Ah yes… 2020-21 — to go down in history as “the Covid Year” … “the Year of Covid”… “World War Z – Plague”? … Okay, I’ll leave working out the kinks of dramatic nomenclature to the modern historians, given I study a period when saying “Year of the Plague” was not yet cliched. While this was hopefully the only year of telepresence at Trinity College for a few years (at least till we all graduate), this has certainly been one for the books. No subway rides to campus, no gatherings of your very closest friends in your dorm rooms, no going to club events, and no buffet at Strachan. Just takeout, and then eating it in the quad at best. For most of the year, even the Buttery has been on and off.
Of course if that were all, it would have been a cake-walk. Instead, we got eight (8) long, beautiful, hard, exhausting, trying, miserable and largely-missing-from-my-memory months of online school, zoom fatigue, ridiculous amounts of unnecessary readings, and even more unnecessary “participation” exercises to help us stay “engaged” … as if we had anything better to do.
Of course, let’s not forget the raw existential anxiety for our loved ones (and ourselves) ami a virus that has killed more than 3.17 Million and likely infected over a billion (and counting) including 24,169 counted deaths in Canada. Add to that unprecedented financial pressures on students (and everyone else — except Amazon) and a few half-hearted attempts to do something about them.
Couple all that with the increasingly bleak economic outlook in a post-Covid world, the clear demonstrations of the dysfunction of our political systems and other assorted political unrest (but hey, at least the international news 24-7 cycle has been mostly Trump-free for three whole, blissful, months), and the fact climate change hasn’t gone anywhere — despite heartwarming memes about dolphins returning to Venice and other “nature is healing spin-offs.” (Still my favourite meme of the year — sue me.)
While that was happening, of course quite reasonably, you may have missed a few non-covid items, so allow me to present a few key items local to Trinity College that happened this year, in what I am pretentiously dubbing “The Trinity Year in Review 2020-21” (or whatever my amazing Editor settles on.)
In terms of Trinity College itself, the pandemic has shown that the College cares very little about students’ well-being, and far more about performative helpfulness and, really, everything else. We got a donation for a new building though — The Lawson Centre for Sustainability which The Admin hopes will bring the student residence capacity back to 40% of Trinity College’s population, as well as hosting environmental programming.
As regards the TCM, in addition to engaging with and responding to the anti-black racism task force, the Meeting started, and eventually passed, a motion to degender “Head” positions this year, a move which was aimed at fostering greater inclusivity and, which sparked wide-ranging discussions and concerns among the Trin body at large, including opposition on the grounds that it could damage female representation at the college, and some wider discussion over the precise role of heads in Trinity College’s student governance.
Meanwhile, demonstrating their perseverance and even triumph against the odds, Trinity students have excelled in their academics and extracurriculars, starting podcasts, blogging, and engaging with their favourite clubs, despite the pandemic forcing them to adapt their operations. TURC (TRINITY COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH CONFERENCE) was able to go ahead this year, and was a wonderful success, despite its online format, with a great slate of presenters talking about their research in everything from Genetics to Political unrest in India to mental health and diabetes.
Indeed, mental health has been a top concern for all of us this year, with increasing isolation from loved ones and friends, and human contact in general for those of us living alone. This crisis has exacerbated pre-existing mental health issues for many people (and added a few new ones), and has highlighted the mental health crisis on campus (or rather off campus given how few of us are in Res this year), and it has motivated the university to do better and provide more support. Nonetheless it has, of course, still been a trying and under-supported experience for many of us.
Nevertheless, as we look back at this year, let’s hope we all learned something, including that nothing is guaranteed, and everything can change at a moment’s notice.
In short, it’s been a terrible year, and we’ve survived — ish.