Dear Members of the Trinity Community:
Greetings to one and all – I hope that you are as well as possible in these challenging times. Although every day amid the pandemic seems like Groundhog Day, I’m sure you’re as happy as I am that Ontario’s Wiarton Willie has predicted an early spring!
While it is certainly uncharacteristically quiet here on campus, I am happy to let you know that our college continues to manage very well. As we look at the world around us, we know how fortunate we are and are working to make a positive difference wherever we can. We also treasure those little moments of joy that sustain us – like the beauty of our buildings in the dusting of fresh snow on Christmas Day, or the wildlife reclaiming the world around us (see photos), including a skunk that is a matter of rather alarming interest for my ancient dachshund Alfie!
You will be aware that as the new term got underway, we found ourselves under a second provincial state of emergency and stay-at-home order. At Trinity, the health and safety of our students, staff and faculty remains our top priority, and we continue to update our COVID-19 response plans to adhere to government and public health requirements. Thanks to the amazing efforts of our wonderful staff, we were already well prepared for the additional public health measures announced earlier in January. For many months now we have supported working from home for employees who can and ensured that all public health protocols are followed on campus. Trinity’s Arts & Science and Divinity courses continue to be delivered online and all of our supports and services for students are available virtually. You can find our COVID-19 updates to the community here, and U of T’s response to the latest government announcement here.
The past year has been particularly challenging for our students. Across U of T, the demand for student support services is on the rise, particularly around academic services, mental health and financial supports. Our Registrar’s Office is busier than ever providing one-on-one supports, organizing virtual group sessions, and hosting online events to bring students together. At Trinity, we are also looking at ways to augment our current programming and services, including providing more bursary support. I want to thank all our generous donors for supporting our wonderful students. Your generosity in funding our health and wellness work through our Mental Health Program and the Anne Steacy Counselling Initiative, our urgent bursary program and our BIPOC bursary initiative are making a real difference to our students in the midst of the pandemic. Although we know that our students are resilient and that we will get through this together, your support makes all the difference to our students and helps them realize their aspirations.
This term, we continue to have just under 200 students living in our residences. You may recall that when we had to close our socially distanced dining arrangements in Strachan Hall, we added new capacity for sitting and eating outside in our Quad. With the new provincial order that further restricts outdoor gatherings to a limit of five people, we have had to modify or put on hold some of our outdoor residence life activities. However, the Dean of Students Office is working hard to ensure that our students do not feel isolated during this time and are supported by our fantastic team of Academic Dons and Community Advisors.
To welcome students back from the winter holidays, our Academic Dons, Community Advisors and Work Study Students held “Frost Week” – actually for two weeks – in January. They held a wide variety of virtual events (such as a spa night, a tour of Trinity and St. Hilda’s, and trivia nights), which provided students opportunities to socialize in a fun and socially distanced way, to pose questions or concerns, and to meet new friends. As the virtual events were Trinity-wide, all students were able to participate (those in residence, in quarantine, living off campus, and not yet back on campus). It was a great success and a positive and interactive way to start the term at Trinity. In addition, staff from the Dean of Students Office have been making masked visits to the handful of new students joining us in residence this term. Their visits were much appreciated by our new residents – the visits provided a warm welcome, allowed them to ask questions and be invited to our virtual programming.
Although grim news seems to constantly appear on news feeds, we have much to celebrate here at Trinity. Here are a few links to some good news stories about members of our community:
I’m also happy to relate that the Trinity community continues to provide outstanding support for the College and our aspirations. As you know, our Living Trinity Campaign is the most ambitious fundraising campaign in our history and is inspired by our determination to give our students the very best that the world has to offer. It is about our people – students, alumni, faculty and staff – and our community. To “live Trinity” is to be part of a vibrant academic and social community – a community that encourages all of our students to reach their full potential and supports them along the way. We have now passed the 57% mark – we have raised more than $23 million dollars on our goal of $40 million in new funds. Together with the foundation of more than $36 million raised over the past several years, this means that the Trinity community has contributed nearly $60 million in support of the College’s critical campaign priorities: Student Success, Academic Excellence, and our beautiful new building, the Lawson Centre for Sustainability.
Work on the new Lawson Centre for Sustainability building continues at a steady pace despite the pandemic-related slowdowns. The comprehensive design, value engineering and costing processes are nearing completion. We hope to receive approval on our site application from the city this spring, which will then allow us to submit our building permit application. Although there are a few key milestones ahead of us, we are on track to welcome students to the Lawson Centre for Sustainability for the fall 2024.
Along with the sustainability features planned for this imaginative landmark building, Professors Stephen Scharper and Nicole Spiegelaar, the leaders of our new Integrated Sustainability Initiative, have begun working with others at Trinity and with our university and community partners to develop a plan to integrate our sustainability goals across all areas of college life including academic programming, student research opportunities, and urban and wilderness nature experiences. We look forward to updating you on these exciting initiatives in the coming months.
I am also pleased to update you on the work that the college is doing to address anti-Black racism, discrimination and exclusion here at Trinity. Throughout the fall term, members of the Trinity College Task Force on Anti-Black Racism and Inclusion worked hard to develop recommendations to address anti-Black racism and discrimination and to enhance the inclusiveness of the college. I want to thank Task Force Co-Chairs Jonathan Steels and Ramata Tarawally, the 22 community members, and support staff for their work and thoughtful recommendations. I have received the Task Force report, and it will be shared with the community following completion of its progress through college governance. We are eager to move ahead with implementation as quickly as possible and an implementation plan is well underway. The college is also already taking steps in a number of areas including in training staff and faculty, reworking our admissions processes, and enhancing student support, among other things. At the request of the Task Force, we have also hired an expert to undertake work on best practices for student government. I look forward to sharing updates with all of you as we take this important work forward.
I also want to extend my gratitude to all of you – our students, faculty, staff and alumni – for your resilience, creativity, innovation, care and support for one another. Thank you to our staff and faculty for doing an exceptional job in keeping members of our community as safe as possible on campus, and for staying so positive. We know it’s a stressful time, and for many, the pandemic is taking a toll on your mental health. If you need support or someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to reach out (see below).
Although COVID-19 is keeping us apart, I encourage you to stay virtually connected with our community:
And if you’ve missed one of our recent events, you can view the recorded session on Trinity’s YouTube channel, including:
And finally, for a bit of levity during these trying times, some Bernie Sanders memes!
Strachan Hall: How it started vs How it’s going:
Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall: Bernie marks his favourite spot in the Trinity Quad!
I am truly fortunate to be part of an incredible community. I look forward to connecting with many of you online as the term unfolds. Until then, please take extra care and stay safe and well.
Provost & Vice-Chancellor
Staff & Faculty: Employee & Family Assistance Program