Tripod Editorial: What of Our Bicentennial?

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Trinity College remains fixed—or, rather, should remain fixed—on the significant date fast approaching. In less than three years, Trinity will mark its Bicentennial, a monumental event in the history of any institution, but even more so for the second oldest college in Connecticut.

What are we doing to work toward our Bicentennial? In the long days of the pandemic, little has been announced on a public sphere. There have been few announcements about alumni engagement and, certainly, present students on the whole have been left out of conversations relative to the institution’s future and how we will be engaged to carry forward our traditions and our principles. 

Other institutions that have marked or will recently mark this momentous occasion, such as Amherst and Williams, have dedicated monumental new histories of the institution, founded a medal series to recognize alumni and alumna (Williams’ Bicentennial Medal), and have hosted grand events and celebrated for years the success and legacy of the institution. What events will Trinity have? We, sadly, have not the slightest idea. 

Certainly, the pandemic occupies our time and stymies some of these efforts. But, there is a Bicentennial Committee of the Board of Trustees. When will we hear from them? When will students and alumni be called to duty in droves, ready to support their efforts? What have they been working on? For now, the call has not gone out and we remain in a state of perpetual waiting. What is most unfortunate is that, by the time the call issues, it will be too late to truly mark this historic event with the degree of reverence it deserves.

Some of us on the Tripod can readily attest to making our interests in service to the College known for years, only to see little progress or engagement with the time we have offered. But, regardless, now more than ever we should recognize and capitalize on this instability to fuel our forward momentum. 

What of the Comprehensive Campaign? While the Board remains confident in meeting our objectives, we can and should aim higher. The recent campaign at Williams exceeded its $650 million objective. We should be able to reach the same objective yet, again, we find little public pronouncement and certainly little engagement by way of emails and virtual events that proffer opportunities to current students to support our College. 

Why? We should be engaged and, particularly when we reside on campus, be invited to participate as active members of this dialogue. After all, in just a few years, more of us join the ranks of alumni and alumna. Failing to engage us at this crucial juncture, when we are most captive and benefitting from the full panoply of services and opportunities Trinity affords, is a tragic failure and a missed opportunity. 

Trinity’s capital projects remain on hold as a corollary of the financial consequences of the pandemic. But, right now at this moment, we should be actively engaging alumni in strategizing how and when to resume capital projects and the attendant fundraising needs those efforts entail. 

Our historic Chapel—without a doubt a symbol of the College and one of the finest examples of Collegiate Gothic architecture in Connecticut, if not the nation—is in dire need of structural repairs and financing of many sorts. Alumni and current students should be engaged in this process and restoration of our historic campus buildings, which contribute both to the functional operation of our campus and its indelible charm and character. 

They must be preserved and they must be a priority. Merely saying so does not bring that reality into existence. We must see the restoration efforts at work to know that this College has resolved itself to preserve its most cherished spaces. Hefty though the cost may be, the Bicentennial remains our best hope to discourage parsimony in giving and embrace the generosity and benevolence of our alumni in pursuit of the shared preservation of our campus. Not discussing with candor our needs, or failing to prioritize the concerns of all alumni, will result in a Bicentennial that is an abysmal failure. 

Perhaps these conversations are occurring or have already occurred behind closed doors. That, however, is inexcusable when we lie less than three years from our Bicentennial. The time is now for these conversations to be public and, recall, that if we miss this opportunity, it shall not come around again in the lifetimes of many of us. 

A Bicentennial is a singular event and an opportunity to steady the College and chart its course for the future. We cannot afford to remain idle or fall back on the lofty objectives of our strategic plan, noble though they may be. The time is now for alumni and students of all stripes to collectively urge the College to take real action and prioritize the Bicentennial. If we do not, we may look back and wish that the College had taken advantage of this unique opportunity and reminded so many what makes our home ’neath the elms such a special place.

We humbly beseech the College and the Board to reply to these concerns. Tell us not what we have done thus far, or laud our past accomplishments, but tell the College community what remains to be achieved and when we can expect to be called on to help in our collective Bicentennial objectives.  

-The Trinity Tripod

bclark

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

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