Across several courses, many students received notice that modules they had planned to take for the coming year had been postponed to another term or cancelled altogether within weeks before the start of the academic semester.
Philosophy students received an email from executive officer of the Department of Philosophy, Jessie Smith, on September 14, referencing “quite a few changes” made to the teaching schedule.
Presented with an amended list featuring several cancelled and changed modules, students were told that there was “some urgency with the completion of this form”. They were asked to email Smith by Friday, September 18 with any newly selected modules in replacement of those that were cancelled.
If students returned their choices to Smith by September 18, or on an earlier date, which “would be even better”, they were told that modules visible on their timetables would be updated in time for the release of timetables that same day.
Speaking to Trinity News, one fourth-year Philosophy student said that she counts herself lucky that only two of the modules she had initially planned to take were simply moved to next term. After responding to the email on the same day it arrived, the changes she wished to make were quickly taken into account and her timetable was adjusted accordingly.
“I am seriously grateful about this as I know well that other students haven’t been communicated properly at all”, she continued .
If her peers had previously selected modules that were entirely unavailable, they were only given one working week to reassess possibilities for the coming year. Again, the student believed that she avoided the majority of the stress that some of her peers suffered due to “pure chance and the modules [she] happened to pick”.
Students of Business, Economics and Social Studies (BESS) were told on September 11 that Martina Ní Chochláin, course administrator, had “been notified by the various departments of changes made to their teaching plans for the forthcoming academic year”.
For third-year students alone, two economics modules, one sociology module and two political science modules were re-labeled as “not now available” for teaching in the 2020/21 academic year.
Much like Philosophy students, BESS students were asked to respond to Ní Chochláin via email detailing the module or modules they had been “obliged to dispense with” and the module or modules they wished to “take in place of those that are not now available”.
Ní Chochláin said that work was still still ongoing on the timetable for students on September 11 but hoped to share an Excel version of the timetable featuring the revised module schedule by Monday, September 14.
However, as Anoushka Qazi, a third-year BESS student, reported, she emailed back within the time allotted, but “my modules weren’t even changed on my timetable when I got it on [September 14]”.
Of the modules changed, both her first and second semester plans had been impacted, so she had to email and change her schedule for both terms. But when she received her timetable, she “still had [her] old modules which just didn’t make sense in terms of co-requisites”.
A fourth-year history and political science student whose proposed timetable would have included several of the now-cancelled BESS modules reports particular disdain for the cancellations.
As a joint honors (JH) student whose modules consist of only selected BESS lectures, her course “wasn’t even officially told they were cancelled” and was instead recently “given a near-copy of the module choice form [she] submitted in April with the cancelled modules not on it”.
In fact, the only reason she understood why she and her peers had suddenly received a new module selection form was “because a friend in BESS was told and ended up having to explain the situation to the rest of my course”.
Like other BESS students, this senior sophister reports that “less than a week to the start of [her] classes”, her timetable still displays the cancelled module and shows “no sign that [she] is enrolled in [her] new module choice”.
In fact, she has learned from friends in the class that at least two readings and one response paper are to be due by the start of term, but because her timetable has not yet been adjusted, she has “neither confirmation that [she] is in the class, nor official access to readings the other classmates have had for weeks”, let alone any way to submit work for what has become a fully online class.
Although she has been receiving materials and information from peers, “there has been no assistance from College regarding it”.
Students in Two-Subject Moderatorship (TSM) economics, who also share economics modules with BESS students, were not notified of changes to their module list until two days after their timetables were released.
A third-year TSM economics student reports that although students in BESS and philosophy, political science, economics and sociology (PPES), whose economics modules overlap with core economics modules, received the initial email reporting cancellations several weeks ago, TSM economics students were not emailed until much later.
Referencing this email that was circulated to BESS and PPES students but contained information about economics modules in particular, the third year said that “people who were doing business and sociology or politics and philosophy were getting this email and not core economics students”.
Economics students received an email from Niamh Kavanagh, Executive Officer of the Department of Economics at Trinity, on September 17, reporting that “changes have recently been made to some Economics modules”. Like other students who had received similar emails, Economics students were told that revised module choice forms would be “circulated to [them] shortly”.
The updated module choice forms were released on Monday, September 18, the same day that original timetables were made public. Economics majors were then instructed to send back their revised module choices by September 24, when classes are due to start just four days later.
“Most TSM economics students have no idea if modules clash or if they’ve even gotten their module choices,” complained the junior sophister.
Revised timetables have not yet been released for students just a weekend in advance of the expected commencement of college.
A senior sophister philosophy student who reports success even after modules were changed on short notice allows that she does “wish we had been warned but [she] can’t think of a world in which that would have been likely given the suddenness of Level 3 restrictions”.
In fact, after taking into account the urgency with which College had to reassess the situation in light of Level 3 Covid-19 restrictions, she says she is “chiefly cross with the government for not making better decisions surrounding education”.