Dear Members of the Trinity Community:
This is a time unlike any other in memory but I do hope this mid-summer message finds you and your family as safe and well as possible. As we head into month five of the pandemic, I wanted to provide you with an update on college news and plans for the fall.
If this is a summer like no other, we are certainly expecting the same of the 2020-21 academic year. Though the year ahead will be different in so many ways, the health, well-being and flourishing of our community is as always our top priority. We are working closely with the University of Toronto on planning for a gradual and safe return to campus for the fall, and we plan to support as much on-campus activity as is safely possible. Across the University of Toronto and here at Trinity, many September courses will be delivered in hybrid form—essentially a mix of in-person and virtual learning.
The University of Toronto has recently released important information much of which also has implications for Trinity. For example, there are new U of T measures making non-medical masks or other face coverings mandatory in indoor public spaces on campus, which Trinity College has adopted, as well as guidelines for in-class instruction. Across the whole university, including here at Trinity, we are implementing new ways to keep students, faculty and staff safe, such as assessing the “Covid” capacity of classrooms and other spaces to determine how our spaces can be used for teaching, gathering, advising and other activities. Technology is also being upgraded to support the best possible learning experience for our students in this changed environment.
As Trinity has distinctive needs, we have also established our own Re-Opening Steering Committee and Working Groups to prepare for the gradual re-opening of our campus. As I write, these Working Groups are planning how to safely welcome students back to the College. Here is a snapshot of just a few projects to give you a sense of the scope of this work. Food services across the College are being completely reimagined. We are working hard to make sure we can continue to provide healthy and sustainable dining options and support as much community life as possible, so we are rearranging Strachan Hall and other many spaces based on public health guidelines in order to create space for students to eat together safely. We are assessing our residence spaces to determine how many students we can safely welcome back to campus and how we can provide safe spaces to gather in order to reduce isolation.
We are working to ensure that students have virtual access to the College’s services and activities—from orientation to student advising to the library, and from student support to the classroom experience—while at the same time making in-person services available as much as possible. We are ordering supplies, reconfiguring our public spaces installing new signage and sanitizing stations, enhancing our cleaning protocols, and planning for the gradual return to campus of our many staff.
Of course, despite all of this, it is hard to predict how the situation may evolve over the next several weeks. While we are planning for the most likely scenarios, we also know that we may need to pivot to adapt to new circumstances and public health directives, and we will continue to keep you apprised of how things evolve. I also wanted to take this moment to make particular mention of the incredible efforts of our dedicated staff and faculty. Ever since early March when we had to move to remote learning and student support, many members of the College have been working long hours, often in difficult circumstances including with children at home, to do their very best for our students and the community. I am inspired by how committed and creative they are and am sure that as members of the Trinity community, you will join me in expressing our profound gratitude for all that they are doing to ensure that this coming September is as positive as possible for our wonderful students.
As this pandemic and the public health advice has evolved, we have also had to make hard decisions about in-person events on campus. While some events have had to be cancelled or postponed, we are working to host as much as possible virtually. Sometimes this even has advantages. For example, I am very happy to say that we have just confirmed that the Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, will deliver a virtual Larkin-Stuart Lecture—the first ever—on the 100th anniversary of this lecture series. We will share more information when the date is finalized. Similarly, we will make sure that we keep you apprised of other events as the situation evolves.
Of course, there have been many heartbreaking decisions that have had to be made. I am very sorry to say that recently, our wonderful Friends of the Library have had to make the difficult but necessary decision to cancel the October 2020 Book Sale due to public health guidelines. On behalf of the College, I wrote to them to express our sadness at this announcement. In addition to their incredible support for the College in so many ways, the activities of the Friends and their fabled book sale are also a beloved feature of fall here at Trinity. It will be a quieter and duller place without them. They will be sorely missed and we will look forward to the moment when we can welcome them back.
In addition to the pandemic response and planning for September, we have also been working to address the serious issues of anti-Black racism and inclusion that have been raised by our students and others in recent weeks. It is critically important that everyone be welcomed as a full member of the Trinity community—no one should face racism, discrimination or intolerance. As I said in my recent community message, while we have been working hard to make Trinity more inclusive over the past several years, we have much more work to do and we are determined to do it. We have received a lot of candid and helpful feedback from Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) students, staff, alumni and many others. We are in the process of establishing a Task Force that will make recommendations to ensure that the environment at Trinity is welcoming and inclusive for all.
However, we don’t have to wait for a Task Force to create positive change. We have received a number of excellent ideas and wherever possible, we are moving quickly to implement them. For example, thanks to suggestions from a number of our alumni, our Student Services team is in the process of developing special mentorship programming. If you are interested in being part of this, please contact our Director of Student Services & Registrar Nelson De Melo at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, the College has established a new bursary fund for BIPOC students. For those wishing to support this, here is the link.
As a College, we have also discussed the fact that inclusion is not the job of a few, it is the job of all of us. Everyone is examining their own area and challenging themselves to think about ways that we can respond to anti-Black and other racism and create a more inclusive environment for everyone. Members of the College are stepping up across their various portfolios. For example, in the academic program, Professor John Duncan, Director of the Ethics, Society & Law Program, is expanding last term’s pilot course to a full-year course for 2020-21. This third-year “Law & Social Issues” course features leading practitioners in law and racism, human rights and exploitation. The John W. Graham Library is focusing the collection in the second-floor fireplace room on recent literature that is relevant to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. The library’s “Summer Staff Reads” Instagram series also highlights voices of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors, with a particular focus on the topics of anti-racism, anti-oppression and equity. We are enhancing the training that we already do and as we plan for upcoming speakers, activities and events, we are all working to ensure we are connecting with these important issues. I am heartened to see the commitment from the Trinity community, and of course I continue to welcome any feedback or suggestions that you may have. Only by ensuring that we are truly an inclusive and welcoming place for everyone will we achieve our aspirations to excellence.
On another front, planning work on our new residence and academic building–the Lawson Centre for Sustainability–continues to move forward. Design development is expected to be completed by the fall, and the early construction phase is scheduled to begin in 2021. In fact, pre-construction work on the site of the new building is scheduled to begin shortly so don’t be surprised if you see activity on the back field. As you will be aware, our new building is central to our Living Trinity Campaign, which will enhance our historic campus and enable us to better support students, enhance academic programming and elevate every aspect of life at Trinity.
I also have to share some very sad news. I recently had to inform members of the community of the sudden passing of Dr. Greg Donaghy. Greg joined Trinity in 2019 as the new Director of the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History and he taught in our International Relations program. As I have heard repeatedly from his students and colleagues, Greg was an outstanding leader and contributor to the College, the Graham Centre and the student experience. Despite his short time with us, he had already put in place a whole range of significant activities for this coming fall. Greg’s thoughtful, wise and kind approach to everything he did will be greatly missed by all of us here at the College and the wider community. I know you will join me in sending our deepest condolences to his family at this difficult time.
I also want to take this moment to extend a few thank yous and welcomes. Thank you to our alumni, students, faculty and staff whose term serving on Trinity’s governance bodies has come to an end. Your service is especially critical during these difficult times. And thank you to Professor Nicolas Everett for his leadership during this unprecedented year. He served as Acting Dean of Arts while Professor Michael Ratcliffe was on research leave for the 2019-20 academic year. Welcome back Michael. We also warmly welcome our newest 2020 Fellows and Associates to the Trinity community.
On a final note, I also want to say how proud I am of the entire Trinity community. Since the start of the pandemic, everyone has adapted, quickly transitioning to online learning, working productively from home, and continuing to support students in a multitude of ways. Although most of us are tele-commuting, I want to send a special note of thanks to our essential employees who continue to be on-campus to support our residential and campus operations.
To our Arts & Science and Divinity Class of 2020: until we can celebrate your graduation and accomplishments in person, on behalf of the College, we are so proud of you! Congratulations and welcome to our alumni community. And to our alumni: although we could not celebrate Reunion 2020 in person, I know the spirit of reunion remains as strong as ever. Thank you for your continued Reunion Class fundraising in support of the next generation of students.
Until we can meet again, I wish you and your loved ones the very best.
Categories: Provost’s Messages