Faculty Meets for Presidential Updates, Pass Two Committee Motions on Climate, Academic Freedom

4 min read

Faith Monahan ’24

Staff Writer

Last Tuesday, Apr. 20, Trinity College’s faculty met for presidential updates from Joanne Berger-Sweeney and approved two motions: one from the Climate Emergency Committee (CEC) and another from the Academic Freedom Committee (AFC). In her presidential updates, President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney informed faculty on the upcoming Board of Trustee’s meeting and discussion of the budget for the 2021–2022 academic year. Berger-Sweeney also commented on what is next on the horizon for combatting COVID-19 such as a requirement for students to receive a vaccination in the fall. The CEC motion passed, and the Committee intends to continue their previous work and to develop climate and resiliency related curricular strategies. The AFC motion to improve the transparency of materials between complainant and respondent also passed.

The meeting began with presidential updates by Joanne Berger-Sweeney, with a Q&A period thereafter. Berger-Sweeney discussed the Board of Trustees meeting that occurred last Friday, Apr. 23. The Board met with and received annual reports from the College Secretary and General Counsel Dickens Mathieu, the Trinity College Alumni Association President Eric S. Estes ’91, and Student Government Association President Giovanni Jones ’21. A budget had not been voted on during this meeting, unlike previous years in which the budget has routinely been decided in April. On this decision, Berger-Sweeney stated that, “it has been an unusual couple of years, and we decided that we wanted to see how the incoming class comes together… we are not going to put the budget together until we have a little bit better idea of the incoming class,” which will likely be in May or June. There are no anticipated changes in personnel and salary for faculty. The meeting did, however, discuss tuition increases and the capital budget. Berger-Sweeney has since released further details relating to the Board of Trustees meeting.

In the Q&A portion of the meeting, Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee Professor Diane Zannoni asked, “has the college decided on a policy requiring vaccines for all students the way Yale, Wesleyan, Vassar, and Ithaca college have?” In response to this question, Berger-Sweeney answered, “We decided we weren’t going to be first to make the call [for requiring students to receive vaccines], but I think that you will be hearing a decision sometime after the Board [of Trustee’s] meeting.” On this issue, Berger-Sweeney noted that she hopes for Trinity College to join other colleges in their initiative for requiring students to receive vaccines.

The faculty went forward with two motions during the second half of the meeting regarding the CEC and the AFC for the following year. The CEC motion stated the following goals to build on their previous work from the 2020-2021 academic year: increases in funding for curricula surrounding the environment and the arts, collaboration with the Curriculum Committee on a proposal that would allow students to receive a notification of completion of distributive requirements on their transcripts stating that they have achieved general education in climate and resilience studies, and enhancement of climate-related curricula through identifying faculty and staff positions and assisting departments in program development related to climate. The CEC will report on their progress in the spring semester of 2022. Professor Mark Silk, chair of the CEC, pointed toward a proposal in the environmental science department for a minor in climate studies although this has not been approved yet, as well as a push for the economics department to also develop more climate-related curricula. Going forward, the CEC hopes to continue conversations with the Curriculum Committee to further their goals. The motion passed with 70 in favor, 2 against, and 1 abstaining.

Lastly, the AFC put forward a motion to revise hearing and investigation procedures related to academics. Currently, a complaint to the AFC is required to be shared with the Respondent, but the response from the Respondent is not required to be shared with the Complainant. To close this loophole and make all materials accessible to all parties, the AFC put forward this motion. Although not included in the motion, the AFC’s manual is currently being digitized, and the committee plans to change pronouns in the manual to improve inclusivity of all students following its digitization. The motion was passed with 62 in favor, 0 against, and 3 abstaining.


Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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