This year, Arthur Newspaper is celebrating its 50th year. When Yumna and I were running for the position, we envisioned retrospective issues to highlight the different stages the paper has gone through. We were big fans of previous co-editor’s Matt and Pat’s initiative This Issue in History to highlight Arthur’s past. When we started the position, it was a real treat to pour over the old issues spanning the 1960’s to the late 1990’s. When we interviewed Stephen Stohn in Issue 4, we asked him if he had heard of Trent’s controversial move to sell off the downtown colleges. It turns out he was not made aware of this until our discussion.
In my interview with John Muir and Jill Staveley, we discussed Trent’s identity and how we have to keep re- telling our history to the new generation of incoming Trent Students. Students are often unaware that not only were there colleges downtown, but student housing and a whole culture of which only fragments remain. Over the weekend I attended John Muir’s sixtieth birthday at Sadleir House. It was a lively coming together of a community rarely seen on campus anymore. Some, or most of you, may not know who this great man is, but have most likely heard his beautiful deep voice over the airwaves of Trent Radio. You might not even know who Tom Symons is, or Bonnie Patterson. That is why we reprinted some of these stories from old copies of Arthur, to give you context to the discussion at Trent University and the student voice.
When I came to Trent six years ago, I was an off- res student. I had no idea the richness of this community that was around me at George and Parkhill, and it was a sad and lonely time for me. Disconnected from campus and college life, I was one of those kids you hear about having retention issues. Though I sometimes wish I could have experienced the enthusiasm of our great colleges, it gave me a unique perspective on the Trent experience.
I only knew about Trent’s history because a Traill College student named Meghan Kelly led an alternative tour.
During the tour she told us that people were waiting for Traill students to graduate and move on, and forget about Traill. However, that didn’t happen. Though it is a concern among students who love the College that it is being forgotten about financially, and that it will be left to crumble, there is a life at this little college on the hill that is quite different than that at main campus. Trent University is undergoing various structural changes. Arthur is not as radical as it once was, and though we remain critical of things, we acknowledge the administration has good intentions.
The restructuring of the Colleges has been a controversial topic. Some say it’s old news, but really, it’s too soon to tell if the changes that were made are effectively engaging students the way Academics once used to by managing the Colleges. The part- time positions faculty once held have now been replaced by full- time administrators. College Secretaries have been replaced with eight student interns per college on minimum wage salaries. Already, as one can see in Betty Wondimu’s article, we can catch a glimpse at how this shift in power is affecting the Colleges at an internal level.
The question to be asked in light of the new Student Centre is, were we asked what our money should be used for? Reba Harrison discusses the problematic vote of 13%, but as highlighted in the old issues, this has been an ongoing struggle at Trent University. In a conversation with Steven Pillar, Vice President of Finance and Administration at Trent, I learned that the Student Centre was mostly paid for with levy fees. $10.5 million to be exact, with Trent University making up the rest in $4.5 million dollars.
At my time with the Trent Central Student Association, I remember this being an initiative that was by students for the students. Now, there is classroom space designated in the Centre. The TCSA will probably get a nice office, but my hope is that other student groups will get the space they deserve as well. That will, of course, be seen once it’s built, and that is the whole point of this thing; being a Student Centre. When asked about the $50 million
campaign that was on the poster for the Student Centre Gift announcement, Pillar spoke to the various initiatives this money will go towards.
Reorienting some space within Bata Library, and fixing the skylight and expansion in Durham in Oshawa was mentioned. When asked if any of this money would be designated for Traill College, the answer was, “No. Currently, there is no money in the budget at Traill as it is going under review this year.”However, not allotting a single penny of this campaign to Traill College is problematic for several reasons. Sure, it’s going under review this year, but it’s still open. This College generates only $200,000 in revenue, with no graduate fees set in place to sustain itself the way other
Colleges on main campus are able to.
We are focusing on all these areas of Trent’s development, and are even offering a $500 scholarship to incoming Humanities students. This is a wonderful initiative that I wholeheartedly support.Enrolment is one issue to spend
resources on, but what about retention? The funding allocation to the Humanities, as depicted in our department articles, reveal what incoming students are in for when they want to enrol in that amazing waitlisted film course, for example. In order for the Humanities to thrive, we need more in the budget for just tables and chairs. Many people may not know this, but York University has a college system. It’s so weak that it’s practically unheard of. Due to the provincial funding model, we are moving further away from being a small Liberal Arts University to chase dollars and cents, and increase our enrollment.
Dalhousie, Acadia and Mount Allison are all small Universities that have thrived in being leaders of quality education. Trent needs to recognize its identity, and promote it. We aren’t an overcrowded big- city degree machine. We stand at #3 in Undergraduate Research in the country. Trent University is caught between two visions; the vision of Tom Symons, and the vision of Bonnie Patterson. It’s up to us, the student body and administration, to figure out who it is we’re going to be.
The challenges of relying on public funding are certainly daunting, but we have the potential to be known for just what Professor Hodges (Chair of English and Cultural studies) hopes,“the best Humanities Undergraduate
Institution in Ontario, and why not?”