For many Trinity students, any news that College has implemented one rule for them and another for tourists is so common that it has become something of an in-joke on campus.
It’s no secret that tourists are a major cash cow for Trinity. Until now, these occurrences – such as closing Trinity’s libraries the week before last year’s exams while keeping the Book of Kells exhibition open – were primarily financially motivated.
Starting from tomorrow, tourists will be welcomed back onto campus, and Trinity has admitted that it will not be checking that international visitors to the Book of Kells have completed their mandatory self-isolation period.
Trinity tweets about its researchers and professors advising caution with regards to the pandemic, and while public health rules around the reopening of campus for students have still not been released, the rules staff are being subjected to are fairly stringent.
Furthermore, Trinity took a lead in prioritising health and safety over business as usual. College suspended lectures before the government ordered all universities and schools to close, and the Book of Kells exhibition was shut before Ireland’s national lockdown.
Allowing tourists onto campus seems to fly in the face of all this good work and the caution that College has exercised thus far.
It is worth saying that the Book of Kells could be a lifeline as colleges plunge into economic uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, and College is exercising some degree of caution with the re-opening of the exhibition, introducing pre booked tickets only and taking steps to stop tourists wandering outside Fellows’ Square, along with introducing other public health guidelines.
But the re-opening of places such as the Book of Kells does not signal a return to normality, and Trinity must recognise this: the virus is still present, and a coronavirus-ridden tourist could spell disaster for students and staff.
College cannot revert to its old ways of bending over backwards for tourists – often at the expense of students. Now, this is no longer merely a monetary issue: health and safety must prevail over attracting tourists to campus.