The problem with the reformed college system is that no one is willing to address the elephant in the room: the transformation of the college system in Summer 2013 did not work. We gave it the benefit of the doubt last year, because, well, they were just getting settled. This year nothing has gotten better.
The main campus colleges have gone down a road that I do not know if they can come back from.
Being placed in the unfortunate position of working under Nona Robinson, these college heads are subjected to a significant amount of scrutiny; they are forced to adhere to watered-down, sedated, one-size-fits-all student engagement outcomes.
Robinson’s model aims to parent students – something that we all know does not bode well with 18 to 22 year olds. They were guided to plan academic events that were aimed to “improve your skills” or “help you with homework” … something a student does not need from its college office.
They threw money at learning outcomes, college macro-goals and lame events with low attendance – similar to a prostitute who aims to get work by wearing a sweat suit.
The only college that has succeeded at the reform is Champlain, and this is likely due to the fact that they are the only college with a college head that is not significantly close in age to its students. She knows how to forge a path given Robinson’s strict rules and uniform mandates (none of which are supported by actual students).
Melanie Sedge came into the role knowing she had big shoes to fill after Mike Alcott and she took these challenges in stride – this year she has grown into a great figurehead for Champlain.
Working for a long time with Trent Summer Sports Camp, Sedge already knew how to relate to similar-age individuals in a fun learning atmosphere. She understands students’ need for intelligent validation, and the fact that they are adults, requires planning events that reflect that: fun, outrageous and/or academically stimulating.
Through all this reform, Traill College has been the shining beacon of hope for the College System at Trent. The key thing here is that its position as a mainly graduate college means that its students do not consider themselves students – they consider themselves members of the academic community.
As soon as you decide to go into graduate work, you move from the realm of the undergraduate vocational track into the world of being an academic. Because of this transition, an academic college head presiding over this body of students is crucial.
If you place someone who has anything less than a PhD as head of Traill, students will laugh and scoff in their face.
This is the same for undergraduates who are members of Traill, since they are commonly upper-year students looking to join a more academically driven community. College dinners at Traill are commonly attended by academic fellows, professors, community members (for example, Founding President THB Symons, Mayor Daryl Bennett, and MPP Jeff Leal) and students, engaging in the 900-year-old tradition of interdisciplinary discourse.
In the 50’s when THB Symons was named Dean of Devonshire House at the University of Toronto, he was given a similar challenge to that of Michael Eamon at Traill.
At Devonshire, the collegiate environment had been spat on and disregarded, but Symons brought it back to fruition through the inclusion of faculty and community members in college activities. Eamon, over the last two years has brought new life to the Traill community – ask anyone who is a member and you will find out the same.
A truly collegial community cannot be fabricated by college programs or company mandates, and Eamon has created and revitalized this perfect type of community at Traill College. This is what is possible in an academic community run by an equally academic and passionate individual.
Why should someone who has been a college head and principal for five years, devoting his life to studying “the collegiate way” (Chair of Collegiate Way International), possessing a PhD and chair of the Heritage Committee at Trent, not be qualified to be the director of colleges at Trent?
It is simply organizational politics, meaning he did not fit with “the Nona Way,” something that should not sway the decisions moving forward in the case for colleges.
As the last two Directors of Colleges have been from larger universities, they have no idea the challenges that Trent faces as an institution, or its innate ability to welcome students just by being a close-knit community.
For example, the newest Director of Colleges, Stephanie Muehlethaler, mentioned in her acceptance release that she was excited for “the opportunity to help strengthen the four main campus colleges is truly an exciting one” … Is she that under-researched or naïve that she just forgot about Traill? Or does this imply subtly that Traill is not a part of the university’s future plan?
They are aiming to fit a triangular block into a square hole and they just keep hammering and hammering.
It is my hope that the right decision will be made regarding the future of the leadership at Catharine Parr Traill College – bringing a shining light to the glaring omissions in the services of the main campus colleges.