Central student governments at Trent have had short and interesting lives since the establishment of the first central government, the Congress of Colleges (Congress), in the spring of 1967. This was simply a regular meeting of the three College Cabinets where they discussed issues that faced all Trent students.
By the fall of 1967, Congress decided that a more permanent committee was needed to administer external issues, publications, clubs, groups and university colours among other issues. Out of these discussions, an executive Congress committee was formed and was named the Trent University Coordinating Committee (TUCC). TUCC would handle the day to day tasks required of a central student government and were allotted some money and resources from the College Cabinets. Congress was now limited to overseeing the TUCC's budget and constitution.
The TUCC was seen as necessary due to the inability of the traditional decentralized College Cabinet system, in which each college elects its own government, to accurately represent all Trent students on key issues.
Five years later, in the fall of 1971, a student group named The Young Socialists, created a proposal to reform the TUCC which would put in its place a central body with more financial and decision making autonomy from the College Cabinets. The proposal initiated the creation of the Trent Student Union (TSU), and in the spring of 1972, Congress accepted the reform while at the same time abolishing itself and the TUCC.
The structure of central student governments has been at the forefront of debate in student political history. The TUCC, while an executive of the College Congress, gave Cabinets veto power over TUCC motions and those motions even required a 2/3 majority vote to pass. The TSU was structured quite differently. Though its executive comprised of a member from each college, those representatives were out numbered by members elected by the entire student body. This executive was also completely autonomous from the activities of College Cabinets. However, College Cabinets would again become discontented with the central governing body, and a new structure would emerge with special attention devoted to inclusion, and improvement of services.
The story of the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) begins in the fall of 1994 when the executives of the Trent Student Union (TSU) were called to a meeting attended by other student leaders from across the university.
The executives were asked to explain the current problems the TSU was facing in relation to low voter turnout, only 30-40% of students on average were voting in elections, poorly attended events and administered services, lack of communication with students and even less coordination with College Cabinets and other student organizations around Trent.
Out of that meeting a committee was formed. Representatives were chosen from various levels of student government as well as other student stakeholders. The committee's task was to create by-laws for a completely new central student government that would address all of the concerns raised by many students.
A proposal was drafted and completed by early 1995 calling for the creation of the Trent Central Student Government (TCSG). A referendum was held that spring which gave Trent students a direct choice in the structure of their central student government. Students could remain with the status quo of the TSU, or embrace the new direction of the TCSG.
84% of voting students voted in favour of the new TCSG along with a significant levy increase for clubs and groups and the TCSG.
In the summer of 1995, the newly created TCSG was forced to change its name in order to become incorporated under the Corporations Act of Ontario due to the word 'government' in the title. Thus, in the fall of 1995, the TCSA welcomed new and returning students to Trent.
The TCSA has not gone without its complications over the years however. Historic tensions between College Cabinets and the TCSA have sprung up several times after the new central government took office. Structure changes have not escaped the TCSA either as there has been a loss of student senators and college representatives, and an increase in the number of issues commissioners. While Board members tend not to vote on partylines, executives over the years have had to carefully walk the Cabinet and central government tightrope.
None the less, the TCSA has been able to offer various useful and relevant services to Trent students while organizing successful political campaigns and effectively lobby the university's administration, as well as local, provincial and federal politicians.
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