Sammi Bray ’25 & Olivia Silvey ’25
Beyond the walls of Trinity College, our campus is surrounded by a diverse ecosystem of people, cultures and attractions. September brings us the promise of many exciting things: back to school, the beginning of fall and the first cycle of elections. On Sept. 12, the Hartford primary resulted in a slate of Democratic candidates ready for the November elections that lie ahead of us.
But many students likely did not know about this election or many other exciting events that fill Hartford with vibrancy. What many students may also be unaware of is the impact they could, and do, have on the city. As college students, we have the ability to register to vote in the new places we call home for four years. This gives us the power to challenge systems and governments, to create a place we would like to see, and our homes on Summit, Allen and Broad make us neighbors with Hartford citizens. Our presence – good and bad – is known and felt
It’s not surprising that many students do not feel integrated into the city – take a look at the gates that line the edges of campus and the hill we sit on. Despite being surrounded by this urban environment, we are separated from it, lifted out of it to look down at our neighbors. We all remember what people said to us when we chose to come here, and what people may still frequently say to us today: “Oh, but it’s in Hartford, right?” “Don’t go off campus!” We are taught from the moment that we accept our place on this campus that we should stay on it.
Yes, we live in an urban area and like many other large and diverse cities, there is a need to be aware of your surroundings. Think of the age we live in, though. In our own state of Connecticut, shootings happen in elementary schools in suburbs. Movie theaters and places of worship are not safe either. Regardless of where we are, we unfortunately must always be on guard. Here on campus, our safety is not guaranteed either. And with all the warnings to not go beyond the gates, “the outside” seems so much scarier. However, we also fail to recognize that our presence in the Frog Hollow neighborhood is equally scary and intimidating for our neighbors. Their homes and communities become taken over by college students who are not always quiet, respectful and… sober.
Only recently has Trinity embraced this city as a part of its identity – for a long time the fact that Trinity is in Hartford, and WE live in Hartford, was brushed over in the selling points of the College. But now, you see the slogan “liberal arts community meets real world connection” all over the website. So, the College embraces the Hartford location for their promotional materials, but once we get to campus, do WE embrace it?
Do we realize that we have the power to live outside the gates and impact the land we live on? We can register to vote. We can attend churches in the area. There are libraries, art galleries, museums and so many other public spaces to enjoy and even utilize for our learning. Even if you’re just looking for a fun night out with your friends, there are restaurants, bars and social events that do not require an Uber to West Hartford or Piggy’s formals.
It’s our job to explore… but it’s also our job to impact, to improve, to contribute – residency is not a one way street. Trinity is a non-profit institution, which means it does not pay taxes. The College does not contribute to the benefit of the surrounding community in the same way that a family living on Broad Street pays their property taxes. As Trinity students we have a stake in what happens to Hartford, even if we don’t realize it.
A lot of students express frustration at the limitations of Trinity – social life is limited to fraternities and dorm parties, eating options are limited to Mather, Bistro and the Cave on campus – but there is a way to push yourself beyond these walls. Walk, Uber, take the bus (it is free as a student!) to one of the many restaurants that neighbor us with a diverse variety of options. Try something new! There are more than those in Blue Back Square and Parkville Market. Visit an art museum or a park, see a show at one of Hartford’s several theaters. Take your hot girl walk in a surrounding neighborhood, and stop by a local bodega for a water on your way home.
We are incredibly lucky to go to school in this environment. If we are in college to become diverse, independent thinkers and to learn and grow, what better opportunity to do so than venturing beyond the perimeters of our campus?
-Sammi Bray & Olivia Silvey