Marquees erected on campus under plans for socially-distanced student spaces

Students are to be hired as stewards to maintain social distancing in the spaces

Three marquees are being erected on campus under plans to create socially-distanced recreation spaces for students to use between lectures.

Eight spaces around campus have been designated as “student breakout spaces”, including the introduction of two new marquees at Botany Bay and a marquee in New Square, which is to be divided into at least three spaces.

The spaces have been identified with a view to providing students with places to rest and eat between face-to-face lectures while socially distancing.

It is expected that free hot water, microwaves, and €1 coffee will be provided in the spaces, which are to be monitored by student stewards.

The spaces will operate between 9am and 6pm and will be available to book in 45-minute slots.

In addition to individual students, societies can book the spaces to host events with limited attendance.

The project has been undertaken by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), and the Director of Student Services Breda Walls.

College has allocated funding to the spaces to cover the training and wages of the stewards and the maintenance of the spaces, including the provision of microwaves and free hot water.

Speaking to Trinity News, GSU President Gisèle Scanlon said that it “has taken many months but it’s finally great to have secured these extra spaces as a very important resource for students and I hope that it will be helpful to every postgraduate student and bring a more rewarding student experience to the year ahead”.

“On the ground there has been a lot of walking spaces with the TCDSU President [Eoin Hand] and discussions on safety with College to ensure that existing student space is well maintained and resourced as well as these new spaces attached to this project,” she said.

Scanlon said that the availability of free hot water in the student spaces makes a “marked difference” to students’ lives. Earlier this year, several catering outlets on campus removed charges for hot water for students who bring their own containers after Scanlon flagged the charge as an issue.

In a statement, TCDSU said they were “delighted to announce that a variety of new student spaces will be made available for student recreation this coming term”.

“As we’ve learned in the past few months, many rooms on campus are not compatible with social distancing guidelines. However, these extra spaces announced today will hopefully offset those losses,” the union said.

Following the closure of the Bank of Ireland branch in the Hamilton Building, the location is to be used as one of the new recreation spaces.

“We’re working with College at the moment to develop this into a welcoming and accessible student space,” TCDSU said.

Some smaller, existing student spaces will not be available to students at the start of Michaelmas Term, including the TCDSU kitchen in House Six.

“This is a disappointing side effect of government guidelines but the decision has been made with the safety of the college community in mind.”

Existing student spaces which will operate with social distancing under the plan include the Goldsmith Junior Common Room (JCR) area and lobby, the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI) student spaces, undergraduate and postgraduate spaces in the Old Stone Building by St James’ Hospital.

The 1937 Reading Room is one of the spaces identified under the plan. It will continue to operate as a library space, but with social distancing measures employed.

Scanlon said: “The 1937 Reading Room in particular is the space which is dear to me and I’ve worked closely with the library team to bring it back to function purely for the postgraduate community.”

The Library is to recruit postgraduate students as stewarts for the 1937 Reading Room.

“It will function this year with thinned out seating similar to the library but with the addition of the long awaited Lavazza machine which I had been working on having installed just before lockdown,” Scanlon said.

The existing student space in the Buttery Vaults in the evenings, which was introduced last year, is set to continue, while the Dining Hall will be made available as a student space during its operating hours in the day.

College staff will clean the spaces professionally each morning, and they will be cleaned and prepared for the next users in the hourly 15 minute gap between bookings.

On Twitter, Provost Patrick Prendergast said: “Student breakout spaces approved today – with €1 coffee, free hot water, and microwaves.” 

“Stewards to be recruited from among the students. Helping keep students socially-distanced in the college during the day,” Prendergast wrote.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students are to be hired for the paid steward positions and receive training from Catering staff.

The stewards will manage bookings, maintain the spaces, and oversee adherence to guidelines, and are to be provided with personal protective equipment.

Junior Fresh students are due to come to College from September 28 for orientation, with teaching starting for first-year groups on October 5. Teaching for returning students is to begin on September 28.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.