As a college community, we have had to adapt to the limitations of coronavirus restrictions. With socialising en masse prohibited, societies and students alike were questioning whether college society life could survive the pandemic.
The Central Societies Committee (CSC) has created Trinity Societies Hub, a virtual platform that showcases all of Trinity’s student societies. This essentially replaced the traditional open-air freshers’ fair.
It is easy to see the attraction of an online societies hub. It streamlines the membership process for societies. There is no fumbling with names, student numbers and emails as they are all automatically put on a list when each student signs up through their account. It is efficient from an administration standpoint but it also eliminates the early morning scramble in Front Square to find the optimal spot to set up a stall.
For students, it gives them the ability to browse all societies in one centralised place. Previously, it was easy for students to miss societies at the fair and many societies did not have an active social media presence where students can learn about them. On the hub, societies are categorised and given equal promotion. It is arguably a much fairer format. This begs the question: how was this not created before now?
With socialising en masse prohibited, societies and students alike were questioning whether college society life could survive the pandemic
I think we are all guilty of signing up to a society for a free goody-bag or lemon crȇpe. With this year’s setup, societies were no longer able to “bribe” students, as it were. There was a reduced number of society sign-ups overall, but that may mean that new members were more intentional with their choices. This may lead to an increase in engagement among members, relative to the total number of members.
Many societies made the decision to lower their membership fee in an attempt to attract more members. Despite this, some societies reported as much as a 30 per cent decrease in new membership compared to previous years.
Most events will be held online for the foreseeable future and these events cost next to nothing to run, with the absence of venue, food and drink costs. However, in a normal, pandemic-free time, this lower membership cost coupled with a decrease in membership overall could put financial strain on societies. This could be especially detrimental to small and medium-sized societies, many of which were already struggling.
It is no secret that accessibility, or lack thereof, has been a huge barrier for many students with disabilities in getting involved in society life. Buildings that house a lot of major society events such as the Graduates Memorial Building and Players Theatre are infamously inaccessible and many other venues on campus also lack the infrastructure to hold wheelchair-user-friendly events. Even those with working lifts struggle to provide an adequate level of autonomy for wheelchair-users as a staff or committee member must be asked for keys or assistance. The option of attending events online this year was a welcome change and it may increase engagement among students with disabilities.
The option of attending events online this year was a welcome change and it may increase engagement among students with disabilities
Physical disabilities aside, many students with autism and other conditions can sometimes find the prospect of a crowded Front Square with various society reps shouting and trying to entice them with a 30-second spiel about their society overwhelming. A societies hub gives the user much more control and is generally less anxiety-inducing.
Perhaps the future of freshers’ fair is a hybrid system where societies can still have an online platform in a centralised hub, while also having the opportunity to set up shop in Front Square and meet with freshers in-person. The online sign-up process and “gallery-view” of societies creates an efficient experience for both committee members and student users. The hub is undoubtedly more accessible too.
However, the connection forged between new students and society reps in those first days can really enforce a sense of belonging for the student in their first week. Trinity’s student societies are world renowned and that freshers’ fair buzz of opportunity, ambition and hope is a cornerstone of any student’s first week here.