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Trent University’s new Student Centre “gift”

From Water_Large
Conceptual image of Student Centre

On Tuesday, October 13, a tent was pitched in the parking lot beside Bata Library where TCSA president Aliane Spiwak and Trent University president Dr. Leo Groarke made an important announcement. Trent alumnus Stephen Stohn donated $1 million to Trent University for the construction of the Student Centre.

This earned him a standing applause at the event and naming rights to the future lecture hall of the Centre. Dr. Groarke called this a gift from a former student, helping current students, as well as future students.

TCSA volunteers handed out noise makers, refreshments, and free t-shirts that read “I am the Future” on the front, and the campaign’s motto, “Unleash the Potential” across the back. The campaign’s Strategic Communications Officer, Denise Runicki, commented that the shirts are to inspire and encourage student [participation] with the reminder that students of Trent University hold the power to shape their future. Their potential to do the best that they can is represented by this campaign and the t-shirts.

Trent alumnus Ken Hartwick introduced a promotional video for the Trent $50 Million Campaign. As the chair of the campaign, Hartwick appeared proud while motivational sentences flashed on the screen between photos of students on Trent University’s campus.

The number of students present in the crowd was approximately comprised of 150 people.

The ceremony ended with Spiwak presenting a promotional t-shirt to Stohn, which had handwritten thank-you notes covering it.

College representatives then presented Stohn with each of the college scarves. In their words, he has “earned his colours” of all Trent University colleges.

Who is Stephen Stohn?

Dr. Groarke introduced Steven Stohn on Tuesday as a Trent graduate with a double major in Economics and Philosophy. Stohn also received an Honorary Degree from Trent University in June 2015. Dr. Groarke joked that in Stohn’s student years, he had a short-term career in a band called Milk & Cookies.

Stohn, mostly known for his work as an Executive Producer for  the T.V. show Degrassi,  is a cornerstone in Trent history as the founder of both Trent Radio and
Arthur Newspaper.

In his years creating the independent press, Arthur rotated through countless titles until one drunken night, Stohn suggested the name “Arthur”. This name was in reference to what guitarist George Harrison of The Beatles had named his hairstyle.

Rudnicki cheerfully confirmed this story at the event on Tuesday.

Upon being introduced by Dr. Groarke, Stohn took his place on the stage and told the audience that his student life at Trent University helped to shape his future.

Referring to this as the “Trent Experience.” Stohn spoke of the importance of giving what you can to better what you love, and seemed pleased to be helping Trent move forward with this development.

“The goal of the $50 Million Campaign is to enrich the student experience,” said Dr. Leo Groarke, president and vice-chancellor at Trent. “Stephen’s gift honours the very best of Trent’s tradition of empowering the student voice in a unique, interactive learning environment.”

The release talks about empowering the student voice, yet the inclusion of this voice is controversial.

The Student Centre “History”

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Conceptual Image 2


The Student Centre was proposed to the students of Trent in 2013 and quickly became a large controversy after a referendum vote for the Centre passed with only a 15% student turnout. The vote listed four options, of which students were asked to check off only one. The options consisted of three different amounts of student financial contribution and a fourth option of no contribution.

Students knew little [to nothing] about the proposed Student Centre before being asked to vote. All three options of financial contribution were merged together and counted as a “yes” vote. With only a 13% student turnout agreement, the TCSA still passed the Student Centre’s proposal on behalf of the students.

Spiwak came into office of the TCSA after the Student Centre was decided upon, and is aware of the referendum vote controversy. Still, Spiwak firmly believes in the Centre’s potential. Spiwak stated that sometimes students come into the TCSA office and wish to inquire about the referendum questions, but she unfortunately has no answers as she was not involved in the process.

There was talk last year of part-time students paying a levy for the Student Centre, which raised further controversy as they were not previously offered the option to vote. In the end, part-time students did not pay any levies for the Student Centre.

Spiwak explained that part-time students are part of the TCSA only as of September 2015, and were not asked to vote on the Student Centre beforehand.

In order for the TCSA to call a vote for a Student Centre levy of part-time students, full-time students would need to be allowed to vote as well.

Since there are many more full-time students than part-time students at Trent, Spiwak is concerned that the vote would result in a “yes” for the part-time students to pay a levy, regardless of what part-time students truly want.

“I am unsure if it would be fair to put part-time students in that position. How could we find a way to accurately reflect what part-time students want in regards to the Student Centre?” she wondered.

This is a question that has yet to be answered.

Spiwak understands that the fee of ninety dollars per student is difficult for many, but she is excited about the Centre and says that students will be able to have more control over the operations and changes of the building than they do throughout the rest of campus. The two examples given were adjusting food service hours to meet student needs within the Centre, and the installation of gender-neutral washrooms.

The implication by Trent University that students are willingly paying this levy to support the Student Centre has created a little heat in the voice of some students. The press release calls students the “driving force” of the Centre, but with the referendum vote bringing the attention of only 15% of the student body, one questions how accurate this statement is.

During her speech, Spiwak mentioned her pride for the dedication of current students to pay for the centre. How many students know that they are paying a levy to build a
centre? How many students actively support it? These are the questions that are not being asked or answered by entities on campus. If you were hoping to somehow refuse your payment to the Student Centre levy, you are two months too late.

The $15 million Student Centre has already been paid for; $4.5 million from Trent University’s own efforts, and $10.5 million from a full-time student levy that was taken this past September.

Trent’s $50 Million Campaign

Trent Media Relations and Strategic Communications Officer Kate Weersick had this to comment: “The $50 Million Campaign is not a result of the pledge. It has been an ongoing campaign [which] was launched to coincide with the 50th anniversary. The campaign includes many projects across the University with the Student Centre being one of those projects. The Student Centre Challenge was issued by students at Trent in March of 2015 to Board members, faculty, staff, and retirees to help make the new Student Centre a reality.”

According to the campaign press release, students asked the Board of Governors, staff, alumni, and faculty to contribute an equal amount of Student Centre funding as the students’ levy total ($10.5 million total) within five years time. It appears that this request resulted in the “Student Centre Challenge.”

This $50 million goal will not to be poured completely into the Student Centre; it will help to upgrade, maintain, repair, and expand Trent University.

Of the many projects planned, two that stick out are upgrading Bata Library with a skylight, and expanding Trent University campuses into Durham Region.

Unfortunately, no budget is mentioned for Catherine Parr Traill College, which will be undergoing review soon.

The Student Centre: Planning Ahead

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Without graduate offices, it is hard to imagine that the Centre can replace Traill College or Sadleir House. However, the Student Centre does plan for three seminar rooms and one large lecture hall, which may be to allocate the Traill campus classes.

Concerns have been raised regarding the  student centre, how it will impact Traill College and  Sadleir House, and how it  fits into the college-designed campus of Trent.
Runicki feels that the Student Centre will enhance the college experience by bringing together on- and off- campus students.

In this way, she sees the Student Centre providing a space for student knowledge and creativity to come together.

Spiwak says that the TCSA will still support the colleges and their traditional environment and fun rivalry, but that the Student Centre will bring together students from every college. It will help give students a place of belonging who do not feel a strong connection with their college.

Spiwak further stated that the Student Centre would provide more study spaces for students, especially during exam period. Students usually must head to Bata Library early in order to score a study space. Students like Sarah McDonald are excited for this promise, “It is just too bad that we current students won’t get to enjoy this! I’m happy that future students will.”

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The Student Centre will centralize extra-curricular activities by providing event and meeting spaces for TCSA Clubs & Groups, according to Spiwak. These spaces would be free for the use of TCSA clubs and groups, and work on a first-come, first-serve basis, while encouraging regular patterned booking; this being a tentative plan.

As Student Centre funding does not include TCSA finances, Spiwak does not expect any significant funding amount changes for clubs and groups. It is important to her that small clubs and groups get access to the same opportunities as large ones, and centralizing seems to be the answer. This will hopefully encourage student group collaboration and lead to the heightened success of Trent’s extra-curricular activities.

Editor’s Note: A special thanks to Kate Weersink, Media Relations and Strategic Communications Officer at Trent University, for providing us with these images and being a wonderful resource for this Issue. You rock Kate!

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