The Central Societies Committee (CSC) yesterday circulated a long-awaited email, announcing the cancellation of freshers’ fair this year. Some students had still hoped it would go ahead as it had been announced that third-level institutions would be allowed to relax the two-metre social distancing rule to one metre in environments that would not allow for it.
However, the CSC informed students that this will only apply to academic activities, leaving many societies with very few options for freshers’ week events.
The financial strain of this restriction cannot be underestimated. At the end of last semester, many large events such as Trinity’s various balls had to be cancelled once College doors closed due to a rising number of coronavirus cases and new government restrictions.
Many societies had already paid deposits on venues and were unable to get all their money back despite the extenuating circumstances. It would seem that it was the first of many financial setbacks to come.
For many societies, the absence of a traditional Freshers’ Fair will cause a significant loss of membership. DU History Auditor Shane Macken, for example, told this newspaper that 80 per cent of the society’s new membership every year comes from their stall at freshers’ fair.
As societies have less money to play with, it will be difficult for them to host in-person events as they must be held in larger venues in which two-metre social distancing is possible. It would seem that the answer is online events but between Zoom licenses and procuring studio equipment for live streams, it is clear that the path to digital will have plenty of potholes.
In the long term, a major concern is the impact this extra complication will have on the university experience of first-year students. Many of us were fortunate enough to have a completely normal freshers’ week experience in which we were introduced to all Trinity has to offer, allowing us to make friends and sign up to some fantastic clubs and societies.
Missing out on these experiences will shape a first-year student’s view of society life and where they fit in at college. We may see the effects of this for years to come in society membership numbers and drop-out rates as students feel less connected with the college.
Trinity prides itself on not just giving students an education, but many other opportunities in which students can express and better themselves outside of academia. It is not yet clear, however, how College will keep hold of this claim in the era of socially distanced events and Zoom talks.