The Trinity College Meeting (TCM) held its seventh meeting of the year on February 22. Members discussed the recommendations of the Trinity College Task Force on Anti-Black Racism report released a few weeks ago, and attendees raised concerns over the accountability of the Board of Trustees (BOT) in adequately addressing student concerns.
The TCM also endorsed an open letter to Trinity College to rethink its ongoing partnership with Chartwells Canada for dining hall services.
Discussion of Anti-Racism Task Force Report
The TCM discussed the recommendations outlined in the final report of the college’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism and Inclusion, which was released on February 5, eight months after Trinity College Provost Mayo Moran first announced the task force’s formation.
The report’s overarching recommendations addressed the college’s inclusivity within the student culture, faculty training, and the college’s physical environment and governance structures.
TCM members also discussed the task force’s proposed reforms for student government to transition into a “representative democracy” from its current disposition as a direct democracy, in an effort to prevent governance positions from being held by groups of students who contribute to the college’s exclusive culture.
Head of Non-Resident Affairs Cindy Lui wrote to The Varsity that the TCM heads have asked but not received clarification from the administration as to what this new model would look like. TCM Chair Anjali Gandhi notified attendees that, following the report, the person tasked by the college with independently investigating the college’s student governance has already reached out and spoken to student leaders.
Attendees discussed the report and the college administration’s ability to follow through on the task force’s recommendations for the students. Concerns were also raised over appropriate accountability for faculty and staff being inclusive to racialized students beyond proposed equity and diversity training programs.
Notably, questions were also raised over the transparency of the college’s BOT. The board has oversight over finances, investments, and property management decisions for the college, and can approve policy decisions over student life and residences at the request of Trinity’s senate.
However, despite making decisions that influence the student experience on campus, the board is not mandated to directly address student concerns; rather, this falls on the provost. Students had concerns about the BOT’s recent decision to increase residence prices despite the task force’s recommendation to make on-campus living more accessible to lower-income students.
“We felt — because the task force recommends changes that will severely impact how a lot of things are done in this college — the board should hear student feedback and student concerns about things that are affecting them,” said Head of Arts Shashwat Aggarwal.
Open letter about Chartwells
The open letter addressed to the Office of the Dean of Students and Moran asks that the college choose not to renew its contract with Chartwells upon its expiry in 2023. It also asks that in the time it takes for the contract to end, the minimum meal plan cost requirement for residence students be revised, along with other food service fees.
The company currently provides dining hall services at Trinity’s main dining hall, Strachan Hall, and social commons, The Buttery. Chartwells also provides its services to St. Michael’s College and UTM.
The letter alleges a pattern of unethical practices by both Chartwells and its parent company, British multinational firm Compass Group. The letter points to a Washington Square News article to support allegations that, among other concerns, the company is connected to mass incarceration through its prison contracts and has a record of violating food safety.
“We believe that these actions are deeply incompatible with the essential services that Chartwells staff provide for trainees, faculty, students, and community members including the administration,” said Head of College Ingrid Cui to the TCM.
“So we will call on the administration to reconsider their partnership with Chartwells, and if they do not terminate the contract before it’s over, to not hire Chartwells in the future.” The motion was proposed by Mary Ngo, Kiellan Rook, and Cui, and it was seconded by Cali Sherriff.
This motion is not the first time Chartwells has received criticism from students at U of T. In 2014, UTM’s chief administrative officer, Paul Donoghue, said that renewing the university’s contract with the company was not in the best interest of the school, and a campaign led by the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union expressed dissatisfaction with the quality and pricing of food services. UTM has continued to contract Chartwells for its dining hall services.
Attendees at the TCM raised concerns over the livelihoods of those currently employed by Trinity’s food services and raised questions about appropriate alternatives to Chartwells. An amendment was approved to add alternative options and solutions to the problems raised in the letter. The two motions ultimately passed following discussion.
The Varsity has reached out to Chartwells for comment.