We gather once more on Trinity’s campus this semester for another semester that is certain to bear little relation to where we were more than a year ago at this time. As the President remarked in her email to students yesterday, it was only on Mar. 11 of last year that our world was thrown into chaos and campus as we know it was appreciably altered.
The Tripod gladly observes that Trinity has taken proactive steps to differentiate and improve the coronavirus protocols of the last semester. Certainly, what we had long called for in many an editorial and opinion has been realized: daily updates to testing. This was a sensible action and one that was long overdue to bring our testing protocols and our administrative transparency to what we expect from an institution.
With this in mind, students and faculty can proceed this semester with a better sense of where we stand and can better prepare themselves during the rapidly changing conditions that can accompany outbreaks. There was no reason to withhold that information and what we see this semester in the COVID dashboard is greater clarity and transparency, a welcome respite from the uncertainty and infrequency of the fall.
Likewise, the College has made some efforts and acknowledgements to regulate and standardize their communications. This is most welcome, particularly when you consider the uncertainty in the fall around which events and outbreaks warrant responses and the ever-present uncertainty around disciplinary expectations for students. It seems that, in the spring, the College has diverged from its previous position in the fall of feeling that it is “best to acknowledge the actions of students who are showing care and concerns for each other” rather than “focus[ing] on some mistakes that have been made.”
We, for our part, remain optimistic that this semester might show some improvement in the overall rate of infection. In the last semester, we began with a guarded editorial and predicted a dismally high number of cases. For the most part, those predictions were borne out: we saw the highest number of cases in the NESCAC, extended periods of remote learning as the semester was interrupted, and a significant October outbreak that overwhelmed campus facilities and caused widespread concern amongst the student body.
The notion that last semester was a “success,” propagated by some, contradicts the plain facts. The fall has afforded us many lessons and we are pleased to see that the administration has attempted to be proactive and learn from those failings. We should not attribute surviving the fall semester as a success; rather, we should look to the fall as an instructive guide of where administrative planning efforts must continue to be focused.
Still, we remain steadfast in our expectations and note some things that have been overlooked. One cannot restrict freedom of liberty and movement, as the College’s practically unenforceable mandate of “essential travel only” suggests. While the College could have exercised some authority in regulating student travel, it has instead chosen a method without a meaningful enforcement mechanism. Better to not cross the line of infringing on student interest by passing an unenforceable mandate than merely touting the “essential travel” principle to make everyone feel somewhat safer.
Perhaps the administration will meet the merits of this expectation with consistent and transparent enforcement. We were heartened to see that the College had been forthright in releasing the number of students who had actions taken against them for coronavirus violations. Again, this marks a reversal from the course of the fall and suggests to us an interest in greater transparency. It is our hope that this commitment extends to inquiries this fall and is reflected if outbreaks or other moments of tension should test the structure of the system.
By all accounts, the reality of the semester remains to be seen. We hope that—with the onset of vaccines nationally and the steady decrease in recent weeks of Connecticut’s overall positivity rate—the semester might see an improvement and our own positivity rate may remain low. Still, we urge against complacency, both of the administrative variety and among students themselves. If we can weather this semester seeing real improvement from our rank as the highest number of coronavirus cases in the NESCAC, we shall be prepared to, perhaps, declare a moderate success.
There exist now inclinations of what is most urgently needed this semester: transparency from the administration and a willingness to be honest about where our numbers lead us. Let us hope that that same spirit proceeds apace this semester.
For now, the Tripod remains cautiously optimistic for a better spring than fall and looks forward to continuing its coverage of campus events and of the College’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during these uncertain times.
–The Trinity Tripod