Not my problem: the tale of Trinity admin

Trinity admin show us how not to run a college.

Illustration by Amanda Cliffe

As the situation stands at the moment, I am neither a second or third year undergraduate student. Actually, that’s untrue; I am a second year student by default who was accidently, if conveniently, registered to the third year modules I initially intended on taking. “Classic Trinity” was the first thought that crossed my mind when I realised the mistake. I’ll admit that this was immediately followed by a temptation to proceed with third year as if everything was normal, because it seemed quite possible no one would notice otherwise. At least until it came to graduation and, like an obstacle similar to unpaid library fines, it arose that I actually never completed second year.

The reason for my being in limbo is that a week ago I sat a super supplemental exam, having argued my way into getting one despite being initially refused point-blank. Trinity’s administrative procedures have never been straightforward, and I’ve learned the hard way that if you want something done, you really do have to do it yourself. If you can’t, then the next best solution is to present yourself as such a persistent nuisance to whomever it is that’s blocking your path, that they’ll wave you on your way in the end, even if just to get rid of you.

Perhaps the most obvious problem with Trinity administration is that its existence as a collective entity is true only in theory. The many strands of administration scattered throughout the College are exactly that – scattered. Each acts on behalf of one aspect of Trinity, but when it comes to communicating between two sectors, it’s like standing up nervously to give an intense speech only to realise that half the people in the room aren’t listening at all.

At the core of my very own problematic relationship with Trinity admin lies the College tutor system. Essentially, I’ve been without one for the past four months, which is fine until the Senior Tutor inevitably blocks my email address. My initial tutor could never quite manage to remember my name let alone respond to my emails, which proved rather unfortunate in times when College supports fell flat when I most needed them. “Are you registered with the Disability Service?” is a question I’ve often been asked, which I am. However, I stopped contacting them with my particular grievances midway through first year – their responses usually consisted of, “this is really a matter for your tutor”. See above for why that proved slightly problematic.

One of the most glaring faults I encountered in Trinity from the offset was the inability of College to communicate amongst itself when a student’s wellbeing is at hand. I’ve lost count of the number of external doctor’s letters I’ve acquired in the past two years simply to be taken seriously. All I’ve learned from my grapplings with the system we’re subjected to is that it’s much better to keep your head down and avoid any unnecessary dealings with College if at all possible. Like a sleeping dog, leave Trinity lie, because you’re the one who’ll be left scathed.

I once attempted to change my course pathway midway through a year that defined it, and was falling ten credits short of what I needed to make the change. Changing course within Trinity is not a procedure akin to what it entails in any other college across the country. It almost seems that at the mere whisper of it, the cogs in the wheel that keeps Trinity functioning physically start to break down, stuttering to a complete halt until you leave College be, opting to simply plough on or drop out, as students are typically advised. It doesn’t matter if you happen to meet all the requirements to make a smooth transition to a different pathway. There’s a very limited amount of paperwork that Trinity’s computer systems can handle before sparks ensue, and course problems aren’t usually considered substantial enough to put the delicate system at hand to the test.

However, these problems are individual to each student and are often handled differently according to each case. I’ve never had any luck in trying to wriggle through what I thought were loopholes in Trinity’s hallowed administrative bible, but some of the issues posed by College’s rigid, ridiculous ways pose genuine, seemingly immovable barriers to many students. Only too frequently have I heard friends in a panic recently because for Northern Irish students who pay registration fees with their student loan, they cannot register until all fees have been paid – but alas, cannot access their loan until Trinity allow them to register.

This type of problem causes the other minor, albeit plentiful, flaws within Trinity’s administration to pale in comparison. But to name a few more examples for the fun of it, my sister arrived at Trinity Hall last month to find that her room had been allocated to both her and another student who happened to move in first, and this was after the small mishap of the Halls application form outlining the requirements as 250 characters rather than 250 words. Last summer, a friend who is an international student almost flew back to Ireland from the US for repeat exams which never actually happened because her grades had been incorrectly entered onto her academic portal.

For Trinity students, these are oversights that traditionally precipitate an eye-roll, followed by a “that is so Trinity”. And it is. When not tearing our hair out over unnecessary complications at the mercy of an institution so proud of its rankings and reputation, the problems we encounter with Trinity administration are best laughed off, even if done so retrospectively and in defeat. Because they are experienced by all of us at one point or another. At this stage, it’s a rite of passage.