Traill College is under review. Again. And they want students to be involved – but not really.
If the university administration and the external reviewer, Dr. Tindale, really wanted student voices to be heard, they would put a little more effort than they have so far into making the review an inclusive process. Simply providing an e-mail at the bottom of a lengthy and vague article about the review is unacceptable.
If student voices were really as important to this review as President Groarke writes, well, there may have been more than an email address in Arthur.
There may have been an announcement on blackboard or a survey through qualtrics. There may have been a safe space for students to talk about Traill. But there was none of this. Because the reality of this review is that student voices are welcome – but not really.
I went to the trouble of finding the email at the bottom of President Groarke’s article to ask to be included in the feedback process for the review. The questions I received are financial and operational, and include nothing about the historical value of Traill or its importance to student life and the Trent Community.
Here are the “feedback questions” and my answers. Lets hope Dr. Tindale is reading.
1. What Kind of College Should Traill be?
Traill should be the kind of college that gets the merit, respect, and publicity that it deserves. Traill should be the kind of college that celebrates its history and its traditions, because as Trent University’s first and oldest college, it has a lot of that. Traill should continue to be the kind of college that embodies what Trent used to stand for: A small, inclusive, liberal arts university.
Traill should be the kind of college that appears in all of Trent University’s view-books, that is included in orientation week and Trent University college events, that is portrayed as an integral part of Trent University, rather than something students stumble upon when they have a class in the little known Bagnani Hall. Traill should be the kind of college that students – not Dr. Tindale or the university administration – want it to be.
2. If Traill were to be a more traditional college, how should it operate?
A more traditional college? What does that even mean. And how should a university operate? Well, you prioritize student life, education, student spaces.
Trent is supposed to be a public, educational institution – a building block – and it should operate as such. Lately, it has been operating as a corporation.
Should the position of Principal at Traill be a position which assumes academic credentials and highlights academic programming and pursuits? Yes, we are at university, shouldn’t all colleges be like that?
How could faculty be integrated into college teaching, both formally and informally? Have more classes at Traill. House more academic departments at Traill. Hire more full-time faculty. Go back to having faculty reside in colleges.
3. How can Traill’s budget issues be resolved?
Well, first, learn to allocate budgets. One of the main financial issues that Traill College faces is deferred maintenance. Deferred maintenance is the result of a lack of proper administration of funds towards Traill College.
Deferred maintenance is not a problem generated by Traill College, but by the university’s administration and budgeting allocation mechanisms. Clearly, Traill has not been a priority in the past, and this is reflected in the deferred maintenance issues that it faces today.
Additionally, President Groarke identifies the issue of college ancillary fees, and notes that graduate students pay $15, while undergraduate students pay $274. Trent transfers funds from undergraduate college ancillary fees towards Traill College; a process that President Groarke notes is not a fair or viable model.
What is an unfair and unviable model is that undergraduate students cannot freely choose to affiliate themselves with Traill College. With 8000 undergraduate students, each paying $274, colleges at Trent receive approximately $2,000,000 in ancillary fees. Funding Traill should not be a problem.
4. Is Traill a successful Trent connection to downtown Peterborough?
I don’t know, but shouldn’t this be a question for downtown businesses and community members?
Traill is the last of Trent University that remains in downtown Peterborough, after Peter Robinson was shut down in a similar process and the Champlain Annex was relocated. If Traill is not currently a strong connection to downtown, then make it one. Host university and community events at Traill.
Host career fairs at Traill. Make Traill an inclusive space. Connect Traill to downtown businesses, just as Lady Eaton College does to Black Honey. Make Traill Trent’s downtown hub. These connections don’t just happen, they are made.
If we are to answer administrative and operative questions about Traill College, then maybe administration can provide us with answers to questions of our own: Why have maintenance fees been deferred for so long? Where do the university’s priorities lie? What will happen to Traill College if it is shut down? Have you ever heard of participatory budgeting? No? Maybe you should consider that.
And finally: What is your vision for the future (if there is one) of Traill College? How can Traill be saved?
Remember: Trent wants you to have a voice in this review – but not really.