In the past few weeks, universities have brought out optimistic plans about reopening, with a focus on maximising face-to-face contact between students and staff, much to the chagrin of staff and students.
University College Dublin Students’ Union, for example, called the reopening plans of University College Dublin, which aims for students to spend between 40 to 60 per cent of their normal schedules in classrooms, “over ambitious”.
This week, Trinity’s Central Societies Committee (CSC) showed universities how to communicate with students during the pandemic in a reasonable and clear way.
In an email to societies the committee said that this year’s freshers’ fair will be physically “hugely restricted” due to mandatory public health and college guidelines.
Chair of the CSC Lee Campbell informed societies that the CSC is considering moving freshers’ fair online in case it could not be held “physically or in the event that some students can’t make it to the Fair”.
The organisation’s honesty, though bearing disappointing news, should be welcomed. Rather than salvaging something that is beyond its control, the CSC accepted the unruly conditions of the year ahead.
The fact that freshers’ week may be online and will clash with the beginning of college term is no doubt a blow to societies and their membership. But the CSC is giving societies time to transfer their activities online to produce a freshers’ fair that won’t be the let-down that it could be in the event of last-minute planning and limited resources.
Moreover, by consulting with societies and involving them in the decision-making process, the CSC has skilfully curbed the potential for any major backlash against the move.
But Campbell was careful to stress that the CSC is still working out how it might hold “some kind of a physical Fair”. The organisation’s ambiguity on the point, if anything, is far more constructive than the certainty that a number of universities have displayed in recent weeks about on-campus activities in the coming academic year.
If the past few months are anything to go by, little can be predicted in a world governed by a pandemic. The CSC is operating under no illusions.