York Logo

Calumet Rock

Location Bar
Calumet College
Calumet College History
Est. 1970

The First Ten Years: From Inception to the Groundbreaking

Calumet College is poised to embark on a new and exciting chapter in its life as part of York University. While the new possibilities are thrilling, it is nonetheless important that we remember where we have been. There is no better guide to our past than Eric Winter, Calumet's master for the ten years ending in 1987. 1 hope you will find, as I did, that his personal account illuminates the period in which Calumet acquired and honed its special character. Perhaps others of you will be inspired to write your own history...

-Peggy Keall Master, 1987-1995

Calumet In Atkinson

There must be many histories of Calumet College. For almost two decades it has been York's most interesting anomaly. To the Masters of other colleges its claims to similar status were inappropriate. To the Dean of Atkinson College, whgere Calumet was assigned lodgings, it was an irritant. To the Provost, seeking a rational organisation, its government was an exercise in obscurantism. To the cleaning staff, it was allnight essay-writers, sleepers, and the debris of the university's most intensively used spaces. Masters, deans, provosts, cleaners, and perhaps especially the staff of the Ainger, all have histories of Calumet, but their histories are only partial. Equally partial is mine. This is a part of that history which, in the interests of a tellable tale, omits many details and many events which might be deemed to be important. Essentially, it is a tale of six small rooms. Geographies never reach home and histories, even historic tales, never reach the present. This tale stops in 1987.

There will be no names. Actors, heroines or villains, don't work in a vacuum; they need an audience and many people contributed to Calumet simply by being there - supporting or denying -and providing the context for the actions of others. There are other reasons: naming names tends at best to skew the writing in the direction of unctuousness and, at its worst, tediousness. Also, and more important, those who worked hardest for the college, receiving no reward beyond the satisfaction of giving service, would prefer it that way. Finally, if I did name names, somebody would be bound to be left out.

One consequence of such a decision is to make only fleeting reference to the distinguished visitors; one economist, an artist and several writers who for a term or so occupied offices in the college. On some students their influence was profound and many others, including the faculty, were greatly enriched by association with them. I have no wish to diminish the value of those contributions, indeed they added much to the profile of the college when it was sorely needed.

Calumet has had many dimensions. A very successful college tutorial programme had, from the start, set a standard of success in that field which remained constant. Important as they were, however, it is not the tutorials that provide the thread which draws together the story of Calumet over almost two decades. Nor is it the Common Room events like film festivals, concerts, plays, and the Orientation revue, which compressed so much activity into a small space and gave a vitality to the college. Ultimately Calumet's survival came to rest on its peculiar form of government. It is the evolution of that government which provides my major theme. The theme is an heroic one, and as with the best of heroes, there is also the tragic flaw.

At a risk of oversimplification I divide the evolution into two periods: before and after 1980, and at further risk I recognise two different student constituencies. Such classifications can at best be rough and there are bound to be exceptions; to pursue those, however, would be to lose the thread of the narrative.

Calumet was founded in 1970. It was the sixth of the seven undergraduate colleges at York. The founding Master assembled an interesting body of Fellows and the college began its life towards the end of a period of unparalleled public commitment to education. York University had not completed its first decade. The Ross building was 7 years old and the Atkinson building had just been completed. Money was available for college programmes, colleges enjoyed considerable autonomy, and their Masters much prestige. Buildings were being constructed to match high expectations of the colleges. By today's standards both buildings and expectations might be considered extremely lavish.

In the late sixties, universities had been the scene of an egalitarian revolt that had affected campuses all the way from Berkeley to Berlin. As in all movements, radical and moderate forces were evident but most were united in opposition to what was seen as an authoritarian paternalism in the administration of the university governments. In Toronto the most enduring expression of the movement was the Rochdale College Housing Co-operative. It was an outstandingly vigourous expression of community self-government. Its members were mostly students, some enroled in the University of Toronto and others not enroled in any university at all. The manner in which the government operated was in the form of the New England town meeting or an old Quaker meeting. It was an open democratic forum which all members of the cooperative might attend, argue, vote and decide the policy of the Co-op.

In 1970, in the new suburbs of Downsview, twelve miles from Rochdale, Calumet College adopted some very similar practices. Decisions were taken at a monthly General Meeting of the college. Students, Fellows and the Master had the right to attend, speak and vote. There was no executive committee acting on behalf of the students, and there were no standing committees. Decisions of the General Meeting were carried out by volunteers or by staff paid from the Master's budget. The role of the Master in the General Meeting was not specified. In practice it was somewhat contradictory since the university vested in the Master the responsibility for the government of the college and it could hardly be abrogated in favour of an amorphous group of Fellows and students. In fact the Master played the role of primus inter pates in the General Meeting and it was a mode which worked well enough for many years. The fact that the Rochdale Co-op and the founding of Calumet College were contemporaneous is interesting in the light of the similarity of their governments.

The creation of the General Meeting was a distinctive action on the part of Calumet. The rejection of a building was to be equally far-reaching. As the sixth college to be formed it was assumed that Calumet would occupy the sixth structure to be built. However, the design of that building with its tower residence and the segregation of the college members - residents, Fellows, commuters, and staff - did not fit with the egalitarian intentions of the Calumet community The college wanted a building of a more humane scale that was generally more accessible to students, Fellows, and even outside community members. An architect was engaged and a low-rise cluster of town houses formed around a college square became the design for Calumet. It was a form which would allow the college to function in its own distinctive way.

The seventh, and last of the colleges (and presumably one with fewer architectural and political scruples) occupied the sixth building and later became Norman Bethune College. Immediately afterwards, and unhappily for Calumet, the university ran into a severe financial crisis. For the next two decades there was very little money for development and none for colleges. Calumet, with the assent of the Atkinson administration, was assigned a part of the Atkinson building. It was a "two year" arrangement that lasted almost twenty. The confusion that Calumet's address created in the minds of students was constant. "Find Calumet" was a regular orientation game. The college space was less than a quarter of that occupied by an average college; it was enough for a skeletal college without a residence or dining room, with no facilities for Fellows, and at its best, three classrooms. Even some of this space was later taken back by Atkinson College which, as the years passed, began to view Calumet as a 'grace and favour' tenant of its building. In view of the prevailing ideas about the true nature of a college, to be without a building with a residence was a crippling liability. It was compounded by an almost total lack of facilities for Fellows which severely limited the possibility of spontaneous and sustained action by that constituency.

In addition to its peculiar government and its peculiar lodgings Calumet had a third distinctive feature which was symbolic but nevertheless appropriate; it is the only York College named after an object. The name "Calumet" was the clear winner of a referendum among the members of the college. Fittingly the object it signifies is the peacepipe passed from hand to hand during the councils of the native people of this country Somewhere there is a pipe, though it has not been used for many years.

Despite York's rhetoric to the contrary, most Calumet students had their college thrust upon them. 'Calumet' was not a familiar word like 'Winters' or 'Founders'; some thought its name was 'Camelot'. Among those who recognised the written form there were two pronunciations in use: 'Calumay' was favoured by those who had some slight acquaintance with the French language. Pronounced this way it sounded like a euphonious braying. Happily most could be trained to use the anglicised pronunciation.

We can only imagine the disillusionment that would follow the collapse of the plans to build Calumet and the necessity of accepting rooms in Atkinson College as the billet of a refugee. It might have been easier if there were other colleges in the same situation. But there was no college #8 and Calumet alone was unhoused. In this manner it survived for a few years, then it began to thrive. York had stumbled across a new, albeit embryonic, institution, through which commuting students could become involved in the poli-tical and social life of the university. As a vehicle for broad-based participation in sports it was to become second to none. Unencumbered by the demands of a resident Fellowship, detached from formal academic influences, free from the influence of a residential claque, Calumet eventually learned to stop behaving simply as a crippled college - the village idiot role - and it was to turn its limitations to advantage. Even the cramped space which placed students and staff in constant interaction was to have its result in the development of a fundamentally student-oriented college administration. No residence meant no residents. All the students in Calumet were commuters, as was the overwhelming majority of students in the university. The college without premises became, philosophically, the college without walls.

Calumet's revival did not happen quickly Its situation was a novel one and coming to terms with it was to take some time. In the mid-seventies attendance at the General Meeting had fallen to a dozen people. A decade was to pass before the number regularly in attendance would rise to above forty. Once, in the mid-eighties, it was to reach a hundred - two more than the rated capacity of the common room. One or two Fellows attended until the late seventies but were probably eventually deterred by the length of the meetings and the predominance of student affairs on the agenda.

From its very early stages Calumet was interested in the off-campus affairs of students. A housing co-operative in the Maple area, Black Dog Farm, was rented by the College and was cooperatively managed by the students who lived there. Mysteriously, Black Dog burned down, but by the end of the decade there were at least three informal co-ops housing Calumet students. That was not very important in itself but it was part of the ambience of the College that would lead to more far-reaching actions. The first of these was in the Spring of 1976 when the General Meeting moved to establish a studio co-operative for the benefit of Fine Arts students. After a summer of searching, the Landsdowne Artists' Co-operative was established on the upper floor of a factory building near Landsdowne Subway Station. It was a bit scruffy, but it provided studio and performance space and included in its membership were a few professional artists. The college subsidised the rent for a term, after which the co-operative became self-supporting. Eventually the connections with Calumet faded but not before the organisation had included several people who were later to become successful practising artists.

The Landsdowne venture happened at the beginning of an economic depression that continued into the eighties. University graduates were having difficulty finding employment and consequently the value of university education, and its # cost, were being constantly questioned by the public at large. One of the consequences was a decline in university enrolment, a trend about which York became particularly excited. The Landsdowne Co-operative had become a dynamic organisation and the enthusiasm of its members was feeding back into the College. The General Meeting had begun to express a coherent political voice based on the views of the students. The success of the co-op implied that there were other possibilities for college activities beyond the six small rooms in the Atkinson building.

The next move came in 1977. There were several students attending the General Meeting who had reached the end of their university programme. Most of them had been members of co-ops and the extension of the co-operative idea to the field of small and independent business seemed a natural progression. What was needed was not so much a business training, but the eradication of the mystique that surrounded business activity, making it accessible to those without experience. No one around Calumet had any business skills, but the Small Business Programme in the Faculty of Administrative Studies did, and was abundantly willing to share them. Just prior to Christmas 1977 there was a meeting between the College Staff and the Director of the Small Business Programme. When the Spring term started, Calumet had been provided with its own programme. Somewhat less than twenty students joined-up. There were no credits given, but the programme gave students the skills and the confidence to generate an independent livelihood - some of them are still doing it, and some of those doing it well. It was also timely; small business was seen by many to offer at least a partial solution to the nation's economic ills.

Calumet also gained some recognition in the press. In view of what was to happen later in the College a description of one of the projects is interesting. It was given by students of the Creative Writing Programme who were starting a small publishing business. They tell rather quaintly, of a new telephone facsimile process which scans artwork placed on a drum and transmits a copy over the telephone lines to an artist at another location. None of us had heard of FAX and this was the first intimation of the college's interest in micro-communication technology.

From village idiot to idiot savant; by 1979 Calumet was acting with new assurance. The first student chairperson of the General Meeting had been appointed two years before, replacing a staff member. A relatively mature student, he had nevertheless very little knowledge of running a meeting and apparently no experience at it. This is not to belittle him or his contribution to the College because he began the process by which students learned by watching other students. That was to become a powerful educational process and one of the most interesting features of the Meeting. In most areas of college life, Calumet could not hope to match the performance of the other colleges but it was discovering that there were other things that it could do quite well. Schumacher's 'Small is Beautiful' was a slogan that fit the activities of the co-opers and the small business people. There was a new depth in the egalitarian ideology of the Calumet community. The General Meeting was reviving and Calumet students joined in the storm of protest against the report of the President's Commission on Goals and Objectives in 1978. Calumet was the only college to do so. Characteristically, its objections were based primarily on the timing of the release of the report; it was in the summer, when student reaction would be ineffectual. Calumet did not close down in the summer and objected to the exclusion of the students from an important university debate.

Around that time, as one of a continuing series of budgetary restraints, the university administration proposed to cut all college operating budgets by 10% As something like 90% of the Calumet's budget was already locked into staff salaries it meant that the Master would simply have nothing left to develop a programme, or even buy equipment. The proposal as it turned ' out was never fully implemented but it led to the events that later became known as the "Bethune Amalgamation Plot" and had the effect of placing Calumet in opposition to the university's central student government for almost a decade.

At that time the Master of Bethune College was about to resign. Calumet was without a building and it was thought that the two Colleges might amalgamate and save money. The total College budget would be cut six ways instead of seven. Since everyone would be better off - except Calumet and Bethune - the Council of Masters did not show its usual heathy disrespect for change and there was no opposition from that quarter. Calumet's General Meeting, however, had become an articulate group of students which did not find the arrangement to be attractive. Somewhere, someone, discovered that it might be possible for the College to withdraw from the Council of the York Student Federation and recapture the fees that were paid to it. C.Y.S.R had never been much of a favourite with Calumet. It represented a big government of uncertain integrity and its aspiring professional politicians were the antithesis of the Calumet style of open government by informed amateurs. The proposal was opposed by C.Y.S.R but eventually the dispute was decided in favour of Calumet. However there was one restraint; Calumet's fees to the C.Y.S.F. were placed in trust and could be spent only on university-wide projects that were jointly supported by both Calumet and the C.Y.S.F.

That was the Trust Fund; a lady-bountiful who gave Calumet a controlling voice in the disposition of a very considerable sum of money. All colleges were in the habit of giving money to special groups and activities outside their own walls: food co-operatives, the handicapped centre, theatre, and the Open Studio, were among them. Calumet used these new funds generously to support activities which it had formerly supported out of its own budget. One example will serve: the peer counselling group on the campus. (It went through a number of name changes: Harbinger, Campus Connection, York Peer Support Services.) It had always been able to count on funds from Calumet. Its operation by students listening to the problems of other students and exercising judgements about referral for professional advice, had a close affinity with the ideology of the General Meeting. After the formation of the Trust Fund it ceased to be a burden on the General Meeting funds since it became one of the organisations which Calumet supported through the Trust Fund money.

The withdrawal from C.Y.S.F. achieved its purpose; the expenses that the General Meeting had traditionally assumed were considerably reduced. To support the Master's budget it did two things: It assumed the full cost of the salary of the Student Liaison Officer; this was a full-time staff appointment serving the General Meeting of which half the cost had formerly been paid by the Master. It also set aside a sum of money as a fund for the Master to develop programmes in the College; a decision that it was later to forget. The process of withdrawal from the C.Y.S.F. had not been an easy one and had required a lot of skill from the College's small negotiating committee. The success of the exercise was salutary, and the General Meeting ended that year with a sense of unity and purpose which was not to be equalled.

Little Calumet, as it saw itself, had triumphed. Cheerfully it would oppose anything big: big bureaucracies, big businesses, big governments, big armaments and bombs. It was moving in the direction which we would now call'Green'. It was at that time that it made a symbol of the Stone. The Stone had been around the common room for some years. In the Summer of 1979 it was, with the consent of the General Meeting, carried in convocation as the College emblem. It was mounted inside a metal circle at the top of a metal staff. In the centre of the circle the Stone was supported by three taut thongs. The symbolism related to an Indian sign, thus acknowledging the origin of 'Calumet'. It also resembled the circle and three segments which was the badge of the anti-nuclear movement. The display of the Stone was a very public assertion of the General Meeting's acknowledgement that it represented a distinctly different college. The Stone was the anti-flag, mute but eloquent. It demonstrated Calumet's philosophical emancipation. The Meeting, by this time, could muster about thirty regular members and a few others who would attended occasionally.

Meanwhile, the Fellows of the College had not found it easy to play a role similar to that of their counterparts in the other York Colleges. They were dispersed across the campus, there was no lounge or common room to support their activities and, unless they were teaching a tutorial, their association must have seemed merely nominal. There were informal social activities - a true free lunch held at the Master's invitation, but little else. Despite these limitations Calumet's next activity came from Fellows acting independently of the General Meeting. The initiative was eventually to give Calumet a model for the formal and sustained participation of Fellows in the affairs of the College.

It was another small enterprise. It was a process supporting individual activity and circumventing the centralising tendencies of bureaucratic control. It was the Off-Centre for Micro-Computing. If the Stone was the icon of the old Calumet the micro-chip was to be the icon of the new. The Off-Centre was established in the fall of '79 with six 8K Commodore PET computers, a manager, and a group of student monitors. The cost was underwritten by the General Meeting with support from the Faculty of Arts. It was the first drop-in computer facility in the university and it would support a continuing series of Calumet tutorials. In keeping with the ethos of Calumet, the facilities were also used to expand the experience of students by giving employment as monitors and programmers. Like the Small Business Programme it depended heavily on professional help, which in this case was given by Fellows in the departments of Philosophy and Computer Science. This group, acting as a board of directors, would later establish Calumet's unchallenged lead in this field. It would guide the facility through a process of upgrading and expansions into the late 1980s. The Off-Centre was a very bright idea and it's a pity that the university administration was so faint-hearted and feeble in aiding its expansion.

It was after 1980 that the Meeting began to show different and divergent ideologies instead of the relatively simple outlook that had characterised the earlier period. The General Meeting expressed at least two different sets of beliefs. The first Calumet ideology was essentially communitarian and the new one was individualistic and competitive. The cause of the change seems to have been twofold: first, there was the general political shift in society as a whole with the result that the students of the eighties did not come to the university with the same outlook as those of the early seventies; no less important was the contribution which the College itself made to the change.

Around 1980 a few business tutorials had been added to the College programme. The intention was to broaden the skills of the Calumet students in a more systematic manner than could be achieved in the Small Business Programme. The effect was quite different. The tutorials were a great success, not, however, with students who were majoring in the humanities and the Fine Arts, but with students intending to major in economics and business. Calumet had let in a Trojan Horse. The result was a narrowing rather than a broadening of the educational base. The effect was the growth of a new outlook in the College, one that was less interested in the arts tradition and hardly interested at all in co-operative small business. The consensus politics of the seventies had been relatively easy-going and quite undogmatic in comparison with the Calumet that was evolving. Rarely in the past had all agreed with the activities of the organisation, but there was a tacit willingness to go along with any project that seemed to have a fair degree of support. The new constituency was more individualistic and had sharper elbows.

A very competitive and well-organised Sports Association replaced the'play for fun' mode which had been the style. In the space of three years Calumet moved from the bottom place in the inter-college sports ladder to the top. Calumet collected sports trophies by the basket load, but it had nowhere to display them. After a couple of years storage in the Master's office, the trophies were housed in a very handsome case in the north end of the Common Room. It cost $2000 - an addition which the Meeting had to pay for out of its own funds. Believe it or not, its acquisition was the occasion of one of the great debates in the General Meeting.

The common room was forty feet long and the north end became the locus of the sports players. The Sports Association needed store rooms, College officers needed desks in small rooms, and some of the more hopeful ones were even proposing that they should receive a stipend instead of an annual commemorative book. Hangouts began to appear and the formation of a student hierarchy slowly developed. The success of the Sports Association, together with the increasing pressure caused by a new and keen interest of the university administration in the affairs of the colleges, caused ever more work for the officers of the General Meeting. The problem was compounded by the Meeting's inability to staff itself adequately as it had undertaken to do at the time of the C.Y.S.F. withdrawal. By 1985 the once dignified role of Student Liaison Officer, important in initiating and monitoring Common Room programmes and exhibitions, was reduced to that of a part-time skivvy. The old public forum was not equal to the new tasks.

Where there are hierarchies, there are divisions. The Fine Arts Committee, a counterweight to the Sports Committee, was formed by the meeting in 1984, but this only served to deepen the rift and it never had a constituency the size of the Sports Association. The gently chiding term of 'Northenders' used in the seventies to denote the sporting members of the community was replaced by an actual line drawn on the wall; it marked a frontier between the areas where sports notices could be stuck and art exhibits could be hung. The old communitarian ideals of the College had degenerated and the two camps regarded each other with mutual distrust. With the possible exception of the staff of the College newspaper, few students were able to hold the respect of both groups.

From an outsider's view the General Meeting, the instrument of the will of College, continued to be a force in the university. However, the motives that were driving it were changing. Ideologically the differences between Calumet and the C.Y.S.F. were fading and the process of administering the Trust Fund was simply another area of competition with the object of gaining the most leverage. The origins of the process were not of interest. It was another game with cash, instead of cups, for prizes.

Internally the General Meeting had also lost nothing of its vigour. The open forum assured that it would never be without its share of both experienced and inexperienced speakers. (Almost everybody expected to speak at least once, and simple arithmetic will indicate the low probability of a brief General Meeting.) By the mid-eighties the Meeting had produced some outstandingly able chairpersons and a broadly based public-speaking competence among the senior students. As the College took on new activities the meeting was served by a range of committees whose reports led to frequent five-hour sessions. Not all those meetings were good, some were patchy, some plain awful. Even so, there can have been few other places in the university where the attention of students could have been held so keenly, and for so long. There can have been few tutorials where people would wait for hours for a turn to speak and probably succeed only when the substantive issue had long been settled.

It was a student meeting; hardly a forum for the Fellows to spend a cheerful evening. A few would visit from time to time and their presence was noted. Sometimes they would make requests for support or to explain a project but the overwhelming content of the meeting was student stuff, dealing with external bodies or internal matters in the College. For many 'The General Meeting' and 'The College' had become synonymous. Certainly in the eyes of some, the General Meeting had become the sovereign body in the College - perhaps dose to the intentions of its founders. The assumptions were not without positive benefits. Calumet was never a made-up set of classroorn debates, but a set of real issues in the university.

Through the desires of many of its members, and because of the process of rationalisation of student affairs, marked by the appointment of a Provost, Calumet was continually being judged by the same criteria as other Colleges. It had also lost most of its ideological stand- offishness and the issues were the quantifiable ones of the have-not College. The debate had lost its savour. Atkinson's and Calumet's use of the same building was on the whole remarkably free of discord, but not entirely so, and the mutterings from the Atkinson faculty about Calumet going somewhere else, though infrequent, were to have eternal life in the folk- memory of the College. They helped to reinforce the have-not attitude. Neither was the situation helped when the university naively launched into a public comparison of the endowments of the Colleges in the mistaken belief that students might make a better choice among them.

Calumet had survived because of the vigour of its student body and its medium had been the General Meeting. The Meeting was a training ground for the inexperienced - it was unfortunate at times that the ammunition was live. Two meetings, very roughly sports and non-sports, in a single meeting had the effect of prolonging debates to the point of tedium - opposition had become the style and had replaced the supportive critique of former years.

There was another dimension to Calumet which was developing at this time, but which kept the Meeting at arms-length. This was the activities of Fellows, and it followed the pattern set by the Off-Centre Board. Although the Meeting was kept informed of these developments they were never integrated into its agenda. The first of these was a Rural Studies Group which was developing a relationship with the Faculty of Environmental Studies. That failed to win enough support in the College to sustain it for more than a couple of years. Other activities were more successful: between 1983 and 1986 Calumet held three national conferences, supported in a modest way by the General Meeting, but relying, in the main, on funds from the university and external sources. The focus of these conferences was directed to audiences outside the College and indeed outside the university and their effect on the life of the College was therefore minimal. The first of these, a gathering of Canadian poets, took place in 1983 and was perhaps the final gesture from the Creative Writing Programme which had made a great contribution to Calumet in the late seventies.

The Calumet Peace Committee was the sponsor of the other two conferences. The Committee enjoyed some support from the General Meeting but it had also met with opposition. It had a student member appointed by the Meeting. The other members were staff, Fellows, and alumni. The two conferences planned by this Committee were quite well attended and had good coverage in the press. However there were hardly any Calumet students present. Other developments, seemingly minor in themselves, were contributing to an increasingly active participation by the Fellows. The physical constraints and the peripheral location in which the College operated, would ensure that these would never be as strong as in other Colleges but there was nevertheless a field of initiative emerging that would counter the fractured nature of the General Meeting. For some years a Curriculum Committee had met and there were, from time to time, attempts to establish a Fellows Forum, but without any continuing success.

Matters in the Meeting came to a head with the South African debate. The Sports Organisation had a lot of depth in the College by this time and its success in gaining trophies had not diminished. The organisers of the different sports usually attended the General Meeting. The great majority of the sports players, however, did not, though they were in a different way every bit as loyal to 'Calumet' as the most assiduous attender of meetings. At this time the Canadian government was adopting a strong position on the question of apartheid and the message was spreading. It was moved in the General Meeting that trophies donated by the Carling O'Keefe brewery should be returned to the donor as a way of protesting the brewery doing business in South Africa.

The debate raged for hours and was eventually adjourned. The next meeting was attended by many of the members of sports teams determined to exercise their right to speak and vote. Two groups of comparative strangers took opposite sides on one of the most contentious issues of the day. Neither side won the debate and very few people survived it with dignity. Calumet - if it ever was a uniform and well-knit community, if it ever was an undogmatic institution - had not survived. The maintenance of a laidback sixties community into the bustling eighties was shown to be an anachronism. The 'time-capsule' myth of Calumet was shattered. A phase in the history of the College had come to an end - but not quite. The following year students, most of whom are notoriously fickle in their use of public funds, used the General Meeting to accuse, judge, and sentence others alleging indulgence in that activity The meeting was close to becoming an inquisition.

Off in one comer of the Common Room there is small mirror of Calumet. It is called the Ainger. (An anagram of Regina; it is the acknowledged Queen of university coffee shops). In the seventies it sold vegetarian food. It had an annual subsidy from the Meeting and gave clandestine employment to dodgers, and refugees from the African Homelands and from Chile. Later, still on subsidy, it became a sinecure and the quality of the food declined. Three years ago it was turned into a well-run business and provides a regular profit for the General Meeting. The food is still vegetarian and once again widely acclaimed.

No one would dream today of organising a College the way Calumet was organised. It was emphatically a child of its time, communitarian if not hippy, compassionate if not soppy. Without its vigourous and turbulent Meeting it would have capitulated to clear and rational imperatives and faded out of sight. Its contribution to the wider university could easily be dismissed. For almost two decades it had no secure territorial base and those were the years, moreover, of rationalisation in the university and a curtailment of the authority and budgetary influence of the college masters. When Calumet's second Master was named in 1975 the appointment was for three years where previous appointments had been for five. The length of the term probably agreed with the administration's view of Calumet's future.

There is a possibility that the confusion of Calumet with Camelot is something more than the association of unfamiliar words. There was also a quixotic quality about the institution and more than a little windmill-tilting in its activities. However even the most theatrical stunts had their value in keeping the College in the eye of the university and in holding the community together. Its quest was once a building and that provided a focus for activities year after year. As everybody knows a quest, as distinct from a conquest, can be satisfying. Quests command enthusiasm, they generate strong loyalties, they offer roles of make-believe and relief from earnestness.

Calumet will have a building. It has survived. New opportunities open, old ones close. The design is close but not identical to the one of 1971. It suggests that Calumet is guided by its history but not imprisoned in it. It suggests there will yet be quests.

-Eric Winter (16.8.89)

This document was specially written for the occasion of the Calumet College Groundbreaking Ceremony, September 8, 1989.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank several departments within the University for their assistance with the ceremonies, most notably, Physical Plant and the Beverage Department. Special thanks go to Bob Binnie and Paul Leonard. We would also like to thank Amstel Breweries, Canada Dry Corporation, Hillebrand Wineries and U.P.S. The construction managers on the site, Lisgar, were extremely helpful and accommodating.

 Calumet College
 4700 Keele Street
 Toronto, ON.
 M3J 1P3
 416-736-5924 (Fax)

York Y Logo

Last Modified:
September 20, 2007

    Copyright 2007 York University
Future Students Current Students Faculty & Staff York Alumni Visitors To York York University York University Calumet College