CHRIS BULFINCH ’18
One of the most visible administrative programs at Trinity is the Campaign for Community, a “collaborative” and “multi-constituency” initiative designed to address the most salient student life issues on Trinity’s campus. The Campaign, which grew out of the “Design Team Challenge” that concluded last spring, continued through the fall of 2015 and the spring of 2016, developing plans to address problems with life at Trinity through collaboration between students, staff, and faculty.
On Wednesday, Apr 27, the Campaign showcased the fruits of its labor at the Smith House. The event, titled “Update & Celebrate,” entailed each of the Campaign’s disparate working groups presenting their plans and recommendations to remedy the issues facing Trinity.
The Campaign, which follows on the heels of a number of previous administrative efforts to improve students’ experiences, was conceived by President Berger-Sweeney’s administration as a way of getting a student-centered look at campus life and courting students’ ideas as to how to rectify the issues. One of the central tenants of the campaign has been reacting to, in the words of Chaplain Alison Read, “what students are saying about their experience at Trinity College.” Read alludes to “consistent and strong feedback” from students suggesting that they “are dissatisfied with their own experience of community here around racial and ethnic inclusivity and tolerance, around gender equity, and around the inclusion of members of the LGBTQI community.” The goal of the Campaign became to figure out what “structures” could be put in place to make Trinity “a more inclusive, tolerant, and respectful community.”
The Campaign is composed of 11 working groups, each consisting of between four and a dozen members. Each group worked in tandem with the administrator(s) most relevant to its designated issues, developing suggestions for administrative remedies. Each group fielded representatives at the “Update & Celebrate” event, usually administrator-student pairs. Each group spoke about its issue, progress throughout theyear, and proposed changes.
First to present was the Student Leadership group, whose representatives spoke of the training that they received at sessions in Sept. 2015 and Jan. 2016, in addition to another session that is planned for Sept. of 2016. The Student Leadership group hopes to integrate as many campus leaders into the training sessions, to help to promote collaboration and engagement between Trinity’s student groups.
The Student Leadership group’s presentation was followed by that of Diversity Education. In conjunction with CLAS 238, an Education Studies class entitled “Investigating Multicultural Education,” the Diversity Education working group suggests the addition of a multicultural education requirement to Trinity’s existing distribution requirements. The group also advocates student leadership, staff, and faculty training that emphasizes multicultural sensitivity.
The Counseling Center’s working group was the next to present. The group reiterated the Counseling Center’s commitment to hire staff from broad socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, as well as their desire to reach out to potential partners in the Hartford community who could provide more robust counseling opportunities for Trinity students.
Addressing Sexual Misconduct presented after the Counseling Center. The group’s suggestions included the explicit delineation of affirmative consent and Trinity’s support of Connecticut’s H.B. 5376. In addition the group advocated for the creation of videos to raise student awareness of their Title IX rights, yearly bystander education training and more effective communication of resources available at the Health and Counseling Centers. They want to implement email alerts and Campus Safety reports to inform the Trinity community of instances of sexual misconduct, and foster a closer relationship with the Hartford Police Department.
The working group tackling Drugs and Alcohol delivered their remarks next. After looking at data on the rate of drug and alcohol abuse both at Trinity and campuses across the US, the group recommended a yearly “wellness fair” and the development of a “wellness curriculum,” as a method of disseminating accurate information about the effects of drugs and alcohol, and as a way of encouraging healthy decision-making. The group further advocated faculty and staff training on the matter of substance abuse in a college setting, and increased digital communication providing information similar to that presented by the wellness initiatives.
A working group that dealt with the fate of Lower Mather was the next to present. The group addressed the new dining option that will supplant the Cave next fall, as well as the administration’s reaction to a student survey about food options for the new venue and a taste-testing event that attracted more than 200 students. The group reiterated that the renovation of Lower Mather will be completed for Fall 2016.
The SGA presented next, explaining that student groups who consistently for $5,000 or more for annualized events can have their events be given “Staple Event” status by the SGA’s Budget Committee; essentially, annualized events with budgets of more than $5,000 can be included in annual budgets.
The Greek Life working group presented after the SGA, elaborating upon their work revamping of the Greek Life section of Trinity’s website and Greek Life’s continuing and increasing level of engagement with other campus organizations.
In a similar vein to Greek Life’s emphasis on cooperation, the Collaborations working group spoke on its efforts to bring campus organizations together to create programming. The group made reference to numerous inter-organizational events, involving groups from Hillel and La Voz Latina to Muslim Student Association, The Chapel Community, Temple of Hip-Hop, and International Studies.
School Pride was the next working group to present. Its members argued for significant changes to Family Weekend and Homecoming, changes to increase alumni-student interactions and providing more robust programing for families who come to Trinity. The group further proposed creating more Trinity traditions, semi-ritualized events that help build a sense of community; a fall bonfire was one specific suggestion that was put forth.
The Communications working group made much of its efforts to ensure that the Campaign’s progress, is effectively communicated. Reference was made to the group’s creation of the Campaign for Community Facebook page, an article that the working group published in the Tripod, and the Campaign’s page on Trinity’s website.
Last to present was the Alumni Relations working group, which discussed ways to increase interaction between alumni and current students, in addition to creating more space for Trinity parents to be involved with goings-on at the school.
The Campaign for Community’s “Update & Celebrate” event concluded with Chaplain Read thanking everyone for their attendance and encouraging attendees to speak with the students and administrators about their work. It was reiterated that the end of the academic year was by no means the end of the Campaign. The Campaign is not “flash-in-the-pan” or “reactionary,” according to its organizers, it is an evolving, collaborative conversation.
Trinity students would do well to continue to pay attention to the Campaign 4 Community. Their plans, though occasionally vague, are certainly ambitious. Chaplain Read believes that the Campaign is “shifting the model” of administrative action to “purely collaborative work,” insisting that the student voice will be heard because the administrators who are ultimately responsible for crafting college policy are at the same table as the students developing suggestions. The degree to which administrators will adhere to the plans developed with students, notwithstanding budgetary and scheduling realities, is not clear at this time. Every administrative statement suggests that the administration takes student input seriously, and the Campaign itself can be framed as an effort on the part of the Berger-Sweeney administration to give students a larger role in changing campus life. What comes of the gesture has yet to be determined. It is up to Trinity students to watch the developments of the Campaign, to see if the realities of campus life can meet the ambitions of the Campaign for Community.