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A very, very official communique from the Champlain Committee, intercepted by yours truly at Arthur

Bowlcut: Champlain Committee Suggests New Name for Controversial College

Written by
Evan Robins
and
and
November 2, 2023
Bowlcut: Champlain Committee Suggests New Name for Controversial College
A very, very official communique from the Champlain Committee, intercepted by yours truly at Arthur

At long last, it appears Champlain College might finally be receiving a new name. 

In a surprise move, Trent University’s Champlain Committee reconvened following last month’s scandal of the university’s scheduling a number of events in conjunction with the Head of the Trent Regatta on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to propose alternative names for the eponymous college.

Champlain’s name has been a source of controversy dating back years, with critics deriding the use of Champlain—who, as a voyageur, was one of the principal instigators of the Canadian colonial project—as namesake for a college at a school which prides itself on its nominal support of its Indigenous students and academic programs.

Settlers and Indigenous members of the Trent community have weighed in on both sides of the argument, though the institution itself has long been resistant to any suggestion of change. Historically it has argued that the college’s name is an attempt to make the community of French-speaking students at Trent feel more welcomed, despite that college’s population being predominantly Anglophone hockey-playing Business Bros from the Greater Toronto Area.

Even after a former Arthur writer effectively called their bluff, the university, in the institutional equivalent of playing the “skip” card in Uno, did nothing, and hid the Champlain bust somewhere in the Bata Library dungeon lest some nefarious journalist toss the Frenchman in the Otonabee River.

The Fall 2022 Report of the Champlain Committee came to the conclusion that “any conclusion would be unsatisfactory,” so it would probably just be better to do nothing at all. Airing on the side of alumni dollars and deciding to not change the college’s name, they instead suggested a number of “recommendations”—most of which have yet to be implemented.

It comes as a surprise then, that the Committee was suddenly reconvened Following an October 13th Board of Governors meeting in response to the press surrounding this year’s Head of the Trent (HOTT) weekend. 

The event was scrutinized for falling on the same day as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day meant to encourage solemn reflection on Canada’s colonial origins. 

In a closed session recording obtained by Arthur, a member of the Board of Governors can be heard saying that “we need to throw them a bone so they stop hounding us about this Homecoming nonsense,” referring to the fact that Trent drew markedly negative coverage from GlobalNews and The Peterborough Examiner, among others, in the aftermath of the Head of the Trent weekend.

The decision to change Champlain’s name, then, seems to be a direct response on the part of the university to attempt to stymie any further bad press. 

As for the name in question? According to the October 2023 Report of the Champlain Committee, Trent is set to introduce “Jacques Lanctôt College” come fall of next year.

The report describes Lanctôt as “one of the most impassioned advocates for the French language and French-Canadian still alive today, and among the most significant political voices in the history of Canada.”

According to the first line of his Wikiepdia page, Lanctôt is “a Canadian writer, publisher, terrorist, and restaurateur.”

If you ask me, he sounds kind of like my ex-girlfriend’s dad.

Lanctôt was chosen out of a number of prospective French candidates, and over the previously suggested Métis icon Louis Riel because—according again to transcripts from an in-camera BoG session—“we wouldn’t want FPHL to think they run the place.”

According to meeting minutes obtained by Arthur, other prospects included Jean Chrétien, Marcel Dubé, and Pierre Vallières, best known for his work writing essays in the 1960s and 70s. Lanctôt was ultimately chosen over Vallières after members of the BoG found out he was gay. 

As one member of the BoG is quoted as saying in transcripts obtained by Arthur, “gays we can tolerate. Journalists we can tolerate; but a gay journalist sounds a sight too close to those radical subversives at that newspaper named after Ringo Starr.”

The Champlain Committee’s report says that Lanctôt was “the obvious choice of namesake to appropriately bridge the divide between the French and community and other, normal people.”

The report includes the revised brand package for Lanctôt College, which preserve’s Champlain’s Blue, White, and Red colour scheme, albeit revising the college’s crest to more centrally include a red-bodied, gold-trimmed star.

Part of the confidential BoG meeting package obtained by Arthur includes proofs-of-concept for the upcoming college's crest, as well as its accompanying scarf.

However, insider information suggests that support for the college’s name change was far from unanimous. Many within the Champlain Committee apparently protested the choice of Lanctôt as a new namesake, citing his involvement in the attempted political kidnapping of an Israeli diplomat in 1970.

“As a university funded publically by a country pumping millions of dollars into shipping arms to Israel, to tacitly support such a man would be a stain upon our ideological purity,” one BoG member can be heard saying in the tape. 

The Champlain Committee’s report is appended with a statement condemning the actions of Hamas, and denouncing violence on both sides, so long as it’s not violence committed by the State of Israel.

The report further recommends establishing a Living Learning Community (LLC) for Israeli international students in the college, as part of Trent’s “Land Back” initiatives, following its grand re-opening next year.

In response to the announcement, a group of Irish students have reached out to Arthur, expressing their consternation at the Champlain Committee’s decision. 

“Tis a right fuckin’ disgrace it is,” said Seamus O’Connell, SAFS ‘21. “That bastard kidnapped an Irishman! It’s an affront to name a college after him.”

When O’Connell—a Catholic—was asked by Arthur about his family’s involvement in a series of fertilizer-related automotive accidents in the 1990s, he responded that “well that’s different, innit? They were British, weren’t they?”

Local faith groups are equally divided on the university’s decision. While the Roman Catholic Diocese applauded the decision to name the College after a French Catholic, local Protestants congregations expressed outrage at the decision, especially given Lanctôt’s having expressed sympathies with the revolutionary government of Cuba. 

When reached for comment, a local Protestant Minister said “Castro you have no control over our children,” and directed Arthur towards a pamphlet about “Gender Ideology.” What the one has to do with the other remains to be determined, though further research has demonstrated that Montreal boasts one of the best gender-affirming surgery clinics in the country.

According to correspondence obtained by Arthur, Trent University invited Lanctôt—who is still alive and writing for French-Canadian magazine Canoe—to attend the opening of his namesake college next year. Lanctôt declined, citing “ideological differences,” adding that he “[does] not stoop to doing Keynotes in the language of [his] oppressor,” (trans. from French).

It seems despite their best intentions, Trent’s decisions, as they feared, remain unsatisfactory to most parties. While people will no doubt weigh in on this most recent development in the Champlain Committee’s brief but tumultuous existence, Trent seems poised to plough on with its promises of momentous change.

How the induction of Jacques Lanctôt College will ultimately be received remains subject to determination, but for the time being the discourse around it proves—if nothing else—sufficiently explosive.

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