As the provost election campaign kicked off this week, a survey conducted by this newspaper among the electorate yielded some interesting results.
Despite all the talk about Trinity and its place in the global rankings and grand plans for future expansion, it is the day-to-day, bread-and-butter affairs of administration and bureaucracy that 42 percent of Trinity’s academics cited as the most important issues in this year’s provost elections.
The results show that local issues will be important for candidates if they are to win over the electorate. This is unsurprising – if academics feel burdened by the masses of paperwork they have to complete instead of jobs they actually want to do, it is only natural that this is such a pertinent issue for them.
However, these results also illustrate how restrictive Trinity’s provost elections can be. These academics will be voting on behalf of the College with repercussions for a multitude of students who haven’t even set foot on campus yet. Wider issues concerning the College’s populace and critical concerns for other academics – such as the precarious position of PhD students – would be eclipsed by the interests of tenured academics and the local administrative issues.
While the questions posed were specific to the respondents’ own opinion, it is likely that most academics will take other issues into consideration when they eventually cast their votes. When push comes to shove, however, academics’ own biases and personal needs will inevitably be the defining factor in their decision.
Ultimately, it is understandable that local issues are a major concern for academics – administration can be slow and inconvenient. There is a danger, however, that by choosing this as the core issue, Trinity’s future will fall victim to tunnel vision from academics, which fails to take wider circumstances into account. But the message from the electorate is clear – academic energy shouldn’t be spent on bureaucratic nuisance. Rather, it should be concentrated on larger issues at hand. It remains to be seen whether the provostial candidates can reconcile these issues.