B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
President Leo Groarke and Dr. Cathy Bruce welcome the Fall vibes on campus in their favourite sweaters. They have probably been drinking Karbon Beer.

Leo Goes a Groarking: A Review of an Open Meeting with Trent's President

Written by
Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay
and
and
September 23, 2022
Leo Goes a Groarking: A Review of an Open Meeting with Trent's President
President Leo Groarke and Dr. Cathy Bruce welcome the Fall vibes on campus in their favourite sweaters. They have probably been drinking Karbon Beer.

President Leo Groarke hosted an open performance for staff of Peterborough and Durham Campuses on the morning of September 23rd. Originally planned as two hybrid sessions, one for Peterborough and one for Durham, the "meeting" was consolidated into a single virtual event “to allow for as much participation as possible.” 

The possibility of audience participation intrigued me, but of course, the question arose of how cutting performance time in half could lead to more participation. Then I recalled that the internal logic of Trent’s senior administration is not beholden to the principles of rudimentary arithmetic and the concept of time. 

2+2=5, folks - and it really is as simple as that.

Luckily, there was no fee to get in, so this really was a non-issue. If anything it piqued my interest and ramped up my expectations. Surely double the drama being condensed into a single performance would make for a spectacular show.

I was deeply intrigued by the way in which Trent Communications had framed the content. It seemed to me that this was a piece of theatre that would lack a script as it was advertised as a “meeting” with “no set agenda…meant to provide an opportunity for discussion and conversation.” 

These definitions held up if by “conversation” you mean letting one man talk about whatever topic that popped into his mind in that moment and “discussion” meant that same person called on others, seemingly at random, to speak to topics he brought up. 

President Groarke hit all his lines with a characteristic lack of vigour, touting the university’s increasing reliance on corporate partnerships and taking the opportunity to plug Cleantech Commons. VP Research and Innovation, Cathy Bruce, was called upon to discuss the partnership with Karbon Brewing Company, which is now six-month-old news. 

Recycled material is forgivable in some instances, but I felt like I had seen this show before. 

Dr. Groarke suggested attendees go pick up a six-pack of Karbon beer, marking the third consecutive time he has suggested a crowd or group he is engaging with turn to alcohol following their interactions with him at an event or meeting I’ve been a part of. Again, this guy needs some new material. This late in his career, though, I’m aware enough that he’s mainly dragged out there to play the hits. 

Waxing poetic about the artistic merits of coal and the symbolism behind André Fournelle’s “Golden Door” statue in Bata Library which is “about the age of coal and the way it has brought us to where we are today.” He astutely managed to link the statue back to Karbon Brewing Company, which produces a carbon-neutral brew. The audience, no doubt in awe of the cunning academic mind at work before them, was silent - and not entirely, I expect, because their microphones were muted.

Had I not been timing how long it took for someone to recognize a pressing question in the chat about something affecting the lives of students and workers at Trent, I might have asked if perhaps we could consider, too, the ways in which some beer is gold, and was that a coincidence in the eyes of Dr. Leo Groarke? 

Even if I had, though, I would have had to wait while President Groarke left his desk to find a large glass pumpkin which he keeps in his office to the delight and wonder of visitors. This Autumnal piece, part of the Patterson-Ainsley Collection in Bata Library, is a fitting accoutrement to the sudden shift in temperature and I am glad to report that it is safe in Dr. Groarke’s office, as I am sure that is a primary concern amongst all the teaching assistants and graduate students who have yet to be paid for their work this term or who don’t have access to Blackboard.

Eventually, an Academic Assistant mentioned the fact that there was an important question going unrecognized in the chat. Dr. Groarke replied that he “doesn’t have time to read the chat” which led me to wonder, not for the first time, why exactly we were here. 

Then it hit me: We had been Groarked. Big time. 

When a concerned member of staff mentioned the inordinate number of students that they had seen crying in the hallways this term, Leo re-committed himself to the oft-worn line that Trent really cares about students’ mental health. While material evidence of this is sparse, the administration certainly makes up for it in rhetorical flare and relentless consistency of messaging.

All in all, this whole thing felt like false advertising. Trent Communications should endeavour to be more open and honest about what to expect when President Groarke is given free rein to lead a meeting. The glass pumpkin was endearing, but felt gratuitous and somehow alien from the preceding narrative arc. The forced speech on the linkages between Trent’s art collection and new beer companies, while brave and possibly an academic paper in waiting, needs work.   

This performance amounted to another shallow back-patting moment for the senior administration where their unaccountability for anything that transpires at this institution was on full display. It’s a sad day when over 100 employees need to sit there and be subjected to the ramblings of an aging, monotone university administrator and his team of hand-selected patsies talking about the same thing they say every time they get together when those staff were promised an opportunity to ask meaningful questions. Unfortunately, the audience's expectation that Dr. Groarke or anyone else would have a meaningful answer might just be the root of the problem.

If I had paid for this, I would ask for my money back. This is despite the fact I know how Trent feels about returning money to students for things they don’t deliver on.

B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
Written By
Sponsored
B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish

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