This week, eight students spoke with The University Times about a culture of intimidation and fear at Trinity Hall during the coronavirus pandemic. Students are facing evictions and threats of fines worth hundreds of euros if they break the complex’s strict rules, making residents feel afraid, unwelcome and as if they are in “prison”.
No one is denying that rules and regulations are necessary in a complex that houses predominantly first-year students in the midst of a pandemic. Endangering public health is obviously wrong, and Trinity must take particular care to avoid the public health crises that universities in America and the UK have reckoned with.
But College’s heavy-handedness has left residents feeling isolated and detached – diminishing their willingness to comply with the complex’s severe rules.
Introducing draconian rules is one thing, but to do so without attending to the inevitable social impact of such rules is another. If Trinity wishes to create a culture in which residents willingly abide by the rules, it must also be cognisant of the loneliness, isolation and fear that most students staying at the complex will subsequently face.
First year can be lonely, isolating and scary in normal times – but bound to their flats, with only online lectures to break up the day and the omniscient threat of large fines for minor infractions hanging over them, freshers are more solitary than ever.
Judging from interviews with Halls residents, it is clear that College has not sufficiently planned for the mental health impact of restrictive coronavirus regulations on students.
This Editorial Board has previously called on College to show compassion for residents amid the pandemic – if it wants to ensure that residents comply with its rules, this is crucial.
Should students’ mental wellbeing continue to be deprioritised and if residents continue to be infantilised through disciplinary threats of essays and outlandish fines, Halls’ stringent rules will become hollow signifiers of College’s failure to engage with its students.
Trinity must instead create a culture in Halls where students can have their social needs fulfilled as best they can, while keeping the community safe.