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Update from Provost to staff and students

9 April 2020

Dear students and colleagues,

I am writing to you as we head into the Easter break to wish you and your families well.

This has been an intense period for all of us in Trinity. Students and academic staff have been studying and teaching in difficult circumstances. Professional and support staff have been keeping the college operating both physically and virtually, be it in HR, IT Services, Estates & Facilities, the Library, student services or other areas. Many of you have been doing this while having increased caring responsibilities at home as well as taking on wider roles in the communities where you live.

Now is a good time to take a rest and enjoy the weather (while obeying the government restrictions of course). We all need rest because we will face further challenges in the weeks and months ahead.

Some issues have been resolved. I’m delighted that the University Council yesterday approved the comprehensive plan for the forthcoming assessments/examinations. It was important to bring some certainty to this issue, and it has been rewarding to see how the college worked together to come up with practical solutions to unprecedented challenges.

I am also delighted that Trinity could today announce a €2.4m gift from AIB to establish a research hub to help the global fight against COVID-19. This hub will make a real difference and is a testament to the great work being done by so many people across the university. People see that many of the solutions to our problems will come from universities which are repositories of great science and scholarship, and the expertise that we as a society can never have enough of. Universities are a national asset at times like these.

This week saw our first virtual Commencements with more than 500 degrees conferred by the Chancellor.

Another positive development was the alumni appeal launched last weekend by Trinity Development & Alumni on behalf of the Senior Tutor.  Many alumni have responded in support of students at this most difficult time. So far, an extraordinary response from our alumni has seen over €200,000 raised for this Student Hardship Appeal.

While people have been generous with donations, many others have been generous with their time and expertise. Parts of the main campus and our campus in St James’s Hospital have been transformed to aid the national effort. Staff from the School of Dentistry have been redeployed to take test swabs from patients at HSE testing hubs. Students from the School of Pharmacy have been helping to keep chemists open while on placement. The School of Nursing & Midwifery is working tirelessly with 30 Trinity volunteers at the contact tracing centre in the Tangent area of the Trinity Business School. Personal protection equipment, laboratory equipment and laboratory reagents have been donated by many life science labs to our main teaching hospitals and beyond. Everyone is doing what they can in this time of emergency.

Many of our staff are informing decisions being made nationally and are communicating their expert advice on TV, radio and social media. Other staff are key members of important committees making decisions of national importance such as the NPHET, the Medical Leaders Forum established by the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan or the National Research Ethics Committee (NREC) for COVID-19 which reports to the Minister for Health.

Notwithstanding this exceptional contribution and good news on so many fronts, we have to prepare ourselves for difficulties over the rest of the semester and during the next academic year. Extensive planning has already begun in order to examine how best to protect the University in what are sure to be constrained times. We know, for better and for worse, that things will not quickly return to the way they were before this pandemic.

But that is for another day. Today, I would like to wish you all a Happy Easter – especially those staff and students who will be working on front line activities such as the contact tracing centre on the campus, in our hospitals and in other areas such as pharmacies.

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Prendergast