Re: Duc Hien Nguyen’s letter last week:
Though I know you to be a hard working student, who probably has more of a workload to handle with being a student Senator, the facts you presented are problematic for many reasons. The representation you and Cabinet members provide in this process are questionable in this context, and this response is not only directed at you but all those that share the responsibility of representing Trent students.
When you say that there has been a “process of consultation” and criticize the author of the article for not researching the facts correctly, there is a failure to mention that these consultations take place behind closed-door meetings. All Senate meeting minutes are available to students, but Board of Governors meetings are not accessible at all. This is an issue that has been raised before in Arthur and indicates the impossibility of seeing just how we are represented by these Official Student Representatives.
This article strongly condemning this lack of clarity, and personally as a student that is “represented” by you, by Cabinet members, I have yet to see any efforts to make clear the nature of Trent’s Strategic Management Agreement. The fact of the matter is, if you look at the current document it calculates Humanities students as making up a significantly large population of Trent University, a Liberal Arts school. To make statements such as “Our enrollment, especially in humanities courses, is not enough to be financially sustainable” is not representative of that body of students.
Neither are other problematic areas that are presented in the SMA, specifically regarding Trent’s International Students. The document aims to treat internationals as cash cows, offering acceptance to richer countries that can afford the new price tag that comes along with us becoming “financially sustainable.” These students are being represented by the same people who helped raise tuition fees this year during votes held at these meetings, and part of the reason we pay the highest tuition in Trent’s history.
In regards to representing us students, how is it that our concerns have been brought forward to the administrators by you representatives, if they have been at all? 71 comments on how we disagree with the differentiation process certainly aren’t doing that sitting on Dr. Franklin’s desk. With factors to consider such as language barriers, and a pure lack of clarification on the vague document, how are those students even being included in the discussion at all? How have the diverse groups of international students at Trent who come from different economies been included in these consultations?
I guess the truth is, I agree with you. We should be lobbying the Ontario Government about this, and approaching private sectors and whatnot, but we can’t do that if our own administration won’t take a stance against this. Another fact you failed to mention is that a student has not once, but twice approached the TCSA to have an open dialogue with the President, Provost and Administration about the SMA. Last semester the issue was brought forward to the Student Union and quashed with complete resistance. The reasons given were that Trent students are apathetic, and that if the open forum were to be held no one would show up. Even though there was a petition online with 100 signatures, and a mass of students who desired this conversation, planning parties has taken the center stage for campus initiatives.
The issue was brought up again at the last TCSA meeting on January 12, no longer as something we had nothing to worry about. This time it was addressed as problematic to marginalized students and difficult to understand. And when the open forum discussion was revisited, requests to make the SMA easier to understand, it was met with a response that it would only raise questions that the TCSA wouldn’t be able to answer.
So a student union, that is supposed to represent those that cannot represent themselves, has actively stalled this process until it was past the tight timeframe the MTCU provided. And where students only found out about the Green Paper process in November, these student representatives have known about it much longer. These requests were not even proposed to make TCSA, Senate and Cabinet responsible for explaining the document, but to make administration accountable for what they are saying. By opening up a dialogue an explanation can be provided to those students whose identities are not being represented.
Who on Earth do I ask?
As a Trent student, over your years here of obtaining and working towards that ever-coveted degree, I’m sure there are some questions that will arise. Why do we have an extra reading break? Why do our marks get released so late? What on earth is the Strategic Mandate Agreement and why does it affect me? No matter the question you have, there is undoubtedly someone on campus with the answers. The issue is figuring out who that person may be.
A good place to start is your college cabinet. Those people that plan formal and other college events? Yes, them. There are positions on cabinet that many people are not aware of because they are more entrenched in the government side of student government. These positions include the TCSA Commissioner, Junior and Senior Treasurers, and Junior and Senior Senators, among others.
A recent article published in Arthur entitled “The Strategic Mandate Agreement: A Misrepresentation of Trent’s True Identity?”, although well-intended, was not completely well- informed. Mishaps such as these could be avoided in the future if students knew where to go to get the answers to their questions. Have a question about clubs and groups funding? Contact your colleges’ Junior or Senior Treasurer! Have a question about formal? Contact your college’s social reps! Have a question about the SMA or anything else political? Contact your college’s Senators.
Each cabinet has a Facebook page, website, blog, or some other social media tool to get their voice heard. Each college cabinet also has a college office and office hours that are designated for students to come in and ask questions. The TCSA also plays a huge role in student government at Trent, and they have their contact information and office hours readily available for any student who wishes to talk with them. Even President Steven Franklin has office hours that go underused by students, simply because they don’t know that these hours are available to them.
Below is a quick diagram I drew up to help describe the incredible amount of student participation in Trent’s governing body. It is important for students to know there are people who are here to help you and answer any questions you may have. You just need to know where to find us.
– Rachel Arseneault