The Trent Athletics department has announced that they are making significant changes to the Trent Varsity Team line-up. This decision was made for a number of reasons including “gender equity” and budgetary issues/changes.
Bill Byrick, Director of Athletics talked to Arthur 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. The money Trent Athletics has to use comes from two channels: The $190.00 fee that students pay which buys them an academic-year membership to the gym, and fees paid for community programming.
These funding streams will remain and be bolstered by a new fee coming into place for September Varsity players. This new fee will help with clothing packages and transportation costs. It will be an equal fee for all varsity teams and was approved by Varsity students from all 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. Students argue that the two teams cut, swimming and fencing, promoted gender equity as co-ed 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.
A student petition against the decision has been started in hopes that the swim team would remain at Trent. Byrick is aware of it but does not see this as a likely outcome.
He explains that swimming has been eliminated completely because it is too expensive to succeed as a student club, 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.
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.
Murphy also argues that Trent Athletics should be supporting teams for which the facilities are present here on campus and that the teams that need these facilities should take priority over community recreation classes.
Still, both Murphy and fellow student (and former Trent Varsity Swimmer) Maddie Lubbock disagree with the claim that pool time was not available.
Lubbock noted in a statement to Arthur that the Varsity team’s pool time was cut in March to allow for more programming. When that programming quickly failed it was converted to 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 is clear that the point of the petition is 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 cites 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 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 in September could now very well be making last minutes changes to their plans and accepting 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.”
Anita Vieu-Robson, an international student studying at Trent, calls the swim team her home and family away from home. She says that the sense of family on the team is important to everyone there, and this has been key for her student experience while she is abroad.
While she has sympathy for the limitation of Trent Athletics as an organization, she does not think they have handled the situation in the best way. She is also concerned by an apparent lack of student involvement and is wondering if there was in fact a problem solving process wherein efforts were made by the team and the department to find funding solutions which might have allowed the team to remain in place.
What seems to be at the forefront of everybody’s mind in the discussion is a sense of community. Trent Athletics has clearly been working to bolster Trent’s athletic profile and enable our athletes to hold a competitive edge and position against larger and more generously funded programs.
For many, the loss of a swim team is a huge detriment to their connection to Trent and their sense of community here. The future of these individuals is uncertain, in terms of their opportunity to compete and excel, and indeed their decision to stay at or leave Trent.
What is certain, is that whether you’re ready or not, Trent Athletics is moving on with these changes.
Will students’ voices be heard in the future? The first step is speaking up.
Please contact Arthur at [email protected] if you would like to have your voice heard.