Trent’s external reviews: TCSA and the student voice rises up

The following is a letter I sent to President Groarke on Dec. 17, 2015:

Dear Pres. Groarke,

I am writing to you because of growing concerns that myself, the TCSA and students have about the external reviews the university is conducting this academic year: internationalization, retention and Traill College.

These review committees consist of an outside member, faculty and staff, but are missing a very key player: a student. If the university is going to be taking direction from the recommendation of these review committees, it is imperative that a student be present to represent our voice. No one can better reflect what is actually happening on our campus than a student who experiences Trent University first-hand.

In regards to the review on internationalization, it is especially important that an international student be involved in this conversation. International students face many barriers unknown to those who do not experience similar circumstances, which is why their particular voice is needed at the table.

As you already know, the TCSA has been lobbying for our international students as they are heavily burdened by rising tuition fees, and we want to make sure this concern stays at the forefront of the committee’s mind when looking at international programing. Excluding international students from this process is exceptionally damaging to the relationship between international students and the university.

In regards to the review on retention, it is quite obvious to me that students have the best ideas as to why we may choose to stay at, or leave, Trent University. We experience the various struggles of post-secondary institutions such as tuition fees, housing and connection to student life, mental health, availability of campus supports and services, etc. Just as the retention committee has a wide range of student voices at the table to help improve Trent’s retention rate, we should also have a voice at the table during the retention review.

I would also like to echo the concerns our Vice President of University and College Affairs, Pippa O’Brien, brought up about a single individual being responsible for the review of Traill College. As a former colleague of yours, regardless of his previous involvement as a student of Traill College, this review is far from the level of transparency and credibility that students expect and deserve. We highly urge you to reconsider your decision and involve a student on the review committee.

I hope we can sit down together some time before Dec. 22, to speak about these issues, as I do not want this review process to be taking place without student voice while we are away for the winter holiday.


Alaine Spiwak


President Leo did meet with O’Brien and myself to address our concerns, but ultimately he decided to remain with a single external reviewer and not further incorporate students into these reviews.

The TCSA is passionate about including students in these review processes as external reviews are taken very seriously by both the president and the Trent Board of Governors.

We may be comforted by hearing that no decisions can be made without all the usual decision making processes, but these usually happen at the Trent Board of Governors meetings, out of reach of students in closed session.

Students: time to have your voice heard! As you may already know, the TCSA is facilitating a student-led review of Traill College, but now we are also launching a student-led review of internationalization.

Our hope is to compile student feedback/ideas and not only bring them to each external reviewer, but have student recommendations ready for when the external review results reach the Trent Board of Governors.

The internationalization student-led review will be facilitated as a chapter of our Fairness for International Students Taskforce. The next Fairness for International Students Taskforce meeting is Feb. 26 at 1p.m. in the LEC Pit.

If you cannot make the meeting but would still like to be involved, please contact Boykin Smith at

If you are interested in volunteering for the Traill Review taskforce, please email Pippa O’Brien at or contact any of the college cabinets.

Also, please keep an eye out for our online survey about Traill College that we will be circulating through Cabinet newsletters and on social media.

The reviews launched by Pres. Groarke this year will no doubt result in changes around the university. Let’s make sure students voices are heard on these very important topics.