Look at that student card and tell me you don’t see the exact youthful naivety I described to pre-exist one’s first U-Pass — you simply can’t. Image: Hailey Otten/Fulcrum
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Decimated sense-of-self

I know what you’re thinking. 

“Get over your U-Pass photo already. It’s been months.” 

“Don’t you have a paper to write? Why are you still writing about that one time someone took a bad picture of you?”

Listen, unless you, too, have been personally victimized by the archaic endeavour of getting your self-esteem artfully decimated by U-Pass “photography” — if we’re being liberal with that term — you cannot begin to understand how cruelly humbling the entire experience is.

The difference between my U-Pass and student card is stunning. Photo: Sanjida Rashid/Fulcrum

After risking utter humiliation by sharing my U-Pass photo on the internet for anyone and everyone’s perusal, I was pleasantly — and sadistically — surprised to receive confirmation from many students that unsightly photos are an unfortunately universal experience at the U of O. It seems that acquiring a U-Pass is, by tradition, characterized by innocent initial high-hopes; the experience is archetypal of someone new to campus, and is swiftly followed by a customary sequential crushing of such youthful naivety. 

While I spared no detail in my initial narration of what I can only describe as a paralyzing encounter with my sense of self — what others may describe as simply getting my picture taken for my U-Pass — today, I will provide you with an abridged version for the sake of avoiding redundancy. 

With the photographer’s camera-of-choice — some gadget resembling a webcam — poised at knee-level to offer an angle that captures double chins and nose hairs alike and lighting that only the directors of the Twilight franchise have been able to similarly capture, you’re fated for demise from the get-go.

Don’t believe me? Fine, be that way. If my words alone are not enough, the U-Pass photos of these University of Ottawa students — nay, victims — serve as testimony plenty.

  1. Stealer of joy
Eric’s U-Pass and student card. Photo: Eric Adams/Provided

It is worth mentioning that these two photos were taken just days apart. Nevertheless, that was plenty of time to steal the joy out of the eyes of Eric Adams, a first-year student in the psychology and linguistics programs. Look at that student card and tell me you don’t see the exact youthful naivety I described to pre-exist one’s first U-Pass — you simply can’t. That token innocence is markedly absent from the subsequent ID. A coincidence? I think not.  

  1. Ages like dairy
Chantal Prouse’s U-Pass. Photo: Chantal Prouse/Provided

Poor Chantal Prouse, a fifth-year student studying both music and biochemistry, may never be able to prove if she was among a handful of lucky ones to receive a good U-Pass photo. While ignorance is bliss, it is rather pitiful that the state of her photo deteriorated by the end of her second year of study. Unlike wine, this ID did not ameliorate with age. Rather, its fleeting shelf life is like that of cheese and avocados — there one moment and gone the next.

  1. Do you have a third piece of ID?

While I would argue that Bianca Williamson, a second-year student in the social work program, has a photo that is a landslide better than mine, she is not a fan of it. The two girls in these pieces of identification, though allegedly both Bianca, are better described as sisters and not twins. Is it so much to ask to look like your U-Pass photo? Unfortunately, it seems the answer is yes.

When I initially courageously shared the series of unfortunate events that plagued my U-Pass photo, I received dozens of images. It was as if we were trauma-bonding, right there in my Instagram DMs. The masses found comfort in the uniting feeling of shared humiliation. This time, however, when I requested that U of O students send in their photos, I was met with overwhelming trepidation and cowardice. Do I blame them? Only a little.

Students, who have likely chosen to remain anonymous to avoid ridicule, have instead shared the following sentiments when I tried to persuade them into divulging their photos.

“I’m too embarrassed. I don’t want to scare people away.”

“No, I’m scared.” (I received this specific response thrice.)

“I lost mine. I’m going to have to relive that trauma.”

My inbox was filled with echoing sentiments of distress and fear. Honestly, this should tell you everything you need to know about how these photos fare. Traditionally, this is where I sprinkle in some optimism. I’d say, “but don’t worry,” or something equally frilly to cushion the blow of my otherwise piercing words. I’m many things, but I’m not a liar. If you have yet to get your U-Pass photo, all I can offer you is the best of luck and to lower your expectations preemptively. 


  • Sanjida Rashid is the Fulcrum's administrative assistant for the summer of 2022, and was the opinions editor for the 2021-22 publishing year.