Trent Athletics Department Cuts Swimming and Fencing Varsity Teams

After the results of an external review this past spring, the Trent Athletics Department implemented some recommendations, such as the removal of the fencing and swimming varsity teams and the addition of women’s lacrosse and golf as self-funded programs.

In a press release it was stated that the removal of the swimming and fencing teams and the reduction of the total number of varsity teams from 19 to 17 was to meet the demand for “gender equality, increase competitiveness in sports for which Trent is known to have had success, and help build a more sustainable funding model.”

Director of Athletics, Bill Byrick, talked to Arthur this past summer about some of the factors at play in this decision making process.

Trent Athletics is its own institution and operates sports and recreation on behalf of, but separate from, Trent University. Trent Athletics has two major revenue streams: The $190.00 fee students pay that buys them a yearly membership to the gym, and the fees paid for community programming.

These funding streams will remain and be bolstered by a new $320.00 fee coming into place for September varsity players. This new fee will help with clothing packages, strength and conditioning programmes, the Athletic Awards banquet, and transportation costs. It will be an equal fee for all varsity teams and was approved by varsity council.

Students involved in the two cut teams argued this past summer that swimming and fencing promoted gender equity as co-ed teams.

Byrick elaborated on the hotly contested line from the press release, which stated “gender equity” as a factor in cutting two co-ed teams in favour of two female teams.

The clarification is that these changes instate women’s teams where before only men’s teams existed (Lacrosse and Golf), better supporting equal opportunity for both genders to partake in all varsity sports offered.

Byrick explained that swimming has been eliminated completely because it is too expensive to succeed as a varsity team, unlike fencing which is in a good position to operate as a club in the absence of varsity funding.

Byrick mentions that the goal is to strengthen Trent Athletics in hopes that in the far future it will again be able to grow and perhaps reconsider its ability to support a swim team.
However, he stresses that this would be a long term goal for the organization and community.

A student petition against the decision was started this summer in hopes that the swim team would remain at Trent. The petition had 331 signatures, but unfortunately, since the decision happened over the summer, there was little student awareness of the cuts.

The petition was started by third-year history student, Alex Murphy. He was a competitive swimmer throughout elementary and high school but has not swam competitively for Trent. He argues that the swim team should be kept because it is a well-tested team which supports and encourages not only the talent of the individuals involved but the leading of a very healthy life style.

Maddie Lubbock, former Trent varsity swimmer, noted in a statement to Arthur that the varsity team’s pool time was cut in March to allow for more recreational programming. She alleges that when that programming quickly failed it was converted to a lane swim time instead of back to varsity time.

She went on to explain that the athletes of the swim team coped very well with these cuts and changes, and still worked hard in the gym and during lane swim times. Lubbock considers it shameful that after showing such endurance the team will not be able to demonstrate its hard work in competition next year.

Murphy started the petition to add student voice to the matter.

“If there are to be teams eliminated then it should be the student body that gets to decide which teams are removed.”

He says that the Student Centre, a multi-million dollar project requiring countless hours and a strong partnership between students and administration, was given the green light with voter turnout at a sorrowful 18.4 percent. Murphy asks why, if that’s all it took for such a large endeavour to happen, students were completely ignored for the removing of two teams that were home to students not in two years, but today.

Lukas Schiller wrote to Steven Pillar, Trent’s Vice President of Administration, and the Trent Athletics Department. He forwarded us a copy of that letter as his statement. In his letter, Schiller talks about the dedication and physical training necessary for Trent swimmers, as well as the team’s success.

He writes, “if this cancellation is finalized, it will be a public demonstration of a rapid change of heart on behalf of the Athletics Department and a destruction of the true values of sport as well as many dreams that years of hard work has been put into.”

Adrian Forsythe, who broke a Trent record while swimming at a championship meet, wrote to tell us that coming out of the past season he is in a prime position to qualify for the Canadian Inter-University Championships in the forthcoming season.

With these cuts, however, those dreams are all but crushed unless he is swimming on another varsity team for another university.

Graduating student and former Trent varsity swimmer, Kelly, wrote a letter to us and raised concerns that this cut would hurt retention at Trent. She also suggested that potential varsity swimmers who might have been ready to attend Trent this September could have made last minutes changes to their plans and accepted offers elsewhere.

“It is disappointing that [the swim team] has been cut at a time when so much progress was made. It is also my hope that the Athletics Department start to become more involved in all the varsity teams.”

Article published with files from Sara Ostrowska.