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TCSA Board of Directors Meeting: Attendance Still Plunging in Lecture Halls and TCSA Meetings

Written by
Louane Morin
and
and
March 8, 2024
TCSA Board of Directors Meeting: Attendance Still Plunging in Lecture Halls and TCSA Meetings
Graphic by Evan Robins

Student engagement took center stage during the March 3rd Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) Board of Directors meetings, with Directors sharing their concerns of falling attendance rates, both within the student body and the Board of Directors itself.

The meeting opened with reports from the Association’s executives.

TCSA President, Aimee Anctil, spoke about the Anti-Racism Conference put on by the Association, noting the unexpectedly high turnout it received.. Anctil said she felt “pleasantly surprised” about the attendance of over 50 students on March 1st, despite a lower turnout on March 2nd which she attributed to inclement weather conditions.

Anctil also spoke about an event titled ‘SWORD Personal Safety Training: Black History Month Edition’ which was held on February 27th. This event provided safety training to Trent students, with a particular focus on Black safety and history in Peterborough. 

Students offered Anctil feedback regarding this event, questioning her about newer statistics on students’ responses to the Association’s campaigns on campus safety. Students told her that they wanted to see the Association work on a better follow-up process for instances of in-class racism, specifically coming from professors.

These students reported feeling dissatisfied with the current system, where President Anctil stated that the Association can only sit in on meetings, write letters, or make complaints directly to departments on students’ behalf. 

President Anctil concluded that students often struggle to get the accountability they desire from professors, and that this issue was something the TCSA will be “putting into consideration” during the next year.

VP of Campaigns and Equity Alexx Bodden offered her own Executive Report, sharing the success of the Association’s Black History Month Cookout, with Peterborough’s Island Cream Caribbean Cuisine and Drum Rock Jerk catering 120 vegetarian and Halal meals to participants.

The next Executive Report was presented by VP of University & College Affairs Rovel Rehman. Rehman reported on the Association’s Colleges and Student Service Committee, through its revision of Association budgeting. Notably, Trent’s Wellness Centre will be seeing a 3% increase in funding, allowing for the hiring of new physicians, and the elimination of fees for appointment ‘no-shows.’

The Colleges and Student Services Committee discussed Trent’s Student Housing Budget, particularly reviewing the compensation of Trent’s Resident Life Dons.

After this year’s failure to unionize Trent Student Housing staff, this review involved a number of discussions between the Dons and President Anctil. Anctil sought to understand the concerns and needs of the Dons, who expressed to her that they were principally concerned with their pay, mental health services, and the expectation from the university for them to perform certain tasks outside of their job descriptions.

President Anctil announced that pay increases for Resident Life Dons were still being looked at by Trent’s Housing Department, and that Dons were seeking to move some responsibilities from themselves to campus security, and calling for dedicated mental health supporters in residence to support Student Housing staff.

VP Rehman also reported on the Student Engagement Committee, still grappling with a continual drop in student attendance. She explained that the committee was at a difficult point and found itself struggling to find a direction to take in approaching the issue, and even to decide “which area they want the students to be engaging in.”

During the January 21st 2024 meeting of the TCSA Board of Directors, VP Rehman shared the same problem being discussed by the Student Engagement Committee, and began her work with them on this issue for the year. During that meeting, Environmental Sustainability Commissioner Alyssa Scanga asked Rehman if the committee had considered mental health and COVID-19 as factors in attendance drops.

At the March 3rd Board of Directors Meeting, Arthur asked VP Rehman if the committee had considered mental health and COVID-19 any further since January. She responded “not really”, explaining that upon bringing these issues up to the committee, she was simply told to tell students to use Trent’s existing health & mental health resources. VP Rehman reflected that the issue was “not really discussed properly.”

The Student Engagement Committee continues to focus on “academic solutions” as reported by VP Rehman—an approach which has not yet been fleshed out into a proper academic plan, and is not based on any assessment of the reasons for student absenteeism.

VP Rehman explained that the only approach being considered for dealing with student attendance was a hypothetical survey of the student body. 

Association Resource Manager Wendy Walker restated the important dates of the upcoming student elections. Registration to run closed on Friday, March 1st, the Meet the Candidates Event will be on March 13th, and the voting period will span from March 15th-22nd.

Walker also went over some changes in the Association’s operating resolutions, announcing that any TCSA unethical purchasing would be compensated for in charity donations. She cited having no choice but to buy computers produced by companies which source metals from exploitative mines, to which Arthur enquired about buying refurbished or second hand electronics to offset ethical concerns.

Walker emphasized that the Association avoids unnecessary purchases of electronics, but that these refurbishing services are “a cool option and something we’re happy to look into.”

Arthur also asked Walker about the possibility of amending the role of its Chair to mandate a wider attendance from them, in reference to comments from multiple members of the public at February 14th’s Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM),  attributing the event’s low turnout partly to its scheduling on Valentine’s Day. A TCSA member then responded that the scheduling of TCSA events is bound to the Chair’s availability. 

Walker replied that “no matter who we hire as Chair, there will always be limitations”, and described the scheduling of the SAGM on Valentine’s Day as “unfortunate.” 

The Directors went into a closed session, discussing concerns about Directors seemingly vacating their positions, after this BoD meeting was delayed for over 10 minutes for not meeting Quorum. They elected not to punish any Directors not in attendance, simply sending them follow-up emails.

As Trent struggles to reach students, the TCSA offers few solutions in the face of the vacancies of its own members and Directors. What do we make of a student Association that appears to value its own meeting and governance structures over its mandate to represent students? If our student governments fail to go out and engage those it is supposed to represent, then who is it representing?

Severn Court (October-August)
Theatre Trent 2023/24
Arthur News School of Fish
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Severn Court (October-August)
Theatre Trent 2023/24
Arthur News School of Fish

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