Jack P. Carroll ’24
Chief of Staff Jason Rojas and other senior administrators convened in a virtual town hall on Wednesday, Jan. 26 to discuss Trinity’s reopening plans and new COVID-19 protocols.
Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management Joe DiChristina began the town hall with a discussion of the College’s goals for the spring. He reaffirmed that in-person learning will resume on Monday, Feb. 7. The shift to remote instruction for the first week of classes was announced earlier this month in an email to faculty from Dean of the Faculty Sonia Cardenas. She anticipated a rise in cases during move-in week and noted that close to 10 percent of students on campus were testing positive at the time.
“We’ve had about a hundred positive cases come through the testing center during the month of January so it’s significant in terms of the presence of Omicron,” said DiChristina while discussing the spread of COVID at Trinity. He indicated that these cases derive from the 400 students who remained on campus during the winter. DiChristina told the Tripod in December that 375 students (athletes, international, and J-term) were staying on campus through the break.
DiChristina stated that remote learning will ensure an equitable start for all students: “If a student has tested positive and they’re not able to go to the first week of classes that puts them at a disadvantage. We’re paying attention to that and doing the best we can to support all of our students.”
DiChristina discussed the College’s booster shot mandate. The Tripod previously reported that Trinity will require students, faculty, and staff to obtain a COVID-19 booster shot for the spring. The mandate will go into effect on Tuesday, Feb. 1, and all vaccinated members of the community must submit proof of a booster shot within 30 days of becoming eligible. DiChristina announced that Trinity will host its second booster shot clinic from Jan. 31 through Feb. 2. He revealed that a third booster clinic is scheduled for Feb. 24-5.
While discussing campus life, DiChristina announced that large gatherings are currently prohibited. The gathering guidelines prohibit large gatherings through the month of February. Meetings, programs, student organizations, and athletic teams must meet virtually unless supervised by a college employee.
The Ferris Center remains open for recreation and exercise; students can use the space without making an appointment. In addition, students are expected to limit off-campus travel to essential purposes and are discouraged from dining and gathering at restaurants and bars. Dining services will offer grab-and-go meals only. Furthermore, DiChristina announced that all members of the community who are involved in the College’s testing program can attend Trinity sporting events. He indicated that NESCAC Presidents will meet next week to consider expanding audiences to include family members and other spectators.
Rojas discussed Trinity’s new mask mandate which requires everyone on campus to wear a surgical ASTM level 1 or KN95 mask. He cited CDC research indicating that the virus can be easily transmitted through cloth masks. Students cannot wear cloth masks unless they are used over ASTM-approved masks. The College will be distributing surgical masks across campus until Mar. 31.
Responding to questions about the role of student input in developing COVID protocols, Director of Greek Life Trevor Beauford stated “We pulled together a team of students including SGA, athletics, representatives from Greek Life, representatives from different parts of campus and they regularly meet with VP Joe and Jason to talk through policies and procedures and offer the student voice.”
When asked whether the College will provide COVID updates more frequently, Director of Analytics and Strategic Initiatives David Andres ‘04 claimed that the Dashboard is updated “about a minimum of three times per week.” “There are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes and it’s literally a twenty-four-seven operation with numbers changing all the time. So we’re open to feedback but we’re at this time aiming for three days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.”
However, the College’s website states that current case counts will be updated twice per week. Rojas told the Tripod in December that the College does not have any plans to update the dashboard more frequently.
As the Tripod previously reported, the College’s testing program has been deemed insufficient by students. In the fall of 2020, students pointed out that Trinity and Wesleyan were the only colleges in the NESCAC which declined to update their dashboards daily. Similar complaints have been made this past semester as Trinity continued to update its dashboard only twice per week. Other schools in the NESAC–including Amherst, Williams, Hamilton, Colby, and Tufts–update their dashboards daily or every weekday. Connecticut College updates its dashboard at least four times a week.
Last spring, Trinity updated its dashboard every weekday. However, this practice came to an end in August as Rojas and DiChristina announced the dashboard will now be updated twice per week starting the week of Sept. 8.