Provost Patrick Prendergast has admitted Trinity will take a “financial hit” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but insisted College “won’t let our mission in education, research and innovation be derailed”.
In a video address this evening, published on social media, Prendergast hailed Trinity’s “global community”, who he said “will work with us to secure the future of this great university” despite the financial challenges that the coronavirus will present.
He added that Trinity is “working tirelessly to make sure that the exam system this year will be fair, and will reflect the hard work that you’ve put in”.
Prendergast also addressed the controversy that erupted last week when Trinity instructed residents living in College accommodation to vacate, arguing that the move was taken on the advice of the College’s GPs, “who emphasised the need for swift action in the face of such a fast-spreading virus”.
“The reduction in numbers staying means that we can better look after everyone”, he said.
Prendergast, who recorded the video in his office in House One, said: “An eerie silence has fallen on the college. It’s sobering to realise that throughout Trinity’s long history, our campus has never been this silent.”
Prendergast offered his sympathies to final-year students, “who must now finish their undergraduate years in social isolation”, and Erasmus students who have had to return home as a result of the pandemic.
“These are not small things to forgo”, he said. “All of us – staff and alumni – who remember those precious moments of student life feel your disappointment.”
“Like almost all institutions, businesses and individuals, we will take a financial hit from this – all our revenue streams will be affected and extra costs will be incurred”, Prendergast said.
But he added that “there are no “immediate financial issues” facing the College. “In the last five or six years, we’ve worked tremendously hard to secure the college finances, which means we can weather this storm, at least for the moment”, he said.
“We have time to plan. We won’t let our mission in education, research and innovation be derailed.”
He also addressed incoming students hoping to start in Trinity in autumn, promising that “come the autumn, we will be welcoming many of you to our campus”.
“It might be slightly later than in previous years – it might be under slightly adjusted criteria. But we will be welcoming you. Every autumn, the university renews itself through the influx of new students.”
Prendergast paid tribute to staff and students, who he said “have helped make possible the extraordinary transition of the past fortnight”.
“Everyone has played a part, from the security and cleaning staff who are keeping the college safe, to the academics and students engaging in online learning, and IT Services who’ve enabled this, and, of course, the College Health Centre and Student Counselling who are ensuring support at this anxious time.”
And he thanked staff, students and graduates on the frontline of the health service. “They are our heroes in this”, he said.