Residents express outrage and upset at requirement to vacate

One student described her “great distress”, while another called the decision “utterly shameful”

Residents of Trinity accommodation have expressed their outrage and upset at College’s requirement for on campus residents and students in Trinity Hall, the Binary Hub and Kavanagh Court to leave this week.

Residents have been emailing college staff members this evening to express their anger at the decision which requires students with homes in Ireland to leave by 8pm tomorrow and students coming from overseas to leave by 5pm Wednesday.

Aisling O’Driscoll, a fourth year History and Political Science student, described in an email to College staff her “great distress” at College’s requirement for students to vacate college accommodation. She said that she believes it is “deeply unethical” to require students to leave within a day, and “to essentially  force many people who may, by Trinity’s suggestion…already have come into contact with the virus” to leave.

Expressing concern that she will have to return to her mother, who is at “exceptionally high risk”, she added: “I cannot stress the extent to which I cannot go home.”

Students who fit certain criteria are permitted to remain on campus. This list includes students who faces homelessness, students who have the virus or are currently self-isolating, if their family at home has the virus, students who have immigration, travel, and/or visa restrictions, students whose home is in an area with extremely limited internet connectivity, and PhD students who must conduct lab or other research on campus that’s required for their thesis.

Simon Benson, who is undertaking a taught Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation, told Trinity News: “I left for South Africa for a field trip on the 9th and had no internet for a few days…I’m currently in a tent in a field surrounded by zebra, wildebeest, elephants and rhinos and have to worry that I’m going to be kicked out of my apartment. I won’t even be back until nearly a week after they’re deactivating the cards, and I don’t fall under any exemptions.”

College said that students who have already vacated on a temporary basis and not removed all their belongings will need  to collect their belongings by 6pm on Friday.

Benson added: “I may be able to plea homelessness because I cannot afford to rent in Dublin, but I’m particularly annoyed that research for PhD research is included as an exemption, but not my MSc research.” He said that he is optimistic he can make arrangements and added: “I’m sure myself, my course coordinators and my supervisor will sort this out, but it kinda makes the ‘upholding academic excellence’ and ‘being fair to students’ mantra we’ve been hearing over the last week ring hollow.”

In an email to College staff, Mila Stieglitz-Courtney, a fourth year Economics and Geography student, said she was “deeply unsettled” by the announcement. “[I] need to stay longer, not only because as an international student I have no accommodation alternative in Dublin, but also because I am self-isolating,” she said, explaining that she has visited the UK and Portugal in the last 14 days.

She added: “In the eventuality that I have the virus, I would feel deeply uncomfortable going into someone else’s home and risk giving them the virus. I also have to pack up not only my belongings, but those of my roommate who had recently left for America and did not know she wouldn’t be able to return.”

Catalina Rete, a fourth year Computer Science student, said to Trinity News that the next direct flight back to Romania is on March 25. She said: “By then perhaps, all flights could be cancelled, the situation is so unpredictable I can’t make plans that far.”

She continued: “I wish I could go home, but now instead I have to rely on friends who were nice enough to offer me a room. So for the next few days I will leave in the fear that I might’ve infected other people without knowing, as I don’t have any symptoms at the moment.”

Hiram Harrington, a fourth year, Film studies and Spanish student, told Trinity News: “I think it’s utterly shameful that the college is putting students out of their homes at a time like this. When the virus has spread to campus, the answer isn’t to send people who could be carrying that virus out into the wide world. I’m lucky that I have a home in Dublin to go to – but I have relatives who are severely at risk. Will Trinity pay for their hospital fees?”

They added: “I cannot fathom why they would make this decision, and especially at such a late time in the day that we get no confirmation as to whether our circumstances are severe enough to stay until an entire day later. It’s nothing except thoughtless and cruel.”

Speaking to Trinity News, Aaron Koay, Masters student in Pharmacy, said: “I think College definitely could’ve been more considerate of our individual circumstances, give longer notice and provide alternative accommodation etc. should it be necessary to evict students in the interest of public health.” He intends to email College to request that he remain on campus as he is an international student on clinical placement.

College said that the order for residents to leave was “one of the most difficult decisions to date”. It follows the announcement that three more cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Trinity community, bringing the total to eight.

“This decision has been taken because large, highly concentrated numbers of students living on campus will increase the chance of rapid transmission of the coronavirus. Our capacity to quarantine those who are sick and those who have been exposed is extremely limited,” College said.

The confirmed number of coronavirus cases in the Republic reached 223 today, with a total of 275 cases on the island of Ireland.

Aisling Grace

Aisling Grace was the Editor-in-Chief of the 66th Volume of Trinity News. She was also formerly Online Editor and Deputy News Editor.