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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2007

New Use for Closed Trent College

Student levy bought building, now shared with community.

Historic Sadleir House — A shining example of a student revitalization project.
Historic Sadleir House — A shining example of a student revitalization project.
In 2001 many students, alumni, faculty and staff rallied against a decision by Trent University administrators to close the university’s two colleges in downtown Peterborough. At the time Trent president Bonnie Patterson claimed the downtown properties were in poor repair and a financial drain on the university. But the ongoing story of Sadleir House, which was the main part of Peter Robinson College, calls into question the claims of the Trent administration.

The university sold Sadleir House in 2002 for use as student rental accommodation, as part of the Peter Robinson College disposal, and moved programs to the main campus. A year later, Trent students voted by referendum to establish a student run space in the downtown area and raise money for a facility through a new annual student levy.

An offer later that year led to the purchase of Sadleir House and students took possession in February 2004. The Peter Robinson Community and Student Association oversees the operation of Sadleir House and Trent students currently pay a levy of $23.50, which so far has contributed more than $120,000 to the property.

The building has since been renovated and designated a historic landmark by the municipality of
Peterborough. It now houses several student organizations and hosts various events with Trent faculty, students and the larger Peterborough community.

“Sadleir House is the physical place where the university and the wider community are able to interact,” said Dwayne Collins, steward of Saidler House. “Given the suburban location of the main campus this was always part of the vision of Trent. The success of Sadleir House as a student-owned space undermines the administration argument that these buildings were not viable and not worth saving and restoring.”

George Nader, principal of Peter Robinson College at the time of the proposed closures, questioned many of the financial and operational assumptions behind the decision to close Trent’s downtown colleges. He butted heads with senior administrators over the closures and, despite a strong recommendation from a senate-appointed search committee, his appointment as principal was not renewed.

Many felt Nader’s protest about the closures played a role in the administration decision not to renew his term and the action prompted a CAUT ad hoc investigatory committee to examine the question of academic freedom for administrators. The committee’s report can be found in the April issue of the Bulletin.