Unless in ‘imminent danger’ don’t contact us, Trinity tells students

Louis Mian 5 February 2021
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Trinity College has drawn criticism for setting out stricter requirements for students returning into residence than necessary under current government guidance.

In an email last night (4th February), Trinity Master and former Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, told students, ‘if your situation deteriorates and you are imminent danger, contact us. Otherwise, please all join our wonderful silent majority of students who are resiliently getting on with studies and life at home.’

Davies’ suggestion that students should only request help from the college when in ‘imminent danger’ has raised concerns for students’ wellbeing. One Trinity student wrote anonymously on the Facebook page Camfess, ‘They seem to have no understanding of the variety of issues people may face when being forced to stay at home. Physical violence is not the only circumstance that warrants a need to return to Cambridge!’

Current government guidance to universities states that they should support students returning to university accommodation where they ‘do not have access to appropriate alternative accommodation, facilities, or study space’ or where they ‘need to return for health or safety reasons.’ As such, Trinity is taking a position markedly stricter than that outlined by the government.

In her email, Davies stated that ‘we have allowed a very few students to return into residence when they have made a compelling case’ and ‘backed up the necessary paperwork’. She further detailed that ‘a few cases for early return will be considered again after 22nd February’.

‘I must highlight that College is not the place you likely imagine it to be. Our Fellows and Staff, due to the lockdown are required to work from home where possible. Consequently, we do not have the full range of support services in place.’

‘We here are in lockdown too – and for good reason. The new strains of the virus are virulent – both more transmissible and serious,’ Davies continued.

Trinity’s policy regarding which students can return into residence was criticised by Cambridge Student Minds earlier this term. In an open letter, the charity noted that the college has ‘set out more extreme requirements than the government, requiring students to provide a recommendation that they should not be at home, preventing them from assessing their own situation and mental health needs.’

Speaking to TCS, Trinity’s Senior Tutor, Professor Catherine Barnard, appeared to moderate Davies’ language. Barnard highlighted that ‘the College is aware of and concerned about the consequences of the pandemic and related restrictions on students, particularly the effects on their mental health.’

She further explained that ‘alongside core services and study support, pastoral support is available from Tutors, the Chaplains, and the College’s Mental Health Adviser. This support is equally available, by telephone or Zoom, for those at home, wherever our students are in the world.’

‘We remain open and listening. Please reach out to your Tutor, the Chaplains, or our Mental Health Advisor if you need support, guidance, or simply to talk.’

‘Alongside monitoring UK government regulations, the College maintains regular contact with all of its students through scheduled online meetings with Tutors and Directors of Studies, as well as social activities and the provision of pastoral support as above,’ Barnard continued.

TCS updated this article at 3.50pm to include the Senior Tutor’s comments.