Growing up in a largely rural country like Canada gives the average bumpkin unique experiences and a general appreciation for the outdoors and the pristine, untouched-by-settler-Canadians environment around us. This appreciation manifests itself in our consciousness through memories. From charging through the woods, imaginary bows and arrows drawn, fighting off the forces of evil and cementing lifelong friendships; to that winter hike all those years ago, where someone – who was at some point your everything – sat bathed in the light of a brisk December morning, surrounded by boughs of cedar and falling snow, and told you they loved you. The words that gave you new purpose physically left their body and imbued you with a warmth which would reach deep into your soul and the natural beauty around us emphasizes the moments which we hold dear to our hearts and souls. Does this deeply emotional connection between the environment and our personal lives mean we should take better care of the world around us in hopes of giving the same experiences to future generations? Is protecting these pristine, life-affirming parts of the world something we should strive for together in hopes of ultimately saving a planet whose doomsday clock is currently running out? Shit no.
This topic surfaces, in part, from Trent University’s land development plans intended to expand the beautiful, grey concrete world which thousands of students call home. The development project includes a long-awaited arena complex intended to finally give Trent’s widely-acclaimed varsity teams a place to play and “sport it up.” Our university’s proud and longstanding athletic tradition has finally been honoured, and the ghosts of old varsity hall-of-famers can finally stop wandering the corn fields around campus.
The ground-breaking ceremony this past Thursday saw a record turnout at the edge of the soon-to-be bulldozed wetlands, where Board member Julie Davis, Vice President of External Relations and Advancement, flanked by the university Board of Governors, cut the ceremonial ribbon, opening the public to this new Soviet-era style development site. Before the press conference and subsequent opening ceremony, the university executive and Board adorned in the finest silks and fogging their monocles with smoke from comically oversized cigars, began the customary process of opening the development site by surrounding a large dollar sign etched into the ground. Restoration students were offered an internship to carve out the dollar sign in the soil, however President Groarke became amused with the task and began doodling little Excalibur swords alongside. From there, they proceeded to slaughter various threatened and endangered species to appease the gods of profit and neoliberalism. Beginning with the elusive Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) and working their way up to the nests of the Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), the blood of these loser animals flowed across the backfill pile. The group of overpaid and underworked officials then proceeded with the traditional “crushing,” in which they pounded back cans of Bud Lite and chanted “We’re a green school, we’re a green school” in a rugby-like scrum position.
When asked to comment, Director Stephen Kylie stated, “The school recently became recognized as in the top 100 green schools internationally, so we figured we had a little bit of wiggle room to work with.”
“You should like, totally see our announcement on Friday. Wenjack Theatre, don’t be late broski,” he continued, sticking a large cigar in his mouth and lighting it with a freshly ignited branch from a Butternut tree.
The following day I joined a plethora of people in waiting for a surprise announcement detailing the university Board of Governors’ decision to fast-track the construction of an oil pipeline running directly through Symons’ campus, bringing much needed progress and revenue to an institution which spent $18 million on an excessively underwhelming library renovation project. Preceding the announcement with a land acknowledgment, the Board announced their decision to quickly approve the pipeline without the consent of local Indigenous communities whose traditional territory the project would be gracing with its awesome, inspiring, and deeply progressive presence. Adorning bright blue T-shirts with the phrase “progress over feelings” stitched underneath an image eerily similar to that of the Major League Baseball team from Cleveland, Ohio, the Board members sat there, illuminated by candlelight, chanting Nos Autem Viridi Ludum, loosely translating to “We are a green school.” In the corner, President Groarke simply muttered “Neoliberal” in a low, confused tone before being chided by the rest of the Board members for being too loud.
The spectacle ended with yet another surprise announcement, in which the Chanie Wenjack Theatre was to be renamed the Rogers Reconciliation Theatre™. When asked to comment, the Board members simply looked me in the eye and “pounded some brewskies” while the President played with his ring of keys, seemingly unaware and at ease with his utter complicity.
What do these changes and projects mean for the reputation of our green, Indigenous-friendly university? The illusion of progression and unproblematic “modernization” at the expense of the two things which Trent University is known for seems to have turned off a lot of students, who are showing a shocking amount of disloyalty to the all-powerful institution and its infinite wisdom. To this, the Board of Governors unrolled two large banners, draped over either side of the Faryon Bridge, emblazoned with a large middle finger and, yet again, the words “progress over feelings” underneath, written in both English and Anishinaabemowin. The days of intense partying amongst those involved in the development project have yet to show any sign of relenting, and the death toll is rising.