Social Justice at Trent: The Souls of the Sandal
Trent has a certain reputation on the Canadian university scene.
In the late 80s, when I was first contemplating which university to attend, I was intrigued, and then very much attracted by the fact that it was known as a “hippie” school.
Once enrolled, I was constantly faced with good-natured ribbing about how I was going to become a granola eater — a fairly likely scenario, seeing how I already wore patched jeans and had long hair. Truth be told, I gravitated more toward oatmeal than granola, but I always accepted the jibes as compliment. And when I joined the Trent community, I relished the fact that we were known as “Birkenstock U” by other students across the nation. So much so that I wore my woolly sock and sandal look with pride. Actually, I still do.
Trent’s reputation, you see, is well earned. I saw that back then, and I see it now. It is based on a seemingly organic set of values that sees great worth in making the world a better place — be it through environmental stewardship and activism or through the championing of human rights and global equality.
Not a bad thing to be known for, if you ask me.
It just so happens that many of the people who hold these values dear have a tendency toward hacky-sack use and patchouli. At least while they’re students.
And while many of us grow out of the peace-sign and incense stage, the values that accompany it usually remain. They remain a part of the attitude and ethics of a good many Trent graduates. They shape our passions, our careers, our lives.
I’m proud to help showcase a few of the alumni who have taken these values and used them to make profound changes in their communities — both local and global. These are the stories of people who are saving lives, building hope, and changing the way that we see the world and the people who inhabit it. These are the stories of people who are shaping our planet for the better: foreign aid workers, queer rights educators, urban food growers, poverty activists, development experts, Native rights spokespeople. For good measure, we’ve even included a Nobel Peace Prize winner in the mix.
It’s a fairly impressive collection of stories. And these stories, I know, represent only a small portion of the many that exist out there. Our reputation is well founded.
It’s funny. It’s been 15 years since I was a full-time student at Trent. And still, when I visit the homes of my former classmates, I’m never surprised to find multiple pairs of time-worn sandals by the front door. Those, or Doc Martens.
Some things, I guess, never change.