Patience is wearing thin in Trinity. As College begins again, there is a distinct difference between what the year was supposed to look like and what it is turning out to be. While Provost Linda Doyle’s two-phased approach to re-opening was supposed to bring clarity, and indeed, hope, it has failed to meet expectations for staff and students alike.
At its core, no one seems to know what Trinity is meant to look like anymore. Where staff and students once understood what attending College would entail, now there is no clear idea.
Students were promised that there would be a specific effort for smaller lectures to be held in person. However, the amount of online college per student varies widely depending on the school. Many are reporting they have few or no in-person contact hours. College has overpromised and underdelivered.
Lecturers are adopting new approaches to teaching, with recorded lectures from the last academic year being used again by some schools this year. And while these are certainly valuable teaching resources and academics are experiencing “unprecedented pressure”, it is worth asking the question: is this really what going to Trinity is meant to be like in the future? What kind of education does Trinity want to give its students? What does it want to retain from the pre-pandemic era, and what can it learn from it?
Online lectures help accessibility, but this week’s petition to increase the amount of face-to-face teaching, in tandem with a townhall where students expressed anger and disappointment at their current circumstances, shows that many students are fed up with their lot.
Vast swathes of the current College community do not properly know each other because of the pandemic and the once-close-knit college community feels fractured. Fourth-year students, staff and some postgraduate students are the only people with any real memories of what pre-pandemic Trinity was like. Current third-year students barely found their feet before the pandemic sent them packing.
Students have good reason to feel cheated of the classic college experience. Trinity must now ask itself what it stands for, what its priorities are and what direction it wants to go in post-pandemic. That means being clear with students about how much in-person teaching they are going to have, being clear about the survival of big and small lectures and the revival of online learning.
Everyone is fatigued. At the moment, what College is and what people expect from it do not align. Fixing that will require compromise and introspection, and if done incorrectly, the anger and frustration will continue to fester.