Taylor Shelden ’21
The future for a fall 2020 semester looked grim for college students like myself. I was fully prepared to finish my senior year from home, away from my friends, and missing all of the memories that were supposed to be ours. I was not optimistic about being welcomed back onto campus and neither were other students.
The global pandemic had changed everyone’s lifestyle and many college students like myself felt that I was missing out on a year that I was repeatedly told to be one of the best years of my life. The majority of college students voiced their opinions wishing to return to campus after having a large chunk of their college experience stripped away. College’s have the responsibility to support their students. However, they also must maintain a respected reputation. Throughout the process of society navigating the ‘right and wrong’ protocols for colleges to follow during the pandemic it left some college students questioning if College’s decisions had anything to do with what was best for the students or was it their reputation.
“Are they really not bringing us back just to avoid a lawsuit?”
“They are making us sign this to cover their own asses. They don’t actually care.”
“They don’t care about us, they just want our money.”
Colleges this year nationally have been under hard criticism which has put them in a difficult situation. One being to ensure the safety of their college students amidst a global pandemic. Different colleges have taken different approaches to the situation: some have not welcomed students back this year, others have only allowed certain grades back, and some have welcomed everyone back. The variation of tactics goes on forever, which has been difficult on the College’s administration, but also on the students.
However, Trinity College has done a great job at supporting their students’ wishes of wanting to return to campus while also juggling the requirements and regulations that an institution is required to uphold during a global pandemic. Although it is not the normal semester that senior college students had imagined when they began their 4-year journey at Trinity College, I believe that I can speak for everyone when I say that I am thankful to be surrounded by classmates, friends and making memories in different ways.
It came as a huge surprise and joy to me when Trinity College’s President Joanne Berger-Sweeney delivered the news on Mar. 8 that the Class of 2021 would be having an in-person graduation ceremony. Additionally, allowing students to invite two spectators to the event which was something that I didn’t imagine being possible during the pandemic. I was ecstatic to hear the news but, as was to be expected due to the pandemic, the ceremony was not going to be a normal graduation gathering.
The 2021 Trinity College graduation plans to accommodate for the size of the gathering by dividing the Class of 2021 into two groups. The division was based on the area where students live: the south side of campus will graduate in the morning and north side will graduate in the afternoon. I understood why they chose to do this. Students living together will be staying in their pod and the ceremony itself will be smaller in size, reducing risk of spread.
I continued to read the email, “Graduating students will be expected to move out and depart campus immediately following the Commencement ceremony they participate in.” My heart dropped slightly. Not only were we not going to be able to graduate with all our friends or have all of our supporters come watch, but Trinity is forcing us to move out the day that we graduate. Pack up our lives and start new ones in the blink of an eye.
Additionally, the requirement to move out immediately following Commencement will not be held to the same standard to students living on the north side of Trinity. The majority of students on the north side of campus are living in housing not owned by Trinity, while students living on the south side of campus are living in Trinity housing. This means that Trinity is only demanding that half the class leaves but the other half will most likely stay at their leisure.
College graduation is a day that students look forward to from their beginning days of school. It is a special accomplishment that should be celebrated. Although Trinity has found a way for an in-person graduation, the requirement to move out directly after the ceremony has led to me feeling more anxiety about the day of graduation, as opposed to the excitement that we have been looking forward to these past four years. Will students even be able to enjoy their big day?
More information since then has been given to students from the administration regarding the move out date: “Seniors will be moved out 2 hours after graduation” and followed by “No exceptions.” Is this really feasible? What about pictures and lunch?
What about the students who do not have a means of their own transportation? And will not have any family members watching the ceremony to help them move out? Without a support system, moving out is extremely stressful and will completely shadow the joy of graduating with their degree that students experiecned earlier that morning.
It is apparent that Trinity College has put in time and effort to make all the accommodations for the 2021 Commencement. It is great news to not only the students but also to alumni and those at fellow NESCAC schools. The Trinity College administration was probably very proud to make this announcement to the public, expecting praise for their efforts and thoughtfulness for their students. However, the administration is unable to recognize the stress that the extreme moving out deadline will cause on students. It almost seems that this move out requirement is a decision made for the public eye, avoiding the trouble, and is not one made with the concern of the students in mind.
Are they kicking us out because we are no longer their problem? They don’t want us having a social gathering, but what is the north side of campus planning on doing? Are they planning to enforce this rule on the north side as well?
Additionally, do you think there is not going to be any alcohol consumed that day? Sixteen hard years of work should absolutely be celebrated! Does the administration want students to risk their lives by possibly being forced to drive home after the ceremony with alcohol in their system? Many students may not have that luxury of someone else driving them.
As these are difficult times, this means that this should be more of a time of understanding and support. The seniors at Trinity College have already been present on campus all semester and kicking them out of their housing the day that they graduate does not fully align with the supportive messages that Trinity attempts to send. Why not let the students stay 24 more hours? This would show the students that Trinity “cares” about them enough to thoroughly enjoy their commencement, a great memory at the end of the dark tunnel of the pandemic.
Although I am thankful for this year that I have been able to spend time with friends and have the opportunity to walk at graduation, I am hoping to see changes to the 2021 Commencement agenda and specifically the move out date for seniors. As the vaccine distribution in Connecticut for ages 16 and up has begun as of Apr. 1, it has given me hope and made me more optimistic. It is possible that without confrontation, the school will reevaluate the circumstances as more and more students receive the vaccines. And maybe, just maybe, Trinity will take their goodwill that they have placed on the students this year and allow the seniors just 24 more hours.
Is it really too much to ask?