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Update from Provost and College Secretary to staff and students

20 October 2020

Dear Students and Colleagues,

We hope you are well. We are writing to update you about our intended approach to teaching and research following last night’s Government decision to step up measures to Level 5 under the Plan for Living with COVID-19.

We know this is a difficult time for many of you who have told us that you are struggling with the restrictions. Some of you are lonely and others are facing increased workloads. We are all worrying about our families and friends as well as our own health. The good news is that because of our preparations earlier in the year not much will change for our university because we were already operating at a very high level of safety.

According to the Department of the Taoiseach’s and Minister’s websites (1,2), colleges are deemed an essential service and physical presence is permitted for higher education “insofar as onsite presence is required and such education activities cannot be held remotely”.  Therefore, we should maintain a balance of on-campus and remote learning for the remainder of the semester, with some adjustments across different subject areas.

At this stage, all lectures and tutorials that can be delivered online should be delivered online. Lab and practical classes, clinical skills classes, creative practice or other formative experiential components that cannot be delivered online are to continue to be delivered face-to-face. Clinical and professional placements should also be maintained in face-to-face delivery. Opportunities to physically carry out lab-based capstone projects (e.g., capstone or postgraduate dissertation projects) should similarly be maintained. A tremendous amount of work has gone in to ensuring these activities can be carried out safely under face-to-face conditions and this is wholly consistent with the current public health advice. The Level 5 restrictions aim to reduce the transmission of the virus in the community protecting those activities that can only be done face-to-face and we will all wish to very strongly protect the essential experiential learning which is foundational to our students’ learning and cannot be replaced at a later time. This is the official position of the university and we would ask that experiential learning should not be replaced by desk-based work without very deep consideration for the consequences for the student’s learning.

In summary, it is clear that the government understands that some amount of in person teaching is essential and can proceed when organised in a safe manner.

Research may also continue under the new Government advice. The Library will continue to provide essential services to support researchers and students. The Library will maintain access to online resources; access to safe study space with good-connectivity (with some reductions from that under COVID Level 3) and access to as much physical material as possible. Details are being finalised and will be communicated by the Librarian tomorrow.

The bad news is the restrictions already in operation here in Trinity are now likely to continue for the rest of the semester. There is now little chance that we can increase in person teaching before Christmas.

For those who are living on campus or in Trinity Hall, campus residences will remain open under Level 5. We encourage students to remain in residence to engage in the admittedly limited amount of in person teaching that you have, using the library, and engaging in the permitted activities within your pod. We do realise that this is a massive challenge, particularly for our Junior Fresh students who may not have yet generated social bonds among their class - we will endeavour to support you in every way that we can. However, should students want to leave accommodation on the main campus or in Trinity Hall, we will continue to look at requests on a case-by-case basis.

The online study spaces and student breakout spaces around the campus will remain open.

Some sports will continue but it is too early to know which sports exactly. The gym and swimming pool will have to close. The Buttery and The Perch will remain open but only offer a take-away service.

Additional changes may be added in the coming days but this appears to be the situation at present. If things change, we will write to you again as soon as we have more updates.

As always, please check with your school or unit for more details or check https://www.tcd.ie/about/coronavirus/ and our social media channels for updates.

We hope this provides more clarity about what to expect. These are undoubtedly some of the most difficult times any of us have experienced but the College community has shown great resilience and determination. We believe these qualities will now get us through the rest of the semester.

With best wishes,

Patrick Prendergast
Provost

John Coman
Secretary to the College

(1) https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/?referrer=http://www.gov.ie/essentialservices/#education
(2) https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/f3bbe-what-level-5-means-for-further-and-higher-education-minister-harris/