Editorial: a review of our own

Founded in 1964, Trent University is a relatively young campus. In such a short time, we are already going against the very foundations it was built upon: a strong college system, small group teaching, and an emphasis on the Liberal Arts.

A hub of academia with a downtown campus; the entire identity of Trent was well-known in Canada in its countercultural heyday.

As we enter the new year, there is a lot of change on the horizon for Trent University. Three major reviews are coming up that could shape the way things function here. The first is the external Traill Review, an announcement made in Arthur last week (Issue 13) by Trent University’s President, Dr. Leo Groarke. To even think of such a thing happening in the late ‘90s is an amusing thought, and we hope to shed some light on why that would have been through the reprints.

If you have been following the direction of Arthur in Volume 50, you may have noticed that we ran said reprints from the Bonnie Patterson era last semester. Knowing that Traill College was undergoing a review, it is a stark and wonderful comparison between where Arthur and Administration stand now that the downtown college conversation is resurfacing. The Trent International Program (TIP) and the looming student retention issue are also undergoing reviews this year.

Though we place an emphasis on Traill College, we do not want to become distracted by this one issue. I believe that Arthur should act as a fair representation of the community involving all of the upcoming reviews. Once we were flooded with feedback about the Traill review, it became obvious that the restructuring of the Colleges and the importance of a downtown college is inexplicably interconnected.

Very recently, the Colleges have been restructured in a way that goes against the concept Principal Tom Symons once envisioned. There was a time when College life was quite different. To get an idea about what Trent University was like during the 1960s and 1970s, one does not have to look far to see alumni who reside in town and are still active in various other community initiatives. The stories are incredible, and the tales of the parties alone are worth the envy.

In the summer of 2014, a long awaited change finally came to pass. College Heads would no longer be academics. Our professors were replaced with Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) employees, professional administration qualified in the areas of student services. Other student services were moved to the Colleges, and college secretaries were replaced with eight to eleven paid student interns. The procedure in which this change occurred at a structural level is still unclear to us, and Arthur will be investigating the University’s mechanisms to exact changes like these in the weeks to come.

This is because the same fate of procedure is sure to occur with the review of Traill College. In the outcome that Traill is deemed essential to Trent students, will it undergo the same restructuring that took place at the other four Colleges? Now, that is something that should make us really question what direction this review might take.

Upon interviewing several students, the feedback Arthur received had many comparisons to the restructuring of Colleges. Many attribute the success of Traill College and the engagement they feel towards it due to the strong academic vision of Principal Michael Eamon.

However, that is not for us to deem as an accurate portrayal of the College’s success. If you have an opinion you wish external reviewer Dr. Christopher Tindale to take into account, we will publish it.

Upon hearing about this review, many students began a movement of changing their college affiliation to Traill College. Though your student fees were already distributed by November of 2015, this move will send a clear message to Administration and Dr. Tindale, and we want students to know that it is an option, though it does not appear as one on the website when selecting your College. This is a technicality of Traill not being classified as an undergraduate college, therefore not collecting the fees other colleges benefit from. All of this information can be found in the allocation of funds in the college budget.

Many have also asked us to keep their names anonymous when speaking out about the college restructuring, to which we have this to say: We ensure that if you are at all worried about your position as a student being compromised at Trent University because of your opinion, we will absolutely protect you in having your voice heard in the paper. In an interview with one of the Trent Eight in this issue’s Feature, Ziysah discusses the protests surrounding the closure of Peter Robinson College (PR), a very lively campus of Trent University that was sold off in the most controversial move this University has ever made.

This move launched a lawsuit between Trent professors and the Board of Governors, which would determine the final say that students had in any decision-making at Trent University. In the interview, you will read about how all the students involved in the protests were simply trying to achieve fair representation in determining how this university operates. This has since been a question and remains one that we are still trying to answer to this day.

So, how did something as large and expensive as the Student Centre get approved for construction with such low votes from students who are footing the bill for all of this? Where are we when decisions such as re-structuring an entire college system that receives $1.6 million of pure student ancillary fees are made? How do students leaders feel about doing voluntary work that others now get paid to do due to the College’s restructuring?

These are all questions we ask in investigating the review process ourselves, because at the end of the day, you pay for more than just your classes when you go to Trent. You pay out of your own pocket for administrators to make these decisions for often twice the amount of money you pay your own professors. That is way too much money for administration to be earning from students to make decisions you are against. The University works for you- so, is it working for you?

At a time when students were asked what they would like to see changed in the College Head positions when Academics held them, we requested that those positions become full-time. Up until 2012, College Heads were half-time professors, doing the same amount of work that full-time administrators now do. We are, ourselves, academics. With fewer full-time teaching positions available today, that very position was taken away from our professors on the basis of a request we made: a desire to see them be paid adequately for doing a very difficult job. Currently, all OPSEU administrators that hold the position of College Head are paid full-time due to this request, with the exception of, you guessed it: Traill College. We are paving our own path as academics, and it is a bleak future in academia, my friends.

Now, a lot of people have asked me for my opinion. I would care more about the opinions of those that are subject to the structure of Trent University, and of alumni, as well as downtown businesses. However, to set an example of what we are even asking for, here is my opinion as follows:

My feedback for the Traill Review is that due to being an off-campus student, I never had much of a passion for college affiliation. I wish I did because it sounds like a lot of fun to be a part of a college in first year. After first year, there is a life downtown; a rich and vibrant life, a life that can be explored not only in this newspaper, but also many other publications in town. It is quite positively electric.

Traill College is vital in student retention, as students move downtown and fall in love with the vibrant scene here. I would argue that downtown Peterborough is why a lot of students choose to stick around. The relationship between a downtown university presence and local economic prosperity are co-dependent. The more students that rely on finding a job in town, the more expansion of businesses and employment occurs, and this is coming from someone who relied on having two part-time jobs downtown in order to survive life at Trent University.

Regardless, if you live downtown, there isn’t a shred of Trent around except at Traill, Sadleir House, and Trent Radio. It is a depressing and extraordinarily unfortunate thing, not just because there was once a vibrant community that bustled in and out of these buildings, but because at the end of the day, you need to hand in that paper.

That’s right. You need to go to the library, sit in a quiet building and do work, and you need to access the same printing options you have at main campus in order to hand in that environmental hazard. You can do this at the computer lab at Traill College, and here exists an extension of Trent University that makes more sense in terms of accessibility than re-situating a campus “downtown” at George and Simcoe where the Peterborough Public Library is.

There is a severe shortage of student spaces on campus, but these downtown spaces such as Traill and Sadleir exist for students and are often the most picturesque places to do critical thinking.  In the end, they don’t cost a fraction of what the colleges at main campus take from you.

What does that say about the success of Traill College? Ziysah makes another important point about PR being closed due to “deferred maintenance.” She made the point that we paid our student fees, but Trent did not use them to fix its problems – so you can’t say the reason why something is an issue is because you haven’t received money for it. English and Cultural Studies majors pay the exact same student and tuition fees as everyone else, so why does this College (Traill) not receive the same treatment as the revamping of Wenjack and Bata Library?

At the end of the day, it’s not about dollars and cents to us. We love Traill. The feeling cannot be quantified in a budget. We’re philosophers, idealists, artists. I was told that as the years go on, Trent students will only become more and more apathetic, which is why it was a surprise to us that this new generation of students are willing to fight for Traill, to change their affiliation, and if it comes to it, to go to battle for the College they have grown to consider home.

When President Tom Symons left the University, students protested him leaving. It was Trent’s very first protest. That didn’t mean it would change the outcome, but people did it anyway. You can do that, too.

Think the Student Centre should be downtown? It may be too late for that, the ship may have sailed, but you can fight for it. Because it’s yours, you paid for it. So, have your voices heard here in Arthur Newspaper, because it is here where you can surpass the bureaucracy within the system.