College commits to update students weekly about Covid-19

The move comes after TCDSU criticised College for insufficient communication with students

College has committed today to providing a “weekly afternoon email” to students about the reopening of Trinity, following the Phased Resumption of Activities Group meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

The decision comes after Trinity College Dublin’s Students’ Union (TCDSU) called on College to provide students with frequent communication regarding the development of Covid-19 and the reopening of campus.

TCDSU stated that: “Students have been left in the dark by a college that has yet to commit to clear consistent messaging on a breadth of issues for which they have answers.”

The open letter, which was sent to College officials responsible for communication from Trinity to students, called on College to address the “systemic lack of communication” between College and both current and prospective students planning to commence term on September 28.

The letter, which was signed by the union’s Communications and Marketing Officer Philly Holmes, stated: “With less than six weeks before teaching resumes, students are still waiting on answers regarding a wide range of issues. Many issues that College has answers for.

He continued: “It is important to note that even if something is subject to change, it should still be communicated.”

College sent an email to students yesterday afternoon, saying that timetables would be made available to students by mid-September, and that face coverings will be mandatory from the beginning of the term.

In the email to students, Provost Patrick Prendergast thanked students for their “patience” with the delay in timetables, and claimed that College will have “as accurate information” on health guidelines by the time of their release.

In the union’s open letter, Holmes claimed: “Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, College has continuously put the onus on students to track down crucial information themselves. There is an over-reliance on the FAQs section of a website that students simply do not engage with.”

“This is an insufficient means of communication,” he added. “The information included in the FAQ sections affects every member of the college community and should be universally communicated with regular emails. This would dispel the majority of legitimate fears and confusion around a variety of topics.”

College confirmed yesterday that they had been given communication from the Department of Further and Higher Education that “the reduction in the permitted size of indoor gatherings (i.e. from 50 to 6) is not intended to apply in the case of the re-opening of higher education”.

Holmes emphasised: “This is by no means a student-only issue. Staff members have equally been left in the dark. In the current climate, departmental autonomy has been prioritised over a unified college communication strategy.”

Holmes alleged that tourists have “more information” on accessing campus than students do.

“When we queried the abrupt change in circumstances with college decision makers, we were told it was a ‘Friday at 6pm decision’ which is simply inappropriate for a college responsible for 18,000 students,” Holmes added.

“The majority of staff received this information at the same time as the students, and were similarly left scrambling to scrap and adjust plans around freshers week without any support from College that weekend,” he continued.

“We understand that the current situation is unpredictable, but this does not excuse the lack of clear direction from the college,” Holmes claimed.

“We also understand that the college is waiting for clarification from the government and the IUA on many issues that will shape our collective college experience this coming year. This does not excuse the lack of communication around issues that the college has answers for.”

Holmes emphasised that the Covid-19 crisis is “ever-changing”, but College must update staff and students on current issues and deliver a “more transparent” communications strategy.

“The concerns of the college are the same as those of the students, and the current lack of clarity is only serving to heighten anxiety across the board,” Holmes continued. “Now more than ever we need leaders, not lists on a website.”

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.