Tripod Editorial: The End of an Odd Semester

Trinity reaches this week the conclusion of a most unusual undergraduate semester, one which is no doubt singularly unique in the nearly two-hundred-year history of the institution. The Tripod hopes that, throughout the semester, it has provided the Trinity community the necessary news and investigations of the College’s ongoing efforts in the fight against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

By any measure, the Tripod has not been restrained in our criticism. We have called for logical, thoughtful responses to the College’s coronavirus policies and explanations. We have demanded reasoned, prompt answers. We have confronted the College when their statements and assertions about safety that appear contradictory at best and troublesome at worst. To ask questions and inquire is the singular duty, the most essential responsibility of the press. 

In conjunction with our commitment to investigative journalism, the Tripod also hopes to momentarily distract its readers from the immediate anxieties and agitations of the day. Our audience, hopefully, has been able to pause and take a moment to check out the best that Hartford’s clouds can offer, dissect a provocative political opinion, or catch up on recent national sports games. The Tripod remains committed to exposing the harsh truths within the College, and the world at large, but in this news cycle of confusion and disillusionment, an organization for students and by students owes its audience a space not only for information, but also entertainment, conversation, and reflection.

We feel that we have risen to that task with some measure of candor and concern. We can only hope that our readership agrees and shares in the common belief that the welfare of ourselves and our fellow students demands the best of our administrators. We can expect nothing less when health is on the line in the face of this global pandemic. 

Our campus this week reached the unfortunate milestone of 100 positive coronavirus cases processed since the beginning of the semester in August. That figure, as the Tripod has reported, exceeds our NESCAC peers and should, alone, call us not to celebrate the fact that in-person learning concluded as anticipated. It should call us to fundamentally question our belief that the campus community is, in fact, “resilient.” 

It is fundamentally dishonest to suggest that travel can be restricted when the College concurrently acknowledges that it “lacks a legal basis” to enforce its own policies. The institution should not emphasize the “actions of students who are showing care and concerns for each other” when so many others are asked to leave because of their violations of various student contracts. The priority should be on actively enforcing the policies the College has instituted and ensuring that compliance occurs every step of the way. 

Indeed, the notion of resiliency is tested when the campus has to shift, yet again, to a heightened alert level and cases rise among students in their final days on our campus. We cannot afford to grow complacent and permit the breaking of policies that were intended to keep us attending in-person classes and living on-campus all semester. 

This high number of coronavirus cases should call us to a fundamental reevaluation of our methods and practices, including that of the Community Contract, which many students were not adhering to for the past three months. Should we reopen in the spring, the administration of this campus ought to carefully consider our failings and take real steps to address our testing and compliance shortcomings. 

But more than any of that, our College administration should reevaluate its attitude and position toward the nature of communication. It is doubtless the nature of institutions that they should seek to avoid adverse press and highlight only the best that their organization has to offer. 

That principle, however, is not so great that it should take precedence over honest communication with Trinity’s student leaders and organizations. The Tripod hopes that the College considers thoughtfully how it interacts with its students and undertakes a concerted effort to better and honestly communicate with the student body about our COVID-19 protocols and expectations set forth by the Community Contract. 

The College should commit itself to admitting our failings and delineating clear steps it intends to take to resolve them. These steps must be grounded in reason and, above all, should emphasize realities the College can actually enforce and establish.

If we are to move forward through the pandemic united around a vision truly concerned with the health and welfare of the student body, Trinity must have as its priority an honest dialogue and must be open to communicating with the students that constitute this community. 

While this may conclude the Tripod’s print editions this fall, it does not extinguish our commitment to engaging in that dialogue and seeking answers. Come what may between now and March, the Tripod stands steadfast in its resolve to publish the truth of the coronavirus pandemic at Trinity College.  

-The Trinity Tripod


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

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