To the neutral observer, the abiding question after this week’s accommodation scandal – involving a very public spat between College and its Scholars – will surely have been: has Trinity ever been more Trinity?
From start to finish, this was a fracas indicative of a College at its most self-parodic – complete with ambiguity, outrage and a resolution that left you wondering how everyone managed to get so worked up in the first place.
Dublin-based Scholars, we now know, will not be denied a spot in Trinity’s accommodation next year – a privilege afforded to them by the College’s own statutes.
Instead, Provost Patrick Prendergast said on Thursday, College is merely asking them to forfeit their accommodation.
Prendergast’s clarification will have come as a relief to those affected, given it was quite a different message from the one they’d received from Trinity just two days earlier.
Then, College informed Dublin-based Scholars that they would not receive an offer of accommodation in the first round. It seemed the writing was on the wall: some Dublin-based Scholars would not get the room they had expected.
Whatever your take on the way Schols is run, and whether Dublin-based Scholars should have an unconditional right to free accommodation, the fundamental point here is that Trinity communicated unclearly, and left Scholars to contend with a decision that would likely have put College in conflict with its own statutes.
Ultimately, the whole thing turned out to be a storm in a teacup for Scholars – none will lose out on accommodation next year. But Trinity’s attempt to defuse the situation came too late: the bomb had already exploded.
For many, the whole affair brought into focus again a slew of long-standing issues with Schols and, more generally, College’s means of allocating accommodation. There was plenty of vitriol directed at the 165 Scholars who opposed Trinity’s initial announcement.
It’s understandable that the response from the Scholars left a bad taste in people’s mouths: there’s a pandemic going on, so free accommodation for people who live in Dublin anyway isn’t a consideration high on the list of things most people care about.
But for Trinity, it was a public mess that could have been avoided with better communication. Sound familiar?