Senior College – All Aboard!
Peter H. Russell
Principal of Senior College
This spring all of the University’s retired faculty, librarians and senior administrators will become Members of Senior College. Senior College will in effect be the alumni association of the University’s academic retirees.
Senior College is the University of Toronto’s youngest college for the oldest part of its community. Its roots go back to the Senior Scholars Committee of RALUT (Retired Academic and Librarians of University of Toronto).
Ten years ago members of that committee began holding an annual one-day symposium at Massey College. At the symposium senior scholars gave papers on their ongoing research. They soon found that one day a year was not enough and decided to form a college to sponsor intellectual exchange within the academic retiree community on a continuing basis
The College flourished. Starting with a few dozen, the College soon had over a hundred Fellows from across the university. It also attracted retirees from other universities who reside in the GTA.
The College’s multidisciplinary Program Committee ensures the academic diversity of the topics covered in its weekly program of seminars at the Faculty Club. It also organizes small monthly colloquia on subjects of intellectual and public interest.
Senior College has taken the lead in creating a digital, online encyclopaedia/history of the University of Toronto. It has thousands of entries, many of them built on the life-stories of the professors who have built the disciplines and scholarly resources of the university
The College has strengthened U of T’s relationship with the community by partnering with the Workers Education Association in the University-in-the-Community programme. U-i-t-C provides university-level education to Torontonians who for financial, health, family or other reasons are unable to attend university. The programme is offered at Innis College and at CAMH on Queen Street West.
Senior College has had its administrative headquarters at the Academic Retiree Centre (ARC). ARC was established at 256 McCaul Street in 2009 as part of the University’s agreement with the Faculty Association to end mandatory retirement. It has provided a range of services to retirees and a continuing link with the university.
With the help of volunteers, the Centre is open from 9am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday, to take phone calls and receive visitors. It organizes social events, health counselling and displays of retiree art. The Centre maintains a Speakers Bureau that enables retirees to share their knowledge with groups in the community ranging from high schools to seniors homes.
A panel appointed by the Provost to review ARC after its first five years found that Senior College was the most dynamic activity emanating from the Centre. The panel recommended that Senior College take over the Centre and that all retired faculty, librarians and senior administrators automatically become Members of the College.
Those recommendations are now being implemented. Besides its academic programme Senior College will also be responsible for delivering the services formerly provided by ARC. The Centre at 256 McCaul will be renamed the Senior College Centre.
The College has two levels of membership. Faculty, librarians and senior administrators automatically become Members when they retire. No fee is charged for being a Member of the College. Members who are interested in becoming actively engaged in the College’s academic programme have the option of becoming Fellows of Senior College. Fellows of the College pay an annual fee to support the College’s academic events and cover membership in the Faculty Club, the venue of most of the College’s activities.
On April 9, the College continued the event that brought it into existence ten years ago – a one-day Symposium drawing on the knowledge and experience of senior scholars. This year’s focus was the Future – the future of the planet physically and of its human inhabitants. A streaming video will make the proceedings of this intensely interesting and informative discussion available on the internet and as a classoom teaching resource.
It may seem ironic for those in the final years of their lives to be talking about the future. But that’s Senior College! And the future for the University’s academic retirees is Senior College. Welcome aboard!