The Trent University community is certainly no stranger to bureaucratic mismanagement, controversy, and general administrative unpleasantness.
From the fiasco that was the 2002 closure of Peter Robinson College, to the widely unpopular conversion of Traill College from am undergraduate to graduate college, to the recent ordeal of the Water Street private residence, no one can blame Trent students, faculty, and community members for harbouring a well-founded cynicism towards administrative regimes and their plans.
This is why it is crucial that the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) not follow in the footsteps of former university president Bonnie Patterson and work diligently and continuously to make sure that the new student centre is a project that accurately reflects the desires and aspirations of the student body at large. To date this has not been done.
The referendum on the student centre happened at the end of the 2012/2013 academic year. Following this logic, half the students who would have voted for this project are no longer even at Trent. And since that time the TCSA has made little effort to inform students about the frequent changes, setbacks, and issues that have plagued this project virtually since day one.
Last week in this space, I noted that there are still many important questions that remain unanswered with regards to the student centre proposal. However, the most important question of all is: does the student body still want to proceed with this project?
This is not just few dollars here or there, rather, we are talking about more than $10 million of levy money that will be charged directly to Trent undergrads over the next thirty years. The student body at large deserves to be well informed of all the details of this proposal before it is taken to the Trent board of governors for approval.
The recent TCSA annual general meeting, at which President Braden Freer delivered a brief update on the project, should by no means be mistaken for an instance of meaningful consultation.
The meeting was poorly publicized, it just barely scraped by the minimum quorum restrictions, and every single member in the room was either directly affiliated with the TCSA board of directors or was covering the meeting for this newspaper.
The TCSA executive has a responsibility to find out whether they still have the broad support of their members for this project before taking it any further.
During the general meeting, Freer said that the union would not go ahead with the proposal if it was met with widespread resistance within the membership. However, how can there be any semblance of meaningful debate, let alone resistance, if many (if not most) current students aren’t even aware of the issue in the first place?
Last year, the Trent administration, aided by the TCSA leadership, undertook a comprehensive and thorough process of community consultation in the run up to selecting a bidder for the university’s foodservice contract.
In this case, the TCSA should follow the administration’s example and be sure that it is still acting out the wishes of the student body.
Meaningful community consultation is crucial so that this project avoids becoming just another chapter in the history of Trent University’s recent bureaucratic misadventures.