Bishop’s University is a primarily undergraduate university founded, as the name suggests, by a Bishop. Bishop George Jehoshaphat Mountain founded the college in 1843, and not long after, the place opened its doors to students, though, strangely enough, building the university would only finish in 1853. Receiving its royal charter in 1852, it originally had three faculties: theology, law, and medicine, and remained rather stagnant until the early twentieth century when it started to branch out.
Not to be confused with Bishop’s College, a secondary school also in the Eastern townships, the university has one of the smallest undergraduate populations, topping at just fewer than two thousand students. “Primarily undergraduate” is exactly what it says on the tin, but a few select Master’s degrees are offered, mostly for education, but also the sciences and the arts. Bishop’s also has its own business school, Williams School of Business, which accounts to approximately one quarter of the university’s population. The old buildings on the campus earned the university its nickname, the “Oxford on the Massawippi”, the Massawippi being a lake in the area. The oldest building dates back to 1845, completed two years after McGill’s famous arts building, also housing their respective Arts faculty.
Though the school sounds small on paper, it doesn’t mean it didn’t have its own big scandals, most notably the “Stigma Affair”. In 1890, twenty-nine students of the divinity faculty complained about the food and cleaning services compared to their fellow peers who lived in the surrounding area around Bishop’s. (Cleanliness is next to godliness, after all.) The dissenting students signed a petition to give it to the then governing council, citing that there seemed to be profits that, well, only seemed to funnel upwards. Of course, their suspicions were well-founded, and the students did not only lose their term, some would be “rusticated” (sent back home) and all of them would have to retract their petition or face consequences. In a battle lasting five years, the penalties for the students would eventually lighten up, but the students remained strong. Ironically, one of the students would become future university chancellor.
Bishop’s graduates include Michael Ondaatje, Booker Prize winning author of The English Patient.
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