Student leaders from various organizations, including college cabinets, the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA), the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), the Trent Part-Time Student Association (TPSA), and Trent International Students’ Association (TISA), recently met with Trent University’s Board of Governors to discuss university issues.
The purpose was to bring forth student voices and perspectives to influence future decisions regarding Trent University. The meeting was driven by conversations concerning faculty-student relationships, international and domestic student recruitment, and financial support.
Both Braden Freer and Hien Nguyen, representatives of the TCSA and the LEC College Cabinet respectively, focused on Trent’s faculty-student relationship. Nguyen argued that, “an excellent instructor who is passionate about teaching, who takes student success as important to the outcome of their research, who engages with students above and beyond the minimum weekly office hours can make all the difference in the success of students.”
Freer supported this statement by arguing that it was precisely the relationship with his professors that made him feel “like an individual, and not just a number,” that influenced his decision to complete his studies at Trent University.
Freer argued that the faculty-student relationships allowing interaction to take place outside the classroom in an informal setting are crucial to what it means to be a Trent Student.
Nguyen stated that this aspect of Trent life is being lost as a result of the mounting importance of research and the increasing part-time employment of instructors.
Nguyen argued that both of these factors affect faculty-student relationships, in that they lead to a decline in faculty-student interactions and to a lack of prioritization on teaching. Many departments and professors adhere to the importance of this relationship and provide opportunities for such an interaction to take place. However, the significant shift in the nature of student-faculty relationships remains an area of concern in both student development and Trent’s identity.
Another important issue was that of financial support, especially to international, graduate, and part-time students. The representatives of these organizations argued that on-campus jobs are lacking for students who do not receive financial aid in the form of OSAP, and that bursaries are also less available.
In addition, Trent lacks links with downtown businesses that would make part-time jobs, summer jobs, or internships more accessible to all Trent students. The provision of this kind of financial support would ameliorate student debt, provide an opportunity for résumé building and hands-on experience, and decrease financial pressures on students.
A third area of concern discussed with the Board of Governors involved Trent’s recruitment strategies. TISA argued that international student recruitment was increasingly focused around students from wealthier countries who can afford to pay for the incredibly high tuition of almost $20,000.
In addition, scholarships for international students have experienced a slight decline. These recruitment strategies not only reinforce the notion of international students as “cash-cows,” but also overlook numerous regions of the world with students that can both afford to pay full tuition as well as add to Trent’s acclaimed multiculturalism. The decline in scholarships and the limited areas of recruitment contradict with the Trent International Program’s motto: “Where the World Learns Together”.
In order to address these biased international recruitment strategies, TISA brought forth an initiative that was proposed last year but never took-off. This initative would see international student leaders return to their home countries to give informal talks about Trent at their countries’ schools.
According to TISA, the international student community is open to this idea, but it is the university’s role to seriously implement this initiative.
The TPSA President, Ashley Bonner, argued that Trent’s appeal as a university could be greatly improved if it were to take action to divest from fossil fuels. She stated that this sort of action would not only increase Trent’s media coverage, but would also provide a unique appeal to students interested in environmental programs, which are one of Trent’s strengths. Divestment could potentially affect Trent’s recruitment and could be seen as a decisive factor in student enrollment and desire to come to Trent.
This broad range of issues was presented to the Board of Governors with hopes that the University would take student voices into account when planning for the future.
Such meetings are necessary to create a connection between the university’s governing bodies and students, however, they can only be effective if student voices are acted upon and not just simply heard.