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Trinity’s students’ union rises to the challenge

Vice-President Ben Clark outlines how Trinity College Students’ Union (TCSU) has adapted to the lockdown and created a raft of support, entertainment and information to keep students connected and spirits up.  

Back in January when the new TCSU Committee members were writing their manifestos with ideas for what they hoped to accomplish in the coming year, none of us had a clue that in a few months’ time we would be in lockdown.

We had no idea that our goals and plans to help improve Trinity as a place of study and as a home would have to be put on hold, and that as a student body we would find ourselves entering Easter term virtually.

So, how has the committee adapted to lockdown and what are our plans for the future? Apart from maintaining our academic studies, TCSU has focused on creating and implementing a weekly schedule of events online, mostly conducted through our Instagram account @trincollsu (please follow us).

L to R (back row): Simon Warrener- Computing Officer; Santiago Marin-Martinez – Overseas Welfare Officer; Vanessa Tang- Female Welfare Officer; Beatrice Codd- Junior Steward; Ludvig Brekke- President; Roly Peel- Male Welfare Officer; Ben Clark- Vice-President; Izzy lynn- Women’s Officer; Jeevan Shemar- Ents Officer L to R (seated): Serena Cole- BME Officer; Maelle-Marie Troadec- Treasurer; Ashna Ahmad- Mental Health and Disabilities Officer; Ana Dolinar- Environmental and Domestic Officer; Ishbel Russell- LGBT Officer Floor: Elizabeth Beevers- Access Officer. Photo: Graham Copekoga (taken before social distancing was in place)

On Mondays BME Officer Serena runs ‘BME Motivation Monday’ in which she portrays an inspiring BME person and shows that success is attainable no matter the circumstances.

Tuesdays are for takeovers: every week since the lockdown began a Committee member has invited Trinity students to share a day in their lives on our Instagram story and answered a variety of questions.

For ‘Welfare Wednedays’ Welfare Officers Vanessa and Roly have organised a term of weekly events such as virtual welfare teas and movie nights. The best Welfare Wednesday event so far has got to be the virtual bake-off last week, in which students sent in photos of their bakes, with the host – and creator of the very successful ‘Cambrovision’ – Tom McGachie, picking a winner. It was great to see such a large number of students participating.

We have also been keeping in contact with students by email: for example, Access Officer Elizabeth sent out detailed information about the help available to Trinity students during this period, and Green Officer Ana emailed about Earth Day, reminding students of climate change issues even if other news commands the headlines currently.

Computing Officer Simon compiles a weekly Sunday newsletter of announcements, society updates and our recommendations for lockdown activities like workout routines, TV shows, movies and books.

Meanwhile the Committee has been hard at work organising Freshers’ Week and contingency planning in case Michaelmas Term turns out a bit different than usual. We are in regular contact with the Tutorial Office, the Master and College staff to ensure that we are cooperating as best we can to keep our community together and motivated through this challenging period.

Clearly, the current TCSU Committee has had to assume a role quite different from that of our predecessors. We have slowly come to the realisation that ours is not likely to be a legacy of ‘lights down the Avenue’ or ‘gym renovations being approved’.

Rather, it is likely that we will go down as ‘that Committee that was in place when coronavirus struck’. While it has been a challenge to move our focus away from improving College life and infrastructure, it is in many ways a privilege to take responsibility instead for keeping the student body entertained, motivated and inspired during these difficult times.

It has been incredibly rewarding to see our College community thrive in spite of the strains imposed by the pandemic, to see Trinity students participate in virtual events, reach out to those struggling, and engage with one another, both academically and socially, even though most of us are removed from the College physically.

Looking ahead, the TCSU Committee will continue to offer support and opportunities for our community to connect through fun virtual events until we return to Trinity. We will doubtless be remembered as ‘the committee in place during coronavirus’, but if we are also known for our efforts to support and entertain the Trinity community during this period, we will be very proud.

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