Many students in Trinity are to have less in-person teaching this semester than College had previously said would take place.
In mid-August, Trinity announced a policy of capping the size of in-person classes at 150 students, leaving individual schools to decide on classes with between 50 and 150 people, and directing schools “to make all lectures for fewer than 50 students in-person”.
However, timetables for the upcoming term that have since been released to students across different schools show that in many cases, lectures with fewer than 50 students are still to be held online.
Schools have said that this difference between what College had told students would happen and what they were delivering is caused by room allocations.
For the semester, each school has been assigned a specific set of rooms in which all their classes must be held. With the enforcement of social distancing, many schools have only one room with a capacity of 50 or more, and some have none at all.
Trinity News spoke to a number of students from different course areas and viewed documents circulated by different departments and schools.
In an email to students last week, the School of Mathematics said that the largest room allocated to it by College has a capacity of 38 people while observing social distancing, and therefore it would “not be able to deliver significant face-to-face teaching” before reading week.
The email said that the school had “worked to ensure that each year group has some face-to-face lectures” and would deliver as many face-to-face tutorials as possible “within the very constrained funding available to the school”.
It went on to explain that large maths modules would be split into three groups, with a third of students attending lectures in-person on a given day with the other two thirds viewing the lecture online, either live or as a recording.
The School of Mathematics noted that “these plans may not satisfy everyone with less face-to-face teaching than communications from College or the government led you to expect,” but that it had “worked hard to maximise your on-campus experience” using the space allocated to it.
Final-year Maths student Joseph Davies said he was disappointed, but that “I sympathise with the department in that it seems like College have made promises on their behalf without giving the department the means to deliver”.
The School of Law has also scheduled several classes with fewer than 50 people to happen entirely online.
The module Family and Child Law, which has 32 students in it, will have all its lectures take place as live online events. The school did not specifically say it planned to hold these lectures online after Reading Week, something it did express for some other modules.
In a document sent to students, the School of Law said that it had only one lecture theatre, the MacNeill theatre in the Hamilton building, assigned to it. Though this theatre fits 298 students ordinarily, with the enforcement of social distancing it can only accommodate 54.
Several Law modules are scheduled to have their classes at the same times in Michaelmas Term, meaning the MacNeill cannot be used for all of them.
A third year Law student, speaking to Trinity News, commented: “I feel like we were promised so much this semester and I and so many other students have gotten absolutely none of it.”
The student in question said they will not have any lectures on-campus this semester, even those with less than 50 students in attendance. Only their seminars will take place in-person.
The School of English’s largest allocated room holds 45 students under College’s Covid plan.
In an email to students in one module, Professor Jarlath Kileen, Head of the School of English, explained that while this capped the size of in-person English classes at 45, many classes with fewer students than this limit would also have to be held online because of timetable clashes. Several medium and large sophister classes are scheduled in the same time slots, and only one can use the allocated lecture theatre at a time.
Killeen said that these timetable issues were “completely beyond the control of the school”.
In a separate email sent to all English students, the School of English acknowledged that most lectures would take place online because of the lack of suitably large teaching spaces, but said that “the majority of fresher tutorials and sophister seminars will be face-to-face”.
The email continued: “While it is disappointing that a full return to normality is not possible, your time on campus and in class will be enhanced greatly this coming semester.”
Junior sophister English students last week sent a formal letter of complaint over registration issues affecting those who deferred assessments last year, causing many to lose out completely on choosing modules for the coming year. The letter said they were experiencing “frustration bordering on desperation”.
Students who deferred assessments or had repeat exams in all schools are to be allowed to begin registration tomorrow, alongside or after the beginning of classes.
College is adopting a two-phase approach to this semester, with restrictions such as social distancing requirements and lecture sizes to be loosened an unspecified amount after Reading Week.
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This article was updated at 1pm on September 13 to re-word the section about the School of English, making it clearer which pieces of information were disseminated in which emails to students.