We seem to endlessly hear the phrase “use this time” at the moment; it encapsulates the dramatic shift in the way we are working and living as a result of the pandemic, and the immense pressure to do more, insinuating that lockdown equals leisure, a statement we all know to be untrue. However, while our collective change in lifestyle has been isolating, and has negatively affected mental health, it has also allowed many to be more productive. While it may seem bizarre to increase the pressure for renovations at Trinity during a national lockdown, in many ways it is the perfect setting in which to enhance college facilities. The college community, and its tourists, would benefit massively from a return to a newly refurbished and newly busy campus next year.
Arguments for refurbishing facilities are strong: there are fewer people onsite that can be disturbed at the moment, and refurbishment would act as good preparation for the inevitable influx of tourists post-lockdown. There is also a prevailing sense among students that we are owed a better learning environment next year. For example, international students paying extortionate fees are unable to benefit from being on campus as usual. This is just one of the groups feeling slighted, and thus hoping at least for an investment in the facilities they can use in future, if not now. Many students have not even been able to experience being a Trinity student on campus yet, and others are spending their last term at college shut away in their rooms. Having the threat of disease on our doorstep also reminds us that we must savour the life experiences we do have. This only highlights the frustration of students having to defer using facilities like the library which mark the college experience, due to limited spaces and personal anxieties about Covid-19. The “which library is the best” debate loses its jovial fun for students who haven’t been able to visit the Berkeley, Lecky or the Ussher. In this sense, refurbishing, renewing and reinforcing facilities would be a shining promise to many students who hope to use them in years to come, and after such a gruelling year, a symbol of a fresh start.
“Refurbishing, renewing and reinforcing facilities would be a shining promise to many students who hope to use them in years to come.”
College facilities have been put to the test this year. In other circumstances, the slight shabbiness of Trinity’s facilities could become a source of nostalgia. This is evident when older years reminisce fondly on their pre-Covid college life. This has now become another hurdle over which students must jump, in a situation difficult enough as it is. Even a renovation that could give the library and study spaces more seating, as so much of it has been cut down to accommodate social distancing, would be extremely and immediately beneficial. While the frustration students are feeling with the facilities this year stems from an aversion to the difficulties of online teaching, these difficulties have only highlighted the gaps in Trinity’s armour, and an urgent need for refurbishment.
Even an improvement over the next month or two of online services, such as the Student Counselling Service, would improve the college experience exponentially this term. This is an incredibly important service that continues to be overwhelmed after receiving “over 600 enquiries over in [a] three week period”, as reported by Trinity News last November. By turning our attention towards this online facility and reinforcing it, relief from the mental burdens students face which have been, in many cases, exacerbated by the pandemic, could be provided on a wider scale. This is crucial in making sure every student makes it through the term without feeling alone, and extra support for the Student Counselling Service during what feels like endless lockdowns could be a lifesaver.
“Project timelines to revamp campus could lend a sense of certainty and excitement.”
While it has become obvious over the past year that putting more pressure on progress – when mental burdens of adjusting to a new way of living, the threat of disease, and feeling responsible for the safety and wellbeing of others are already pressure enough – does not work for everyone, refurbishment at Trinity could be an essential part of marking an entrance into coping with Covid-19. With staff already onsite still working on maintaining campus at least every week, if not more often, why wouldn’t we move to give new life to some of Trinity’s facilities? Starting refurbishment at this time of year be it physically visible or, for example, the reinforcement of IT Services, could be a look to the future, and a way for us to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Where lockdown can often make us feel like time has lost its meaning, project timelines to revamp campus could lend a sense of certainty and excitement to emerge back into a world at least partially recognisable from before last March. Lockdown has felt hopeless and unfruitful in a myriad of ways; as we brace for the vague timeline of the end of lockdown with the prospect of the vaccine, it would be encouraging to feel that we have at least gained something from it. If not banana bread baking skills, then a freshly refurbished campus to enjoy next year.