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You go to King’s? Huh?

Being a University of King’s College student finishing an arts degree at Dalhousie sometimes feels like an exercise in foreign relations.  “So, what school do you go to?” interested parties ask innocently, leading me to fire back the stock answer: King’s is a separate school affiliated with Dal—a small liberal arts college with separate scholarships, student government and athletic programs but which shares a combined course list and facilities, blah blah blah… The typical reaction is less than enthusiastic: eyes glaze over and annoyance sets in.

The special King’s/Dal relationship is one that has perplexed Halifax’s finest minds for decades, a shared experience (or schism) that conjoins two great institutions. Officially, the King’s website describes the relationship as “subtle, stable and immensely productive.”  Anyone who has ever tried to cross-list classes or degrees knows this is a diplomatic statement taken too far.

The Dal faculties of Arts and Social Sciences and of Science claim a laissez-faire attitude, allowing King’s students to select seamlessly from a myriad of class options as well as to access student services and the library systems at both Dal and King’s. Scholars from both universities theoretically migrate seamlessly between classrooms. Dal students can take any of the courses offered at King’s in the upper year programs, as well as many courses in the School of Journalism, and King’s students are welcomed into any class at Dal providing they have the necessary papers. (Did I say papers? I meant prerequisites.)

Despite this vision of peaceful coexistence, a closer examination betrays a less than harmonious union. Hannah Horne-Robinson, a fourth-year student of European studies at Dal, calls the vision behind the King’s independence confusing.

“Most Dal students don’t really get it. Is it a separate college? Why is it on the same campus, what’s the point of having different names, libraries, gym, etc.? …  How do they fit into our community?  I am not even sure if the total count of Dal students includes King’s or not,” she says.

Here is my personal checklist for achieving mutual harmony.

For King’s students attending Dal:

1.       Dress hospitably. Do not wear Birkenstocks in the middle of winter, and do not go shoeless in class.

2.       Do not operate only in Kingsian jargon: for example, do not make constant and unnecessary connections between books you read (skimmed) in your Foundation Year Programme. You are now functioning in a bilateral environment.

3.       Celebrate diversity. Horne-Robinson maintains that variety of classes ought to be celebrated and shared so that everyone can benefit from them.  Get out of your comfort zone.

“Try a class like good ol’ chemistry, where you may get no special treatment and you’ll have to start from scratch,” Horne-Robinson says.  “The idea of having required classes in other fields is to make you a well-rounded person, and King’s students are rounder than a sphere in literature. But how many know the Krebs’ cycle, how to draw an axiomatic drawing of a building or write Python code?”

For Dal students attending King’s:

1.      No one has immunity from insults. Do not call the campus bar the “wardrobe” or ask if tonight’s event is a costume night. The bar is called the “Wardroom” and those capes and ponchos you see are just everyday apparel.

2.      Do not be intimidated by the fact that first-years at King’s read almost a book a day. Few to none of the students in Foundation Year Programme succeeded in reading every book. If they did, they should be exiled from the academic community for making the rest of us look bad.

3.      You are not a persona non grata at King’s because you didn’t complete FYP.

“I took a cross-listed King’s class called Magic, Hersey and Hermeticism,” Horne-Robinson recalls. “There were no formal prerequisites but I quickly discovered that FYP was a hidden requirement.  This was frustrating because a base common knowledge was assumed.” In truth, though, it’s more helpful to have a wider range of perspectives in the classroom.

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