In Arthur’s last publication, Trent University president Leo Groarke submitted a special message to the campus: Catharine Parr Traill College is undergoing a review. Is this a big deal? I talked to students, alumni, and staff at The Trend on Tuesday, January 19 to get an idea of their perspective.
The article begins by inviting Trent students, staff, faculty, alumni, board members, retirees, and members of the Peterborough community to participate.
About half of the stakeholders I talked to had no knowledge of an upcoming review of Traill College. The potential closure of Traill has been a threat since the 1990s’ “neoliberal assault,” as one stakeholder described it, when the Peter Robinson downtown college was closed despite the student fight to keep the historical building now known as Sadleir House.
The information of the review is almost unanimously met with a strong “no!” or a loss for words. Students immediately relate the review to the decade-long threat of Traill’s closure.
“No, thank you,” replies Trent student Morgan Smith. “[Traill College] has so much history. Why would [Trent] want to take that away?” Smith has four of her six courses this year located at Traill, and she is delighted. She describes Traill as being much quieter than the Symons campus, where the busy atmosphere makes it difficult for her to be productive.
Surrounded by student housing, the liberal arts graduate college still hosts classes and space for many English and Cultural Studies undergraduates. Students are concerned about where these departments would re-locate in the case of the College’s closure.
“What is the purpose of taking down history?” asks Cultural Studies undergraduate Charlotte Hannah. In her second year at Trent, Hannah is thrilled to meet more like-minded people from her major in the Traill community.
Some students mention that, even with the new student centre being built, they would much rather study and lounge at Traill.
Undergraduate students who feel a particularly strong connection to Traill have fought to switch their college affiliation to Traill, simultaneously directing their compulsory college ancillary fees towards helping fund the small college.
“The [Gzowski] College experience failed me. Inadequate information was given to me about the colleges, and I was very unimpressed once I was there and they had my money,” says Biology and Chemistry undergraduate student Sabrina Calogeracos.
She notes that the Traill community now provides her with a wonderful college experience. “Trent administration needs to give Traill College the support and acknowledgement it deserves.”
Cultural Studies and History undergraduate student Sarah McDonald describes Traill as a “special place” outside of the stressful and busy world of Symons campus. So far, she has spent three years interacting with the College.
“The computer lab has saved my butt,” McDonald says, adding that Traill is only a short walk from her home and she will sometimes walk to Traill for lunch at The Trend, noting the pub staff as friendly and familiar faces.
When Jeff Curtis first arrived in Peterborough 11 years ago, he resided in Traill College and called it home. After meeting his partner at Traill and
graduating with Traill College affiliation, he is thrilled to have the opportunity to return to work for The Trend, which is Traill’s gastro pub.
The Trend is known widely for its delicious food, affordable prices, available hours, and friendly staff. Owned by local business BE Catering, The Trend is a profitable pub and would cease to exist in the event of Traill’s removal.
“The food is amazing! Better than on [Symons] campus,” Hannah exclaims. Even The Ceilie doesn’t live up to her expectations after having eaten at The Trend.
If Traill closes, Curtis would not be the only person out of a job. Troy Bordun works not only as an instructor at Traill, but also as a staff member of The Trend.
As a former doctoral student in Cultural Studies, Bordun spent four years regularly at Traill, and continues to call it home today. For Bordun, the College perfectly joins Trent University to the downtown of Peterborough, and creates a sense of belonging to both.
In Groarke’s article, the words “sustainable” and “financial” are mentioned three times, in contrast to “culture” being mentioned once and “experience” twice.
Bordun explains that focusing on whether or not Traill is profitable is missing the point. It delivers an essential academic and cultural purpose.
Groarke claims that downtown businesses might not be dependent upon Traill’s traffic.
But Bordun notes how, often after lectures and events at Traill, students and event attendees walk down to Aji Sai or Amusé café if The Trend is not open. According to Bordun, Aji Sai in particular would feel the impact of losing these customer transactions.
Groarke asked the co-author of his book, Good Reasoning Matters!, and University of Windsor professor Christopher Tindale to solely conduct the external Traill College review. This is a main topic of concern to stakeholders.
Cultural Studies undergraduate Lyne Dwyer says she would be incredibly upset if Traill is closed down. She expresses great concern over the fact that only one person is doing the review and both students and alumni are excluded.
Trent University Politics Society president Ashley Fearnall points out that students and alumni have been excluded from the larger conversation about what Trent could be.
“Trent needs to change. We all know it needs to change,” Fearnall explains. She suggests that, by excluding the directly affected stakeholders (i.e., students), Trent University is avoiding a potentially wonderful future.
When asked what could be done to improve Traill, maintenance repairs and temperature control were the only two items that came to mind for the stakeholders.
“To update [Traill] would be to remove a piece of history,” says McDonald.
Groarke’s article reads: “The review’s aim is conclusions about the future rather than the past.” But every high school history teacher will tell you that understanding the past is the key to making the right decisions of the future.
Another Cultural Studies undergraduate student, Calla Durose-Moya, says overlooking Traill’s history and student efforts to keep the downtown colleges open is a lack of institutional memory.
If Traill is suggested to close down following this review, “there needs to be a protest,” Durose-Moya says. “We have to keep Trent’s tradition of students fighting for their downtown campuses alive. Traill has been important to me as part of my [undergraduate] experience at Trent,
contrary to the idea that it’s only about graduate students.”
Throughout my Tuesday afternoon conversations, one person’s name kept coming up.
Students are concerned that by considering the replacement of current Catharine Parr Traill College principal Michael Eamon, the Trent administration is looking to remove the driving force of Traill’s continued existence.
Chair of Political Studies Nadine Changfoot describes Eamon as a key and strong spokesperson for Traill in his role as Principal.
“He understands the purpose of the College, the diverse ways required for building the many parts of college community, and how community and intellectual life on the downtown campus are inseparable,” Changfoot says.
Politics student Jeanisa Haider describes Eamon as “a symbol of the old system,” referring to the importance of community that was once fostered by Trent University.
Often seen around Traill and Trent events, Eamon is known as a friendly face and person who will always say “hello” and sit down with students to listen.
“He’s one of my favourite things about Trent!” Fearnall shares.Curtis describes Eamon as a fabulous teacher, administrator, person, and community leader, as well as “the best man for Traill.”
“He contributes to the community feeling of home,” McDonald says.
“He makes Traill a wonderful place… [he is a] huge part of what I like about Trent,” Bordun adds.
Hannah even describes Eamon’s presence at Traill as being similar to glue, holding the community positivity and spirit together. “I cannot imagine Trent without him,” she says.
Smith reflects on one of her favourite university experiences: in the beginning of December, Student Affairs Office orientation co-ordinator Sako Khederlarian played piano in Scott House at Traill College, while Lady Eaton College Head Lindsay Morris and Michael Eamon sang Christmas carols.
Students’ fondness for Catharine Parr Traill College is making them question why it is undergoing a review, specifically by only one person on a seemingly hushed scale.
Want to contact Tindale? You can do so by contacting Ashley Horne, executive assistant to Trent’s Vice President of Finance and Administration, at firstname.lastname@example.org