A series of developments in the university have got me wondering: are Trent’s colleges dying?
A founding principle of Trent University was the college model as a way of connecting students, faculty, and alumni.
Yet, with college restructuring of the summer, and the plans for building a student center, I wonder whether these developments are compatible with the foundational concept of colleges.
The restructuring saw the addition of mid-level and low-level bureaucrats, that is the full-time college heads and the addition of several paid student positions.
The college restructuring takes away from the networking aspect of colleges. As an institution that is intended to bring together students, faculty and alumni, these staff members add a level of administration that was not previously necessary.
The members of the colleges ran themselves. In effect, this brought together those of diverse backgrounds and fostered a sense of community.
Inclusion in the process of decision making within the colleges and generally in the activities were considered crucial components of college life.
Of the four appointed colleges, only Ashley Wall, head of Otonabee College, was a student of the college they are leading.
Furthermore, the accountability of colleges to students is called into question. By installing these appointed positions, what happens to the role of the college cabinets? Students will now have to compete for positions (probably TWSP limited as well) to become involved in college affairs.
Secondly, the new TCSA student center is intended to fulfill the function of colleges; student space, club offices, and seminar rooms are all the component parts of a college.
The intention of colleges was to keep those three elements integrated with the residences and dining halls, thereby merging the discrete aspects of university life. Integration of these aspects creates a seamless transition from the classroom to the informal conversation.
I see it as a direct failure of the colleges to function that this student center is needed.
The fact that certain spaces within college buildings are inaccessible or in such terrible condition that they are unusable is disgraceful.
How is it that $10M can be approved for a new building when the facilities existing for those specified purposes fester? Where is the budget to keep existing spaces in working order?
Separating the student spaces from the college buildings flies in the face of the college model the university was founded on.
Perhaps I am clutching at an archaic idea, but I hold that there is still value in university colleges. It just needs a little bit of effort from all involved.
These changes reflect a larger inclination to view the student body as passive receptacles for a university education.
The golden years of Trent’s early days are gone. Today, we are left with colleges nearly indistinguishable from typical university residences and a typical university student center.
I do not believe students are as passive as administrators might think.
I keep being told how different this generation is from previous ones, due to social media mostly, but I don’t believe these new media for communication make students less inclined to participate.
It’s just new ways of participation. I think students want opportunities to get involved, colleges simply need to provide the framework.
This is a framework that has been lost over time, but it can be uncovered and given new life.