Lorna Fitzpatrick, president of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), has condemned a decision taken by College that students must now leave their rooms on campus, in Trinity Hall, Binary Hub and Kavanagh Court unless they fit specific criteria.
College said the decision, which was communicated to students on Monday evening through email, has been taken because “large, highly concentrated numbers of students living on campus will increase the chance of rapid transmission of the coronavirus”.
Speaking to Trinity News, Fitzpatrick said that while she “completely understand[s] the need to help stop the spread”, she feels that “the way in which this was handled is extremely concerning”.
Fitzpatrick highlighted a “lack of engagement” with Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) as a “huge problem”, also addressing “the short notice given to students” which she said is a “major concern”.
From 8pm on Tuesday, all students whose home is in Ireland must return home and “stay at home until notified otherwise,” College said in an email to students sent on Monday evening. College told students with a home overseas to aim to have left their Trinity accommodation by 5pm Wednesday on March 18.
FItzpatrick told Trinity News: “The lack of clarity in relation to how this is supposed to be managed and what the burden of proof is for students is so unclear.” Fitzpatrick called on College management “to urgently engage with the Students’ Union on this issue”.
This evening Fitzpatrick tweeted that she would be contracting representatives of several political parties, including the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, about this issue.
Students who fit certain criteria are permitted to remain on campus. This list includes students who faces homelessness, students who have the virus or are currently self-isolating, if their family at home has the virus, students who have immigration, travel, and/or visa restrictions, students whose home is in an area with extremely limited internet connectivity, and PhD students who must conduct lab or other research on campus that’s required for their thesis.
Trinity News reported that several students had expressed outrage at the decision and have emailed college staff members to communicate their anger. One student described her “great distress”, while another called the decision “utterly shameful”.
College said that the order for residents to leave was “one of the most difficult decisions to date”. It followed the announcement that three more cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Trinity community, bringing the total to eight.
A College spokesperson told Trinity News: “This was a very difficult decision and the gravity of it reflects the rapidly evolving situation. This decision was taken on medical advice and with our students’ health and wellbeing in mind.”