Arthur recently published three articles about TUEFRT on January 30, February 13, and February 27, initiating an important public discussion. After reading Arthur’s first article, I felt compelled to do my own research on the issue. As an older undergraduate student majoring in Indigenous Studies and Psychology, and who has been a member of the Trent community since 2009, I believe I can offer a valuable perspective to this ongoing discussion about TUEFRT, and Trent’s levy-groups. This piece will address the important questions and concerns at the heart of this discussion as well as Arthur’s handling of the matter, using facts, a sprinkle of anecdotal experiences, and knowledge that comes from a decade of membership in the Trent community. Hopefully my contribution helps frame this discussion as it moves forward.
There is no doubt that Arthur’s exposé has been valuable. Throughout my lifetime, I have been subjected to hazing, sexual harassment, peer pressure, and the aftermath: anxiety and depression. Coping has been incredibly difficult. In her letter to the editor, Nona acknowledges that hazing is not uncommon, but it takes courage to report or address it. The same can be said about sexual harassment, peer pressure, and mental health. This becomes especially true when combined with trying to successfully transition into university and balancing academic achievement while pursuing meaningful extracurricular opportunities. Initially, the thought of reaching out can feel overwhelming, but as Trent students, we are fortunate to have a myriad of options provided to us by the university or by Trent’s student-run, levy-funded organizations. I urge readers to access these resources if they, or someone they know, are experiencing such difficulties.
Before continuing, I want to share some important facts on my position as the author of this piece. I am not, nor have I ever been a member of TUEFRT. My affiliation with them is my unsuccessful attempt to join the team during their January 2019 try-outs. Additionally, I would like the reader to understand that what follows is not written with the intention of diminishing the good that has come from Arthur’s exposé, or to disregard the importance, or severity, of the experiences shared. Since elements of the exposé made claims contrary to my experiences, I felt compelled to do some research.
The January 30 article makes claims about TUEFRT’s website, inadequate response times, and lack of governance. According to Wayback Machine, an online internet archive, TUEFRT’s “About Us” page included an explanation of the NCCER acronym as of November 4, 2017. TUEFRT confirmed that this information was not removed from the page before the claim was published. The January 30 article reported that a Trent student experienced a 40 minute wait; TUEFRT’s official response acknowledged this occurrence, however, that represents less than 1% of the 270 to 300 emergency medical response calls, on average, that TUEFRT handles each year. Furthermore, a governing board has been in place since 2005, and TUEFRT must submit yearly financial reports to Trent’s Finance Department in order to receive their levy funding reports. Trent Finance makes these reports available upon request. There was no need to estimate TUEFRT’s funding.
The February 13 article suggests that TUEFRT is not open to all students, that it actively removes members who are not Science or Nursing majors, and that, after these people are removed, they only care about liability, citing a former responder’s account. The fact is that TUEFRT’s try-outs are open to all students, but being a TUEFRT responder demands a particular skill set. After going through their try-outs, it is not surprising that a large proportion of successful applicants are Science majors. Also, my research revealed that anyone involved in the process of removing a responder from TUEFRT cannot share details of that proceeding without first obtaining the explicit consent of all the parties involved. So, despite my efforts, I could not verify the claim made in the article. It is important to stress the massive liability presented by a potential abuse of key cards. This presents a liability that concerns the entire Trent community. I feel it is necessary to offer those considerations regarding the claims published on February 13.
Even after TUEFRT’s publication of their official response, the February 27 article questions TUEFRT’s financial practices, claims TUEFRT is mostly nursing students, that they pose a threat to our community, and that TUEFRT fails to adequately take responsibility. When it comes to finances, if you do not have an emergency fund, I encourage you to calculate three to six months of your expenses and save that amount over the next one to three years. I am glad to see TUEFRT have rolled their emergency fund into following years, instead of spending emergency funds for the sake of it. Also, team-building exercises are a common practice of many organizations, so I am not concerned that $1 600, or $0.22 of my levy, is used for team building. The February 27 articles portrays these team-building activities as solely entertainment. However, I learned that the 2018-19 TUEFRT (who, by the way, are only 24% Nursing students), also conduct training simulations during some of their team-building events, like laser-tag. This is in addition to TUEFRT’s mandatory monthly training sessions, the courses new responders must complete, and their academic obligations.
Finally, the February 27 article claims that TUEFRT did not take adequate responsibility or accountability. My research suggests otherwise. There are limits to how organizations can respond to the events Arthur’s exposé sheds light on. Great lengths are being taken to address concerns related to an official complaint filed in September 2018, and those brought forward by Arthur’s January 30, February 13, and February 27 articles. Yes, seeing results of these changes takes time, and I am confident we will see the desired result.
I cannot speak to its veracity TUEFRT is “a threat.” However, I offer some thoughts on what TUEFRT does for Trent, and what I believe they will continue to do moving forward. Every time TUEFRT hosts try-outs, members of the Trent community receive a refresher course on basic elements of first aid, or complete a standard first aid course. These courses are enhanced by applicants’ participation in three to nine simulated medical emergencies. The refresher course is free and, if an unsuccessful applicant wishes to retain their certification, the standard first aid course only costs $38. I doubt this enhanced first aid training is widely available to the public, especially at such a low cost. Also, at least in my case, I take the skills, knowledge, and experiences of trying out for TUEFRT everywhere that I go. In one case from 2012, found in the Trent Magazine, a local woman was able to say goodbye to their father after he was involved in a fatal car crash. That final farewell would not have been possible without the swift actions of TUEFRT and Trent Nursing students who just happened to be nearby. I believe those are examples of what TUEFRT does for the Peterborough/Nogojiwanong community.
That being said, the February 27 article claims that turnover is part of TUEFRT’s methods for dealing with their culture. Turnover is an objective reality facing these types of organizations. Answering for the transgressions of past members is not easy. I am confident Arthur understands this because, according to a January 2017 article, it is in the process of eliminating a debt incurred by former staff, a debt that had grown to almost $60 000. Even my four-year-old niece knows that people living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
So where do we go from here?
Arthur’s exposé did some good things related to TUEFRT and their current practices. Yet my research suggests that their articles contained factual errors, misrepresentations, and failures in adhering to their own policies. I believe that the publication of this article shows that Arthur is willing to take responsibility for, to acknowledge, and to learn from their mistakes, and that — although they are not perfectly analogous — TUEFRT’s response to these articles shows the same.
Both of these groups represent two of the many experiential learning opportunities available to Trent students. Unfortunately, thanks to the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), some of those opportunities may not be available at Trent next year. Even though we can only speculate on how the SCI may change life at Trent, it is important to appreciate how important our levy groups are. Please keep in mind that while your support of levy groups may not benefit you directly, it helps provide educational, employment, and social opportunities for Trent students.
I told you there was a twist.