Joy Johnson: undercover student

Joy Johnson lives the reality of Canada’s most engaged university

Joy Johnson shakily standing in a dorm
Joy: trying her best. ILLUSTRATION: Maple Sukontasukkul / The Peak

By: Sara Brinkac, Humour Editor

In the Fall 2021 semester, SFU president and vice-chancellor Joy Johnson undertook a disastrous “undercover student” marketing campaign. Originally, the campaign plan was that she spend a month as an undergraduate student while keeping a journal of her positive experiences in order to share quotes on bus benches across Canada. The outcome however, was much different. What SFU marketing expected to be a triumphant success quickly lost focus — after just 17 days the campaign degraded into what some might consider a psychological disaster parallel to the Stanford Prison Experiment

This failure prompted SFU marketing to destroy any trace of the campaign as they feared it didn’t align with the university’s “engaged” image. However, thanks to an anonymous source who believes the SFU community should be aware of this campaign, The Peak was able to acquire president Johnson’s journal entries and dutifully present them as follows below.


Day 1

Hi everyone, 

I’m truly excited to begin a wonderful student experience this Fall semester and share it with our supportive SFU community. An undergraduate degree is an impactful time in one’s life and I am delighted to be able to relive this experience at such a dedicated university. To the faculty, staff, and now, my fellow students, I look forward to an enriching and engaged month. 


Joy Johnson

Pronouns: she, her, hers

President, Vice-Chancellor and undercover student


Day 4

Hi all,

I apologize for the delay in updates, I had some challenging technical issues regarding Canvas and Zoom. But thanks to our wonderfully comprehensive IT services I am back online and excited to begin classes. I am currently taking two in-person classes, one hybrid, and one online in order to truly experience the wonderful options for learning our institution offers!

Joy Johnson

Pronouns: she, her, hers

President, Vice-Chancellor, Student


Day 5

I have had such an enriching time with fellow undergrads learning about the different topics our students care about! It is kind of funny how a university who strives to be a leading voice in environmentalism and social change has millions of dollars invested in fossil fuels . . . I know of course, SFU made a three year divestment plan, but . . .  still.

Joy Johnson

Pronouns: she, her, hers



Day 8

Sorry again for the delay in communication. Someone I was sitting next to in class kept coughing and I just had to go get a COVID-19 test. I get that there’s supposed to be this fancy ventilation system in place but — honestly — I don’t know if I trust it.

— Joy Johnson 



Day 9

I’ve noticed the parking rates here are a little on the expensive side. It shouldn’t cost more to park at a place where I’m supposed to be getting an education than it does at Stanley Park, should it?

— Joy


Day 11

Found the most delightful little coffee shop off the mountain to study at! It’s so nice to just get out sometimes, I feel like I need that more. The shop’s pretty expensive though so I just buy a brewed tea every three hours lol.

— JJ


Day 14

Literally just got told by Health and Counselling that I should try “sleeping more” for my anxiety. When I said that didn’t seem to help they looked me in the eye and said “maybe it’s not working because you don’t want it to work.” WHAT!?


Day 16



Day 17

Editor’s Note: It was on Day 17 President Johnson’s “undercover student” campaign ceased due to ethical concerns expressed by the SFU psychological research community. Her last communication confused SFU faculty and researchers alike, prompting their immediate action and her subsequent dropping of classes (tuition was not refunded). President Johnson’s final entry is as follows:

lol idk man SFU is sus as fuckk


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