that belief, even if they hadn’t previously, I’m sure they would come to realise that they too agree. Ironically, most of my closest friends I’ve met at U of T are in Rotman, while I am in Philosophy. So, in the hopes of understanding this polarising phenomenon, I’ve brought the two poles together: I sat down with my dearest commerce buddies to engage in a fruitful Philo-Rotman communion. 

We discussed stereotypical Rotman traits and came up with extroverted, ambitious, competitive, and the embodiment of Type A personalities. Men studying commerce can be perceived as “Finance Bros”, and the general student is selfish, arrogant, and pretentious. Apparently, those in Rotman aren’t regarded in a warm light. Obviously these are not entirely true. Do commerce students work hard for their future careers in a cut-throat job market? Do they have to be confident in their abilities due to the fact that networking is seen as the pillar of their future? Yes. However, I cannot deny that I have encountered very arrogant and pretentious commerce students; though, I have also met very arrogant and pretentious philosophy students as well, so maybe we are more similar than we believe. 

Rotman’s stereotypical extrovertedness also seems to come from an understandable expectation. In a program where presentations and public speaking is a requirement, it seems to unapologetically leave little space for introverts. My commerce friends and I further touched upon fashion and the general appearances of the typical Rotman student. They stated that while the stereotype is “preppy”, in reality, most dress according to current and mainstream trends or in head-to-toe designer brands. 

I asked my friends what kind of traits came to mind when thinking of the stereotypical philosophy student. They responded with quiet or introverted, intellectual, pompous, and perhaps appear or dress more eccentric than the average. As a philosophy student myself, I can concur that many students do appear to be more introverted, especially when compared to those in Rotman. I’ve sat in a philosophy tutorial with more than 20 other students and everybody refused to speak or make eye contact with the TA for fear that they would be forced to answer a question. Intellectual? I may be (read: definitely) biased, but I do believe that if you have the ability, are willing, and are eager to learn philosophy, you are intellectual. To have actively chosen a field that presents little practical value (in regards to the common job) because you wish to discover the truth and the very essence of the world we live in is what I believe is an intellectual path. That being said, we can definitely appear to be pompous at times (see the previous sentences). If Rotman students are pretentious and philosophy students pompous, we might just be in the same self-righteous boat.  

In my classes I have definitely seen a variety of different fashion styles that showcase a lot of individuality, so I can see where the stereotype of eccentricity comes from. My friend stated that she believes philosophy students have an individuality complex that is therefore reflected in their choice of clothing, hairstyle, music taste, and etc. I mean… I think she’s not far from the truth. When discussing the appearances of Rotman and Philosophy students, it’s interesting to see a stark contrast in the images they project, even though they seem to attract similar assumptions. We both seem to be, to the outside world, pretentious; Rotman as egocentric and Philosophy as elitist.

Maybe that’s why my friends and I get along so well. We fit the phrase “opposites attract” while also sticking to the idea that you can’t be friends with those who are too similar because then you’d argue all the time. Though my friends and I share no classes, study very different subjects, and are in different environments inside the classroom and out, we seemingly get along as if there isn’t such a difference in our career paths. We can enjoy the comfort of not having to compete for the same job while still believing our own choice is superior. Perhaps Rotman students and Philosophy students are actually perfect friend material for each other.

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