College Cabinets: What Are They, and What Do They Do?

Photo of Trent University by Horace Ng.

In an effort to keep in line with some classic Arthur traditions, as you have probably already noticed, in this issue we are focusing in our Trent’s sometimes mysterious college systems. We all know their names — Champlain, Lady Eaton, Otonabee, and our newest member, Gzowski college — and we hang our affiliated flags high while at Trent. However few students actually take the time and ask, what do they college cabinets really do?

This prompted Arthur to reach out and ask a few leading questions such as what does the college cabinet structure look like; how do they work; what they actually do for students; and how can you can get on a college cabinet yourself? In order to do this, Arthur met up with the two-time Gzowski college senior treasurer and third-year business student Danielle Mills in order to get some answers on how the colleges work.

“Cabinet is essentially each College’s branch of student government. We are groups of elected or appointed students meant to represent the voice of students within the college to Trent Central Student Association (TCSA), admin, and faculty, while also providing funding for Clubs and Groups and running events throughout the year.”

Mills went on to explain some more aspects of the inner workings of college cabinets, stating how cabinet members attend committees throughout the institution that deal with everything from food services, to the Colleges and Student Services Committee, to Board of Directors meetings, academic-based Senate meetings, and more. If students have any issues with something happening at Trent, it is the colleges who encourage them to come to their respective Cabinet so that they are able to bring forth these issues and hopefully embark on the steps necessary to accomplish change they wish to see.

However, each Cabinet holds slightly different positions based on what each college has to offer its students. For example, Gzowski Cabinet has a representative from the Trent University Native Association (TUNA), who handles any issues that could be brought back to the other cabinet members to pursue, whereas Otonabee Cabinet has a Cultural Artist Representative. This is to better provide for the communities that tend to be more prominent in each college, but since many of these groups span across all colleges, any student may come to these kinds of representatives for those kinds of issues.

Despite minor differences, most Cabinets consist of the same core members: President (Prime Minister), Vice President (Deputy Prime Minister), Chair, Junior and/or Senior Treasurer, Junior and Senior Senators, an Environmental/Sustainability Representative, Athletic/Healthy Living Representatives, Senior Don, Social Representatives, First-year On-Campus and Annex Representatives, and Off-Campus Representatives, among other positions. In fact, Lady Eaton College is the only student government on campus to have a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, to embody the Canadian government in a Canadian University.

Being part of cabinet is a huge responsibility. The student representatives are voted to do exactly that – represent the students. The budget cabinets rely on is all student money that enables them to give back resources to students and to hold events that add to the collegiate university experience. Arthur also spoke with Lubna Sadek, former Arthur staff writer, who before joining the paper held a position on Champlain College Cabinet. Sadek shares her experience and the importance of Cabinet: “Being a part of Champlain College Cabinet was definitely an experience worth its while. I held the position of TCSA Commissioner, a position that allowed me to represent Champlain College on the TCSA board of directors, and represent the TCSA on Champlain College Cabinet. With my position I was able to sit on two student governments, being part of decisions that applied to the college of my affiliation, and the university as a whole.”

“What’s great about cabinet is that there’s a place for everyone, and as long as you do your part of the teamwork, know when to be more serious and to always have fun, you’re qualified,” Sadek continues. “It’s definitely a responsibility, one that you realize once you’re making votes that actually impact the student body. It requires budgeting wisely and thinking of how to maximize student’s benefit, not your individual happiness. You get to learn more about networking, how the university works, ‘behind the scenes’, if you will.”

“The positions require all sorts of interests, there is a media position, treasurer, senator, and each position can be a part of your academic, career or personal interest. When I was on Cabinet, a Mathematics major took the role of treasurer and thrived; our president was a psychology major like myself, but was interested in student affairs and was good at it. You can have any background, but meeting others with the same agenda of helping your university brings you together. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my favourite part of cabinet were two things. The first is experiencing more of what the collegiate university has to offer, the interdisciplinary exchange that you receive but in the form of a student government, debates and votes that require critical thought and knowledge, and motivation to create something bigger than just for yourself and your friends – for your community.”

As students hear about Cabinet, they have the choice to participate in one of two by-elections: one in the fall to fill in first-year spaces and any remaining positions, and one in the spring to prepare for the coming year. Nominations are usually announced to the college at large, and will be available for a set amount of time. Elections are then emailed to the college community via Qualtrics, and students then vote for whoever they choose to represent them. Anyone is welcome to join their college Cabinet, and all Cabinets are happy to help their community however they can. Even if you don’t wish to hold a position on Cabinet, voting is a crucial factor as these students are elected by you (if you’re a student)!

If this is something that you may be interested in, being a part of your college Cabinet is an excellent way to get involved at Trent, build references and experience for life after graduation, and also a great way to make some new friends within your college. If you’d like more information on the college cabinet systems, click here learn a little bit more about each.