Societies plan how to brave the challenges of an unconventional Freshers’ Week

Societies anticipate remaining accessible to incoming first years despite amended dates for Freshers’ Week, which will see it run alongside lectures for returning students

Due to delayed Leaving Certificate results, entry for incoming first years to Trinity has been pushed to October 5, three weeks later than the initial date. First-year students are scheduled to begin lectures on October 5, with Freshers’ Week beginning on September 28 alongside the start of the academic year for existing students.

While the short timeframe between first-round offers and the start of the academic year poses significant problems surrounding accomodation, students have also speculated about the impact this will have on Freshers’ Week given the proposed overlap of lectures and society life.

Speaking to Trinity News, Trnity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Eoin Hand said this will have “huge implications for those involved in clubs and societies, as memberships and the crucial funds earned during Freshers’ Week will no longer be guaranteed”. 

“Just as we have adapted to completing exams and working online, society life has followed suit, with many students involved in extracurricular pursuits using creative and innovative ways to keep societies active.”

Just as current students have to complete exams and work online, society life has followed suit, with many students involved in extracurricular pursuits using creative and innovative ways to keep societies active and make them as inclusive as possible for incoming Freshers.

Speaking to Trinity News, President of The Phil, Kate Maher, cited the Phil’s large membership, 22 ordinary council members, four subcommittee members and a number of honorary members of council, as an advantage in running Freshers’ Week despite the potential clash with lectures.

“As President, I will be taking an intermission of studies — essentially I do think we can still run events given the amount of volunteers we have. Statistically, it is unlikely that they will all have lectures on at the same time,” Maher said. “Large social media presence and the strong name” of the Phil, combined with assistance from the JCR, will ensure that the word gets out, even in the absence of traditional Freshers’ Week stalls, Maher hopes.

“We are committed to organising safe events for Freshers to meet new people — this means we are going to have to be more creative than before.”

“We are committed to organising safe events for Freshers to meet new people this means we are going to have to be more creative than before. We plan on hosting a number of smaller daytime events during Freshers’ Week rather than big nights out.”

“We’d rather have safe and healthy members than have a big party.” Maher said that the Phil has wanted to hold more daytime and non-alcoholic nights for years: “We have to look on the bright side and see this delay as an opportunity for us to actually make that happen. Intimate events tend to be less intimidating for incoming students … to see what the Phil is all about.”

This is, in many ways, a positive development, particularly for Freshers who may fear nights out with new people, which are too often pushed as the go-to way to make friends in college.

Additionally, it gives new students a chance to consciously get involved in something they are really interested in or passionate about, instead of falling into the common trap of dropping money on countless society memberships that are never used or pursued.

Maher also plans to continue to facilitate public discourse and guest speakers, a large pull factor for the Phil, saying the society will be “welcoming certain international guests online and then livestreaming the event across all of our social media channels”. 

Other societies are feeling optimistic about the year to come, and the respective societies’ plans to adapt to life after the pandemic. Katie Smirnova, Chair of TCD Environmental Society, said that the Freshers’ Fair’s overlap with lectures was in fact a positive, as “everyone will already be in Dublin for their academic commitments, whereas in past years students were abroad or working and hence not available for Freshers’ Week”.

“Societies are planning how to balance public health guidelines with accessibility for incoming students who have already endured the stress of the pandemic, as well as the uncertainty of a cancelled Leaving Cert and predicted grades.”

Societies are evidently planning well in advance to balance public health guidelines with inclusivity for incoming students who have already endured the precarity of the pandemic, as well as a cancelled Leaving Cert and predicted grades.

Chair of TCD Geographical Society, Emily Cantwell-Kelly, told Trinity News that she is concerned about Freshers’ Week, as it is “where many new members join … and without it, we fear first years might miss out on the chance”.

However, Cantwell-Kelly highlighted that the committee has “already begun to discuss alternative options for events to include health and safety measures” and will be “as creative as possible to continue the Geog Soc tradition”. She said they are continuing “to look to the CSC, the university, and the Government to provide us with clear guidelines on the situation”.

Society life in the coming term will inevitably be drastically different to what current students have previously experienced, and this will be a Freshers’ Week like no other.  While weekly debates, pub quizzes or excursions may not be on the cards, the creativity and tenacity of current society members promises that incoming Freshers will find a place to call home in Trinity. 

Grace Gageby

Grace Gageby is the Deputy Comment Editor for Trinity News and studies English and Philosophy.