My decision to study at Trinity was the best decision I have ever made. It changed my life completely, and for the better. I have made so many incredible friends and connections and thoroughly enjoy studying my favourite subject full-time. The time and attention certain members of staff are willing to give students is truly incredible. That being said, I have no desire to continue my education here at Trinity. Why? One word: institution. It is college governance that has alienated me.
Let’s begin with the Health Service. In February 2022 I contracted COVID-19 and was isolating in my room in Halls. I was nervous; this was my first time getting the virus as I had been shielding a close relative since the start of the pandemic. I was advised to call the health service to book a PCR test. Over the course of the day, I tried them multiple times. When I finally got through, they told me they could not help me at all and then promptly hung up. In terms of mental health services, one gets a maximum of eight counselling sessions. For many, including myself, that would not be enough. Friends of mine ration out their therapy appointments, going as little as they can as they worry about coming to the end of their sessions and then needing an appointment down the line. I decided to stay with my therapist from home and meet over Skype. Waiting times for appointments can be weeks or longer. An emergency counselling appointment can take days to come through. Healthcare within a college is a very difficult and expensive thing to get right, but with my knowledge of college health I avoid it like the plague. I would like to be at a university where if I really needed an appointment, I would have access to one.
“I just want to go to a college where someone is available to discuss my pressing academic needs within a sensible, reasonable window of time.”
Concerning access, let’s talk about the Academic Registry, a most curious Trinity institution. There are three times in the year when one might really need to get in touch with them: when enrolling and getting results. Every year, the Academic Registry is so overwhelmed by the volume of work at that time that it becomes very difficult to get through to them. I have sat on hold for over an hour, many times. They can take days or longer to respond to an email during those periods too. This happens every year, yet seemingly nothing can be devised to try to avoid this absolute chaos. Getting through to them at this time feels like a fight and I am tired of fighting. I just want to go to a college where someone is available to discuss my pressing academic needs within a sensible, reasonable window of time.
My issues with the academia at Trinity do not stop there. I study history. Currently if I were to submit an essay, even one minute late, I would get that grade capped at forty. One can reach out to the coordinator/department to let them know that you are having issues, and then you could get your grade uncapped, or not. The harshness and lack of understanding makes submitting pieces of work quite anxiety inducing. I have also experienced my grade being capped when I was granted an extension and then having to go to the department to get them changed. My friends have had this happen too.
Talking about communication, this is something that does not seem to happen for students with learning disabilities. I have a registered learning disability but none of the TAs or professors that I have interacted with ever have foreknowledge of this fact. The onus is on me to go and individually talk to my TAs and the professors, to tell them of my disability and ask them not to penalise my work for things out of my control. This is tiring, this is annoying and this shouldn’t be my job.
This is my fundamental issue with Trinity: it is a college that only works in separate parts. The disability service is supportive and helpful but doesn’t communicate. The health service is stretched, often out of reach even if the individuals who work in it can be of great help. The academic registry can be very efficient, at the times when it is not most pressingly needed. These are all parts of a college I love, but a college which pushes a lot of unnecessary stress on me. There seems to be no push from inside the institution for change. To stay I would need change, or at least the promise of it. Otherwise, I am not willing to put up with all this stress. I am tired of fighting for my college to do their job. I quite often wonder what, aside from lectures, I am paying for.