It’s been a bad week for Trinity’s public image: a student protest demanding more face-to-face teaching was picked up by several national media outlets, and Trinity students’ plight is, embarrassingly, becoming a mainstream news story.
Registrar Neville Cox floundered somewhat on Liveline this week when questioned by students and parents who have forked out thousands for what they see as another year of Zoom university, while schools and some other colleges are operating largely as normal. Trinity’s arguments about poor ventilation in its old buildings feels a bit meagre and there is a lot of resentment building among students, who feel betrayed and misled.
The student movement pushing for more in-person teaching appears to be fractured. Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) appeared slightly uncomfortable on the outskirts of the Students4Change and TCD F2F protest on Wednesday. While making some valid points, the inflammatory rhetoric espoused by some of the organisers stands in stark contrast to the more measured tones of the union and may alienate less radical students.
For example, claims by one speaker that students pay for the salaries of teaching staff went down badly and were divisive. Moreover, judging by the gender balance of the speakers at the Dining Hall – mostly male – it is far from representative of all students.
So it is important that College separates the extravagant rhetoric about Trinity from the justifiable anger that students feel about their lack of in-person contact. Cox was right when he told Joe Duffy that parts of the community are worried about coming back to in-person teaching – everyone in Trinity is not on the same page when it comes to reopening.
However, at present, Trinity is letting down students who feel like they have been isolated from a university they are spending significant amounts of money to attend – particularly students in younger years who may have missed out on the opportunity to even meet their coursemates yet.
Provost Linda Doyle has indicated that she wants to listen to students’ concerns. Hopefully, she can back up this assertion with action.