Trinity’s administration issues need to be addressed – again

Trinity’s notoriously inadequate communication and administration services are no secret to returning students, but looking back at the last year it is clear that it is time these issues are finally fixed

Looking forward to a new academic year in Trinity, we are already at that point of the summer where we have to make degree-shaping pathway decisions, with module option choices not too far away. As a new year begins to take shape, an age-old problem rears its head – a frustrating and unnecessary problem that unfortunately should come as no shock to the seasoned Trinity student. Of course, I am referring to Trinity’s infamously poor administration services. Year after year, this aspect of college life plagues all Trinity students, many of whom rely on it for support, causing unnecessary stress, frustration, and, in some cases, encounters with the administration service that produce more questions than answers.

Sending one email and being directed to another person, then another person after that, soon makes a simple silly query into a protracted ordeal that costs a lot more work than it was worth”

A major source of Trinity’s communication problems seems to stem from poor structures of communication within the college itself. As a student in a joint honours (JH) course, I know all too well first-hand how little communication seems to relay between different schools and even between departments within the same school. Overall, JH students experience far too much hassle because their two subjects’ departments fail to communicate, ranging from minor inconveniences such as nearly-overlapping assignment deadlines to more pressing matters like timetable clashes when rescheduling classes. Every year, this adds needless additional stress for JH students to get our timetables correct, our essay due dates reasonably spaced, and to find the right person to ask for even the smallest of questions, a struggle that leads a lot of us not to ask them at all. Sending one email and being directed to another person, then another person after that, soon makes a simple silly query into a protracted ordeal that costs a lot more work than it was worth. Trinity’s administration services have taught us to expect this as standard.

Currently, whether you are retaking a module assessment or not, you may have noticed changes in times and dates to essay deadlines and exams already, causing problems for students who have holidays booked or need time off work to sit these reassessment papers. These changing times are far from the only issue; but the dizzying amount of change taking place in such short periods of time forces students, already stressed while they are  studying to pass the year, to deal with other unnecessary problems that should not be in their way. This, paired with Trinity’s notoriously slow email response times, ensures that these potential issues are not being amended efficiently enough for students to focus on what they should be doing – preparing for their exams. This is just one ongoing example of the negative impact that Trinity’s inexcusably inadequate administration systems has had on students every single year.

Erasmus inquiries and applications were a nightmare this year across multiple schools, leaving students to hunt down information for themselves that should have been readily available from the college. Applying for Erasmus is a complicated venture in itself, but not having the support of readily available college-specific information represented another easily avoidable obstacle for students considering a year abroad. With such onerous amounts of paperwork, it is already too easy for problems to pile up, making the lack of appropriate assistance from Trinity as unnecessary as it is frustrating. For an institution that prides itself so heavily on international relationships, Erasmus exchanges should be fully encouraged, not impeded through bureaucratic negligence. During my interview with an English student who accepted her first choice of study in the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, the comparison of college administration and communications was immediately abundantly clear. While English Studies students here in Ireland ask each other in group chats when we are meant to make our module selections, UEA has already asked their students and Erasmus applicants to submit their choices. She described the website as being much easier to navigate and even “a bit nicer-[looking]” than Trinity’s. The communication between UEA and their students, she said, is clear and efficient: “If you have a question, they answer emails by the next day or you can book in for a face-to-face chat on MicrosoftTeams if you want.” She also noticed that they send a lot more email reminders and check-ins than Trinity, for example, when she forgot to fill in part of her VISA application, they emailed her to follow up and get it sorted as quickly as possible before her arrival in the UK. She also mentioned how organised they are even in areas such as visiting student accommodation. Not only has she already been granted a room reasonably soon after applying, but she also received an email letting her know that there will be group chats set up for her and all of her flatmates even before moving in. Clear communication and support from a university like this naturally helps to ease the pile of student stress that comes with registering for a new academic year, especially when that includes moving to another country and university.

On the other side of things, last year, I had a conversation on the LUAS with an international student that proved to be eye-opening for both of us on our first days. He told me he was concerned that Trinity was not giving enough attention to their international students, as he is going in for his first day with no timetable, while the meeting point for his group had already been changed twice. Since I was also going in with half a timetable that did not indicate which lectures were online or in-person, I reassured him that, far from being singled out, he was simply getting the full Trinity experience. At least we can live in the comfort of knowing that there are no special privileges going to anyone, even the unsuspecting international students arriving from universities with presumably better information exchange systems.

“In a year where students showed far more understanding towards administration setbacks because of the pandemic, the fact remained that communication between the college, staff, and students could not have been more important”

Over the last couple of years, Covid-19 only further exposed the scope and significance of these issues within Trinity. In a year where students showed far more understanding towards administration setbacks because of the pandemic, the fact remained that communication between the college, staff, and students could not have been more important. We experienced timetables with incorrect information that were not updated even after times or venues were changed. Simple but recurring problems caused stress and inconvenience for countless students, such as “face-to-face” lectures with no venue attached, slow updates from lecturers regarding course material for those who contracted the virus, and classes where a lecturer had to isolate without any replacement or adequate notice for rescheduled lectures. Choosing to stay under harsher restrictions than other colleges in Dublin may or may not have been the right decision for Trinity, but nevertheless the tedious trickle of sparse information offered by the college was undeniably unfair, especially for hopeful students eager to get back to campus regardless of the resulting decisions. 

Underlying all of these administrative issues is the sheer amount of unnecessary confusion and stress that it causes students on a yearly basis. At this point, these issues are so entrenched and consistent that we have come to expect them, whereas anything better or more efficient than the absolute bare minimum is seen as a rare shiny bonus. We can only hope that this year sees improvement, even though, in all likelihood, it will probably be more of the same. Returning students will joke about how bad it will be again this year, secretly hoping that things will be smoother, while frustrated Junior Fresh and exchange students will quickly get on the same page.

Abby Cleaver

Abby Cleaver is the Comment Editor of Trinity News and currently studies an English Literature major with a minor in philosophy in her Junior Sophister year.