As the term of the incumbent Provost and Vice President, Academic nears it end, Trent is preparing itself to search for a successor.
The first step taken towards the search was the declaration of 13-member search committee. But, sooner than one would have expected under normal circumstances, it was opined that the search committee was not fairly representative by those few who were aware of the process.
The most obvious general demographic concern of the committee is that it is comprised of only two students, no student representative from Oshawa campus, and only three women.
“The search committee is not a fair representation,” said the President of the Trent Central Student Association, Braden Freer, who is also one of the student members for the search committee. He justified his statement by saying that the “Trent community is made up mostly of students, and it is also not a male dominant community, so on that alone it is not a fair representation.”
He would have liked to see more students on it; at least one more would have been nice. He said that argument did come up with the administration, but the justification he received from the administration was to look at provost search committee from other universities. For instance, one other university had one student and 20 other administrators.
According to him, it is easier to say that he has great relations with the president of the Trent Part time Student Association. It’s not that he doesn’t have great relations with the president of the Trent Oshawa Student Association (TOSA), but it is just that Oshawa is a 50 minute ride away from Peterborough. The schedules don’t mesh as much, and there is not as much synergy between what they are doing.
He agrees that the needs of part time and full time students are different, but they are closer than the needs of the Peterborough campus versus Oshawa campus.
Nevertheless he said that he can fairly represent students because of all the processes he had been involved at Trent in the past five years, and successfully having involved students in them.
“And also why I was elected, and what the president of the Graduate Student Association and I know is going to come with our positions,” will make them a fair enough representation.
In response to the small proportion of only three women representatives, he said if it is not too late to change the representation he feels like there should be a change. But he understands that it would be a mere response to it since it has already started, so definitely for the next provost search he recommends the need for more diversity in picking the members.
“Despite initial thoughts on the composition, President Groarke has done a wonderful job oh expanding the search committee to include as many areas as possible, and I look forward to the process,” emphasized Freer.
As a member of the search committee, the qualities he will look for in a candidate are that they recognize what Trent is, and where its strength lies, and where Trent has been strong in the past, but then also being able to balance working with the Ontario government. The ability and skill to say, “I am here not just to make money but to promote academia, free thought, research and inquiry for students,” and at the same time be able to say that Trent is going to get the money to be able to function will be the biggest thing on his mind.
In addition, someone who understands that even though traditional learning is a big chunk of post secondary education, the better part should be that students are able to explore their interests. And that has to be a key to all the programs Trent has.
Besides, it has to be someone who is also willing to engage and work with students, he added.
An anonymous graduate student who is not on the search committee said that the search committee for new Provost and Vice President, Academic, is not fairly representative. He feels that not everybody gets their voice heard, and for such an open process it seems pretty closed to him.
According to him, they did try to get a little bit broader, but they are still missing several really important groups of people or academic departments.
If Oshawa campus is a part of it, having only one representative and no student on committee is not fairly inclusive, he suggested.
The committee has two student representatives, but the question is how much do those two students actually represent everyone else.
It was suggested that it could have been more open so many more students could have their say. After all, the job of provost is primarily concerned with the academic affairs of the university for students.
“I don’t understand why it is not an open, transparent process,” stated the anonymous source.
Further, he commented that they don’t even know how the committee works and as such makes one even assume that the head might get to veto everybody and take all the power. “We don’t know how it works. It looks like it is a black box for something that important of a position which will affect the students,” he said.
So if their goal is to make sure that everyone’s interest and all the people that give money to the school are represented then “the committee is definitely not satisfactory enough,” and “it shows that they really don’t care about the students as much,” the source said.
A conversation with the incumbent Provost and Vice President, Academic, Dr. Gary Boire, shed a clear picture on how student benefit is the primary focus of the position. It made the situation more justifiable that there are not many student representatives as opined by those few.
“Any provost worth their salt, they’ve got to have one thing in their mind and that is they have to think about what is best for the students,” said Dr. Boire. And if one is divorced from that then maybe it is not the right job for them, he added.
Although he sees students very rarely and most of his work is with faculty members, “it is always about the students,” he said.
According to him, despite the general belief that the worst job in a university is to be the Provost, he thinks that it is the best job and also the most challenging job.
Even though he has to deal mostly with complaints, “Provost is an absolutely fascinating position because we are expected to see all different aspects of the university,” he said.
“I would hope that the new Provost listens very carefully to the existing stories of the place before they start speaking, work closely with the new president [Dr. Groarke]. The new president in my opinion has all the right instincts about how to make this place sustainable and viable and enriched,” advised Dr. Boire.
However, the Chair of the search committee, President Leo Groarke, feels that it is a strong and diverse committee with students, members from a very diverse set of programs, a Board member, members from Oshawa as well as Peterborough, men, and women, and members of visible minorities.
He took the structure of the previous committee and expanded it, primarily to ensure that there were faculty members representing each of the key academic areas of the University.
President Groarke is also of the view that the two student presidents are in the best position to represent students generally, but it is not only the students on the committee who will be looking to find a Provost.
The community has picked the members of the committee by election. He added three members to make the committee better fit the academic structure of the university, he said. The community can make representations to the committee, but when they get to the review of specific candidates, it is important that this be a confidential search, informed, President Groarke.
It will increase the pool of candidates who will apply and ensure that those who do apply have their privacy protected, he reasoned. He does understand the interest that everyone has in the outcome, but it is only the committee members that are in a good position to judge the candidates.
Provost is a tremendously important role, said the president. He went on to describe the position as being the manager of the academic operations of the university, who has a very significant impact on its evolution, and represents Trent provincially.
With regards to the candidate, the committee will discuss the key attributes in detail. They will also invite the community to submit their own ideas, which according to him will be the basis of the advertisement. He hopes that it will be ready by the end of November.
The next major step will be the hiring of a search consultant. Following that, it will be the advertisement, says the president.
Meanwhile, President and Vice-Chancellor, Leo Groarke will chair the 13-member Search Committee for Provost and Vice President, Academic. The members include a member of the Board, Robin Quantick, Vice-President Research and International, Neil Emery, and Dean of Arts and Science,Holger Hintelmann, selected by the deans.
It also includes five faculty members, one from each academic division and each school: Ingrid Brenner from School of Nursing, Paul Elliott for School of Education and Professional Learning, Michael Epp from Humanities, Joanna Freeland from Science and Haroon Akram-Lodhi from the Social Sciences.
In addition, the two students representatives are the President of TCSA, Braden Freer, and the President of GSA, Rathika Balthasar.
The final two members to the list are a full-time staff member, Matt Keefer and the Head of the Oshawa campus, Joe Muldoon.