Students “horrified” by Halls restrictions seek help from unions

Halls residents have expressed concerns over a harsh implementation of social restrictions

Students who feel “terrorized” by a strict implementation of social restrictions at Trinity Hall (Halls) have raised their concerns ahead of the upcoming semester.

In a meeting of the newly-established Trinity College Dublin’s Renters Union (TCDRU) this evening, an issue was raised about the conditions Trinity Halls (Halls) residents have been experiencing over the last few months. 

Students want to see Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) support students living in Halls as they navigate the restrictions brought in by Covid-19.

Speaking to Trinity News, one student said that they felt “terrorized” and “horrified” following incidents at Halls. 

New rules have been put in place for residents this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

College has said that it is important for students to follow Level 5 restrictions and rules in Halls, and that following the rules is a necessary step for students to “keep themselves and the community safe”.

At the meeting of the TCDRU, some students said that the process in which they are being dealt with is “like a prison”.

Student testimonies shared at the meeting said that “disciplinary hearings” that have been introduced for those breaking residency rules on campus have led to “mental breakdowns” from students, who “are left crying, without knowledge of what to do next”.

In a similar testimony, one student described the experience of their friend, who was caught converging with four other students and then “kicked out” of Halls.

“Half of my friends were hysterically crying and one of them had a panic attack over Zoom,” the student said. 

On 16 October 2020, The University Times published an article on the conditions in which students were living in the Trinity accommodation complex, stating that sometimes students were fined for “trivial” breaches of the rules. 

However, students say that “even after the publication of the article, no change was made”.

Several students are now calling for Trinity College Dublin’s Students’ Union (TCDSU) to help in making conditions better for students in the complex. 

A Junior Fresh student spoke to Trinity News, saying that TCDSU hasn’t spoken about this issue, or “at least, they haven’t brought it up yet”. 

The student said that “so far, the SU has not investigated or provided support to students in Halls and has not reacted to the publication of the [University Times] article, except for Communications Officer Philly Holmes who condemned a ‘belittling’ email  about turning off lights by College’s Accommodation Office to the residents of Halls”.

“I hope that TCDSU will do something,” the same student continued. “I trust that they will do something.”

According to student testimonies shared at the renters’ union meeting this evening, on 21 January 2021, a member of staff at a disciplinary hearing “compared an American student to Trump” for not being “Covid-conscientious” because he converged with three other students. 

“Students feel terrorized and traumatized by a reigning atmosphere of lawlessness,” another student said.

The staff structure of Trinity Hall consists of the warden, several assistant wardens, accommodation staff, RSAs and Noonan Security staff.

In a testimony shared at the meeting, a student said that they were given a €100 fine and asked to write “an essay about the importance of rules” after they had “three non-residents over for homemade pizza” when their flatmates were away for the weekend. 

“They said that if they didn’t ‘sympathise’ with the situation I would’ve been evicted instead of the fine even though it was a first offense that didn’t actually endanger any of my flatmates.”

Other students testified that there have been incidents where international students have been threatened with being “sent back” to their home countries. 

One student added that while Halls has been focused on stopping any outbreaks on campus, they have “ignored mental health” of the students currently living in the accommodation. 

Speaking to Trinity News, a spokesperson for College said that Trinity has “been able to keep Trinity Hall continuously open as a student residence even in the context of a global pandemic because we know that for some students, it is home”.

“We are proud of the fact, especially when surveying outbreaks at other halls of residence around the world, that we have so far managed to avoid a Covid-19 outbreak at Trinity Hall,” the spokesperson said.

“This success is in large part due to the students who continue to make significant sacrifices to stick to their apartment bubbles and do the hard work of social distancing, wearing masks, and washing their hands,” they said.

“The Covid-19 environment, and the Government’s Level 5 restrictions have meant Trinity Hall residents have had – since Semester 1 – to follow stricter rules of conduct than normal to keep themselves and the community safe.” 

“We are now in a situation of even greater transmission risk regarding Covid-19 than we were last yearThere have been more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 and 100,000 cases in January, more than for the whole of 2020. Lives are at stake. We need to ensure that everyone shows respect for Level 5 rules and Hall rules, which we will continue to apply as fairly and consistently as possible.” 

Most of the residents in Halls are first years. It also houses second year students who are elected to the Junior Common Room (JCR), which oversees student life in Halls, and third year Scholars.

In August of last year, planning permission was approved for the introduction of 358 additional bed spaces for students at Halls.

This article was updated on 2 February 2021 to include a statement from College.

This article was updated on 5 February 2021 to define the staffing structure of Trinity Hall, alongside to correct a reference to “a warden” of Halls. There is only one warden of Trinity Hall, and several assistant wardens.

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.

Kate Henshaw

Kate Henshaw is current Editor-in-Chief of Trinity News, and a graduate of Sociology and Social Policy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.