TCDSU organises full programme of events for campus reopening while societies struggle with uncertainty

Several society committees said that communication from College and the CSC had made planning for the term difficult

College societies have faced uncertainty regarding their ability to hold on-campus events, despite Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) organising numerous Senior Freshers’ Week activities in Trinity.

As part of Trinity’s two-phase return to campus announced on August 27, College said that it did not plan to allow indoor social events on campus, at least until November 1.

Off-campus events may take place according to government regulations, and outdoor on-campus events are allowed, including in a number of bookable outdoor spaces and marquees set up for that purpose.

On August 30, the Central Societies Committee (CSC) sent out an update to society committees saying that “details regarding exact locations, booking systems, specific timelines, and potential daytime bookings” for these spaces “will be coming soon”.

However, the following day, August 31, TCDSU announced a timetable of events it would be holding for Senior Freshers’ Week between September 6 and 10, including several in on-campus spaces.

Speaking to Trinity News yesterday, September 5, TCDSU confirmed that College was delegating management of these spaces to the union, and that it hoped to have a booking system in place for societies, clubs and student groups today, September 6.

Ents Officer Greg Arrowsmith said: “We felt that it was essential that second years were given the opportunity to bond as a year, before another group of students are admitted on September 20.”

He noted that they have “put months of work into these events, and the spaces in which we will run them”. He said they “put together detailed proposals to college for how we can run them as safely as possible”.

The union said it was “regrettable” that there would not be a society Freshers’ Fair during Senior Freshers’ Week, noting that this was outside TCDSU’s control. The CSC had previously said it was not holding such a Fair as it had not received communication from College around the issue.

The union did not offer a reason for the late launch of the booking system for event spaces, or why it was not implemented in time for societies to plan Senior Freshers’ Week events.

Several members of society committees expressed frustration with the way the social and extracurricular aspects of the return to campus have been handled in general.

River Cooke, treasurer of Qsoc, said that “restrictions on social activities, while to an extent reasonable given the nature of the pandemic, as well as [College’s] refusal to implement vaccine mandates making some degree of limitations unavoidable, are compounded into oblivion by the sheer effort I and my colleagues have had to put into understanding any of it”.

“It also doesn’t help that the return of different years is staggered.”

Sé Ó hEidhin, chair of Trinity Literary Society, said that “the restrictions seem to make a reasonable amount of sense”.

“The idea of outdoor society events on campus this year is more than we were expecting, honestly” he continued.“The issue is more so with communicating that.”

“There’s so many emails from college that all have little pieces of information about restrictions so when trying to plan anything, you end up extremely confused about what is technically allowed or not allowed.”

Ó hEidhin added that the CSC “seem to really be doing their best” but that it’s “hard to figure out in their emails what they’re hoping for, and what is the actual reality of the situation”.

On the subject of TCDSU’s plans, Ó hEidhin said: “My issue is less with the SU over running a week of events, I think that every Trinity student should have a freshers week, even this year’s senior freshers.”

“My issue is more so the position it has put societies in” he noted. “Our members are asking what the plan is for Senior Freshers’ Week, as if that’s a thing.”

“Some collaboration with the CSC certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss, where now, societies have to put something in place frantically to match this new week the SU just made up.”

Vice-auditor of Cumann Gaelach, Clíodha Nic Gafraidh, said that while “there has definitely been a lot of delays and it has been incredibly difficult for societies to plan events,” the society “understand[s] that the CSC and College in general have been trying their best to accommodate everyone”.

“Realistically, we all had to wait for government guidelines to be issued before we could plan ahead.”

Nic Gafraidh concluded optimistically, saying: “Society life is at the heart of Trinity College and with the new roadmap issued by the government…we’re sure that it will be returning shortly.”

Minister for Transport Éamon Ryan said last week that it will be the responsibility of societies and students’ unions to apply newly announced restrictions and make sure “there is a social life in our colleges”.

Jack Kennedy

Jack Kennedy is the Editor-in-chief of the 68th edition of Trinity News. He is a Computer & Electronic Engineering graduate, and a former Assistant Editor, Online Editor, and Deputy Online Editor.