Letter to the Editors, Volume 53 Issue 7: “Trent: A Liberal University”

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash.

Trent: A Liberal University

I am writing in response to an article written in the Arthur that identifies Trent University as an institution plagued by neoliberalism – going as far to compare policies implemented by the University’s administration to those implemented by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Might I just say that as a scholar of the negative fallout of neoliberal economic policies, and an individual invested in postsecondary education in the country, how abysmally wrongheaded this article is.

According to Maclean’s Magazine, Trent University is the #1 institution in the country for the provision of financial aid, in spite of a net increase in students. This has been the case for the previous 18 years in a row. This is not neoliberalism.

While I do not fully agree with the location and development of the twin-pad arena, this is the policy of the city of Peterborough. After consultation with various local stakeholders, including the Otonabee Region Conservation Authority, Trent agreed to transfer the land to the city. The students of Trent University were consulted at that time. Since then, President Leo Groarke and Trent have had nothing to do with this development.

Again, this is not neoliberalism.

Trent’s enrollment has grown significantly over the past number of years, and as a result, so to has its requirement for teachers at the institution. In response to the rising number of required faculty, but while also being budget conscious, Trent has established the position of Senior Lecturer, to reduce the precarity of contractual lecturer positions while recognizing the qualifications required of an individual to teach University students.

This is not neoliberalism.

Trent’s enrollment has grown most significantly at Trent University’s Durham campus. This is a campus with smaller per-capita class sizes than at Trent’s Symons campus, and a campus where the majority of the degrees being offered are in social sciences and the humanities. Trent has also recently gone public with plans to grow this campus, and continue this teaching philosophy and growth in these program areas.

Trent Durham is growing faster than Trent Symons. Again, this is not neoliberalism.

Lastly, Trent’s executive have taken a 0% wage increase year-over-year for the last 2 contractual periods of negotiation, while wage increases have been negotiated with Unions present at Trent University. President Groarke’s salary is in accordance with what is mandated by the provincial government, and ensures Trent University remains a competitive institution with qualified leadership.

Not to mention, President Groarke is listed in numerous places as a donor and supporter of Trent University, and he’s stick-handled the development of campus spaces like the Student Centre (in tandem with the TCSA), the Bata Library Renewal (in tandem with the government), the planned Trent Durham GTA expansion, the revitalization of Trent’s colleges, and so much more.

In my view, President Groarke is underpaid.

Finally – YES. Tuition is far too expensive. It should absolutely be free. Unfortunately, Trent’s tuition prices are tied to provincial government funding, which has not increased in accordance with how expensive education is. And unfortunately, the provincial government does not provide per-student funding for international students, in spite of how exorbitantly expensive tuition fees are. Finally, and just as unfortunately, the government is not doing enough to support the student housing crunch being felt across university communities throughout Ontario.

There is no universe in which President Groarke would ever support a cut in government funding, because that would mean a spike in tuition costs (leading to reductions in enrollment) as well as increased financial burden on the students of Trent. His article was written in support of the cancellation of these campuses, I’d imagine, because he wants to protect the current funding levels when the current provincial government is at risk of cutting funds.

Again – NONE of these things are neoliberal on Trent’s behalf. We are absolutely feeling the effects of Neoliberalism when it comes to how our province is being governed, and Leo Groarke is doing a fantastic job of advocating on behalf of the entire Trent Community, students included, when it comes to trying to keep education accessible and affordable – while also trying not to piss off our hot-headed Premier.

Trent is, has been, and will continue to be, a very much Liberal institution.

A Concerned Alumnus

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