News Focus
Mar 17, 2020

Trinity Accommodation Shutdown: What We Know After a Day of Drama

Trinity backtracked on a number of announcements on its accommodation closure, and issued several more clarifications to concerned students.

Donal MacNamee, Emer Moreau and Cormac Watson
Alex Connolly for The University Times

Controversy erupted in Trinity last night, when the College told all students living in its accommodation that they had 24 or 48 hours (depending on whether you’re Irish or international) to clear out of their accommodation.

Students, unsurprisingly, were furious – but more than that, many were deeply worried about the implications of Trinity’s decision. For international students, the news prompted a widespread rush to book flights home, in a timeframe that several called unacceptable and caused one to ask: “What the hell were they thinking?”

Today, we got some answers to the questions students were asking, as news emerged throughout the afternoon about the specifics of the shutdown. Here are the top five takeaways.


College Expands Criteria on Eviction Exemptions for International Students

Last night, students were told that only a select few – those who met six specific criteria – would be allowed to remain in their accommodation beyond this week. For international students, it was a move that created an obvious, and immediate, problem: only those with “immigration, travel, and/or visa restrictions” were allowed to stay.

Today, this newspaper reported on the “stress and anxiety” felt by many students from overseas, with some admitting they could not find flights in the timeframe Trinity gave them on Monday night. And at 3.41pm, we got a partial climbdown from College. Now, international students who face “barriers to travel” are allowed to remain in situ, a decision that will likely bring major relief to many. But for some, it may be too late: several of the students who spoke to The University Times today booked flights last night in order to vacate their apartments in the timeline set down by Trinity.

Binary Hub, Kavanagh Court Residents No Longer Required to Vacate

Students living in Halls and on campus were last night looking into an uncertain short-term future. But the situation for those living in Binary Hub and Kavanagh Court – the privately owned, luxury student accommodation complexes with ties to Trinity – was arguably even worse. College was instructing them to get out, but without the pro rata compensation guaranteed to its direct residents. Given that many students living in these properties come from overseas, the situation was bleak.

But today – in one of the more remarkable climbdowns of this whole episode – Trinity backtracked. Now, the directive to leave was dialled back to “strong advice”, as the College admitted it was “not in a position” to kick out residents from the complexes. For many, the news came too late, but some will surely consider postponing flights to far-flung corners of the world.

The issue of compensation, though, is not resolved – and there’s no guarantee that it will be. Prendergast told Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson, that “we believe that private-providers should also do this but of course that is ultimately a matter for the accommodation providers”. Residents will hope College comes to their aid with a more substantive approach than the one Prendergast hinted at today.

Residents with Immunocompromised Relatives Can Remain in Situ

Residents today learned that if they had relatives who were “immunocompromised” – namely, in the high-risk category for coronavirus – they would be allowed to stay in Trinity accommodation, in what was seemingly another climbdown from the College and a significant relaxation of the rules governing who is allowed to stay on campus.

The additional criteria for avoiding eviction emerged from a phone call between Felix Frank, the secretary of the Scholars, and Prendergast on behalf of all residents of Trinity. An email was sent out to all Scholars – and then to the College community – adding that those who had temporarily left Trinity no longer need to return to College to collect their belongings. None of the students who have contracted the virus were living in College accommodation, the Scholars confirmed.

Residents Won’t Have Their Keycards Deactivated, Trinity Promises

While many students have already cleared out of their accommodation, most seem to have left without properly saying goodbye – few appear to have taken all their belongings with them. Yesterday, then, would have delivered them a mighty land, when Trinity told them they needed to have their belongings gone from the College by Friday, and that they might lose access to their apartments by Thursday.

It wasn’t an announcement likely to maintain calm among students, and so it proved. Many, documenting their journeys on social media, brought parents or family members up to help them move out properly today, and international students worried about the fate of their belongings. But this afternoon those distressed about the tight timeframe got some relief, as College announced that keycards will not be deactivated – “for the moment”. For some, though, the move came too late.

Nursing and Midwifery Students Allowed to Stay Where They Are

Trinity News tonight reported that residents on placement – “i.e working on the frontline of the health service” – will be allowed to remain in Trinity’s accommodation, bringing to an end a day of doubt and uncertainty for many of the College’s nurses and midwives. On Twitter, the story earned a retweet from Provost Patrick Prendergast – one of several nuggets of information circulated through non-College channels – in a sign that the College is eager to communicate to students the various loopholes that exist after a directive last night that bordered on ironclad.

Anne-Marie Brady, the head of Trinity’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, told Trinity News that “communication will be progressed” to the students in question. But nurses and midwives could be forgiven for wondering why they had to wait almost 24 hours to hear the news – and why it didn’t come from Trinity itself.

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