Few people will dispute that the Central Societies Committee’s (CSC) decision to cancel this year’s freshers’ fair was a necessary one. When lockdown struck initially, it seemed that the coronavirus might be under control by the time the fair took place, but it is now clear that this is not the case. The cancellation of such a large gathering of people was inevitable.
Last month, this Editorial Board praised the CSC for its clear, honest communication with societies over the feasibility of going ahead with the freshers’ fair. The committee understood that a commitment to working towards “some kind of a physical Fair” – albeit a “hugely restricted” one – by collaborating with societies was far more constructive than operating under the illusion of business as usual.
But now, with no physical fair, the CSC must not revert to making major decisions without input from societies. An email sent to society committees this week gave a lengthy list of what they couldn’t do due to social distancing restrictions, but much less information on what they could do.
The importance of the freshers’ fair for societies cannot be overstated, both for attracting new members and raising money for the years’ activities. The chairs of several committees told this newspaper that cancelling the fair could be a major blow for Trinity’s society life – particularly for smaller
societies who have less of a campus presence throughout the year. Indeed, with societies operating on the basis of handing down information and resources from year to year, the implications of this decision could be felt for years to come.
The CSC has committed to revamping its online directory of societies, among other things, to soften the blow of the fair’s cancellation. But it must also be prepared for the medium-term reverberations of the lack of a freshers’ fair. It must provide tangible support for societies organising online events, for example. Questions, too, will be asked about securing sponsorship for events if the majority of them will be online.
The CSC’s previous prudence in communicating with societies cannot slip now – for some societies, it could be the difference between surviving the year ahead or folding entirely.