What weighs us down?
During my master's, at a different Canadian university, we had very good student ownership of our environment. We had an active community of students - there was a student union, and a graduate student society - both really well-run student organizations with lots of visibility on campus. They'd go above and beyond my expectations and their required duties. I saw students working to improve their campus, which is so inspiring, and something I don't see here to a great degree. There are power dynamics that exist on any campus between students and their supervisors, and sometimes that power can be abused - it's real - and UW's lack of community and effective grad student advocacy system means there's no help for people when it does happen. It's staying under the radar and anyone who defends the status quo is defending it.
I've thought of the values that the University of Waterloo's branding focuses on - this emphasis on innovation and technology, basically inventing things to make money - this is not why I got into science at all and it's been very discouraging. It's frustrating, seeing this emphasis on creating technology as if that's going to save the world, without equal emphasis on learning real values.
Everyone knows staying in academia means working to get publications and citations, "publish or perish," but these metrics are not indicative of a good scientist. It's like academia is not academic but rather a space to fight for the currency of citations. It’s not a meritocracy. The mentality of a student is "I'm not good enough yet, I still need to learn and improve myself". And being so individualistic, this leads to a lot of competitiveness in the culture, and lack of community is a symptom. It's under the surface. My colleagues are helpful - I don't think we're competing with each other but with the flooded job market. You begin to wonder why all of these peers and mentors can succeed and you can't - so you start to look for things that answer the question of - not "why am I not happy", but "why am I not more productive?