An Update on the Traill College Review

A reminder that input into the Catharine Parr Traill College review is still very much being sought. This is an opportunity for alumni to have their voices heard on the subject of the future of the college. The review is being undertaken Dr. Christopher Tindale -- a former Senior Tutor at Traill. Ashley Horne, the Executive Assistant to Trent’s Vice-President of Finance and Administration, is supporting Dr. Tindale in the review.

Anyone interested in contacting Dr. Tindale can do so via Ms. Horne at <ashleyhorne@trentu.ca>. Community members have until April first to submit.

Traill Principal Michael Eamon calls this a "meaningful and necessary time to discuss Traill's past and present and to help build towards a dynamic future."

Eamon notes that open discourse is both a Trent and Traill tradition and encourages alumni to join the discussion.

"As Trent's oldest college, it has had huge impact on both students and the Peterborough community."

Dr. Tindale has stated that he does not hold "invested interest" in the results of the project and that his role is to "hand in the report and walk away."

Meeting with members of the Graduate Students Association he said that "Traill is a college I feel deeply about" and that he, personally, would "never suggest a closure."

Trent President Leo Groarke recently published this update in the Peterborough Examiner:

Traill Review is Necessary
Why is Trent reviewing Traill College? The answer to this question is rooted in our history. One of the things that makes this history fascinating is a continuing debate over our downtown colleges.

Peter Robinson College and Catharine Parr Traill College opened their doors in 1964. In a press release, President T.H.B. Symons described them as “the central academic units of the University, in which students will receive many of their tutorials and lectures, and around which the whole life of the University will be focused.”

The ideal behind Trent’s original two colleges is a powerful one which aims to place students in a small teaching and learning community that supports them during—and after—their time at university. Today, many still see colleges as a way to provide students with a close-knit community during a time when university education is increasingly impersonal.

Over time, colleges have played a diminishing role in university education in Canada and elsewhere, although “collegiate” universities continue to adapt and evolve. Some of the world’s most successful universities are, in one way or another, wedded to the college model.

In Peterborough, Peter Robinson College was closed for fiscal reasons in 2001. In the midst of widespread opposition and much controversy, Traill College remained open, but was converted into a college for graduate rather than undergraduate students.

At Trent, attitudes to the traditional college ideal differ but debates about the significance and history of Trent’s downtown colleges remain a key element of our identity.

When I meet with alumni across the country, many of them lament the loss of a college ideal that played a central role in their undergraduate education. They hope that the current review of Traill can become an opportunity to recapture the college ideal and reclaim, in one college, what was a key component of Trent education.

Current members of Traill College who are committed to the education it provides are anxious about a review that brings back memories (or, if they were not at Trent, stories) of what happened as a result of past discussions of the colleges.

Other members of the Trent community are indifferent or more critical. They highlight budget issues; physical challenges with some of Traill’s aging buildings; what they see as a weak and marginal connection to the downtown; and a preference for a focus on the Symons campus that to a great extent replaced Trent’s original colleges.

I think that the members of all these groups should welcome the current review. The suggestion that the university should not “open this can of worms” because it is divisive is out of place in a university which claims to teach critical thinking that invites students to “challenge the way you think.”

More importantly, there are issues that Trent and Traill need to recognize and address. If one wanted to make Traill fail, the best way to do so is by ignoring real issues that will catch up to it. One does not help a community—in a college or elsewhere—by turning a blind eye to challenges it faces.

I have outlined the issues for Traill elsewhere. I leave them for our external reviewer, Dr. Tindale, and others to address.

I do not know what recommendations will make their way back to the University, but I will say that my own vision of Trent includes Traill College. Though it must be a Traill which is organized (and possibly reorganized) in a way that will ensure its future success.

If the issues are taken seriously, the review of Traill could be a creative catalyst which could revive, in one of our component parts, the educational ideals that characterized our inception at the same time that it invigorates a connection to the downtown that would make Trent and Peterborough both better.

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