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The Jalynn Bennett Amphitheatre's artists rendering.

Amphitheatre Construction Contract Increased by $390.5K, Administration and Governors Continue Push For Higher International Tuition

Written by
Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay
and
and
December 12, 2022
Amphitheatre Construction Contract Increased by $390.5K, Administration and Governors Continue Push For Higher International Tuition
The Jalynn Bennett Amphitheatre's artists rendering.

A motion passed at the December 9th meeting of the Trent Board of Governors which allowed for the increase in the contract with Rite-Start Ltd., the company hired to construct the new Jalynn Bennett Amphitheatre at Traill College, from $1,151,000 to $1,541,500 following a number of impediments to the project’s completion. This represents an increase to the original contract of approximately 33%.

These funds will be found in two main sources, the first of which being the continued fundraising efforts which have been spurred by Dr. Michael Eamon, Principal of Traill College. The motion’s summary noted that the funding campaign for the project has continued since the approval of the initial plan and contract in the Winter 2022 term. The second source noted in the Board’s agenda is to be found in uncommitted funds from Trent’s Riverbank Erosion Project. A total of $260,000 from this project will be re-allocated to the Amphitheatre. 

The project, which has been ongoing since the spring of 2022, has seen the centre of the Traill campus between Wallis Hall and Bagnani Hall be revitalised into a picturesque outdoor performance space which will be the future home of student and community-led arts initiatives. 

Dr. Eamon, in his address to the Board following the passage of the funding motion, noted the recent renovations at Traill, including the heritage restorations of both the Senior Common Room and Junior Common Room in Scott House and was enthusiastic in noting the increased use of student spaces on the downtown campus. 

He went on to state that his hope is that when people think of Traill College they will think of it as the home of arts, humanities, and culture at Trent. The college’s central location within the city and mixture of three centuries of architecture connect it to the community and history of Peterborough/Nogjiwanong in a unique way. 

The Board meeting, held in Traill’s Bagnani Hall as opposed to the normal venue of the A.J.M Smith room in Bata Library, also saw President Groarke speak to the success of Traill in the ongoing project to restore the historic collegiate system that has long come to define a unique student experience at Trent.  

President Groarke also mentioned that College Endowment Funds have been a major part of this initiative, and since their implementation Traill has led the way when it comes to donations. Most College Endowment Funds are sitting at between $200,000-$300,000. 

Traill is one of two original colleges at Trent and the only one remaining following the sale of Peter Robinson College in 2002. 

The Jalynn Bennett Amphitheatre under construction, pictured here on December 3rd, 2022. Photo credit: James Forrester.

Current Economic Environment and International Student Tuition 

The Board of Governors received a report on the current economic environment which noted the recent finding that the Ford Government’s Bill 124, which capped public sector wage increases at 1% and effectively shut down major elements of collective bargaining processes, was found unconstitutional on November 29th, 2022. The University, which is currently engaged in bargaining with its faculty association and OPSEU 365, while preparing to engage in the process with CUPE Unit 1 members, will need to factor in the government’s decision of whether or not to appeal this finding in future budgetary considerations. 

It was during the conversation surrounding the economic statement that the question of student resources and support was raised for the first time during the meeting. Professor of Physics and Faculty Governor, Dr. Aaron Slepkov questioned the wisdom of repeatedly underestimating enrolment growth - a tactic which results in large yearly surpluses which do not seem to be turned back over to students for increased support and resources in any tangible way. 

President Groarke, VP Marilyn Burns, and Provost Michael Khan each took turns justifying the “intelligence” of producing what they characterised as “conservative” budgets which don’t anticipate surpluses.  

As has been repeatedly demonstrated, enrolment projections continue to make up a large portion of the Board’s concerns, as according to the attached report stated, that the “resources required for academic programming are determined by the number and types of students. Other university operations and support services (e.g. student services, wellness, libraries, etc.) as well as ancillary services (e.g. housing and dining services, etc.) are significantly influenced by the student population.” 

Thus far, the Board is reporting a 1% increase beyond anticipated enrolment growth based on figures from the summer and fall terms. This would result in approximately $3.1M in additional tuition revenue which, in addition to $0.7M in “additional grad expansion funding” means that there will be approximately “$3.9 million available for needed resources not yet reflected in this financial projection to address unplanned enrolment growth, university capacity, and other operating pressures” which could include salary increases and deferred maintenance.  

The report also outlines Trent’s goal to increase the percentage of international students studying at Trent to 12% of the overall undergraduate student body (it currently sits at 10%) while graduate student growth will continue to grow in “high demand” programs which include the M.Mgt, AMOD, and Interdisciplinary PhD program while enrolment in other graduate programs will remain at 2022 levels over the coming budgetary cycle. “International growth will be key to financial sustainability,” one Governor remarked during this portion of the meeting.  

Trent, as is often mentioned, currently has the third lowest international tuition fees in Ontario. Due to this Trent is “planning on similar increases as they implemented last year” when international tuition was raised by 8% for new students and 5% for returning students. Should this eventually come to pass, this represents an increase of $2,325.09 in tuition costs for students beginning their studies in September 2023.

The Board seems to recognize the difficulties arising from legislation and caps on funding from the provincial government which have ensured an ever greater dependency on international students and their tuition. It should be said that Trent is not alone in implementing this model.

However, as a sustainable or wise move on the part of the Senior Administration and the Board of Governors, playing nice with the rampantly anti-education and anti-labour government currently in power provincially is a model of weak kneed, uninspired, and exploitative leadership by a group of people who have effectively climbed to the top only to pull the ladders up.

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