April 2022 Community Survey Results
We conducted a new survey of the campus community in April 2022. We have been doing these surveys since the pandemic began, and they are extremely helpful in shaping responses to constituent needs. 319 students, faculty and staff responded to our most recent survey — thank you! The pie chart on the left shows the participation rates for each campus cohort.
Below is a chart that illustrates answers to a question we’ve been asking in every survey since the pandemic began — how’s it going? This simple question actually packs a big punch, and over time we can see the sentiments of our students, faculty and staff changing both for better and for worse. Here’s how to read the chart below: the columns with the stronger colors are for the most recent survey, while the columns with faded colors show the prior surveys back to October 2021. The columns group in sets of students (left columns), faculty (center columns) and staff (right). The color stacks are pink (worse than expected), dark teal (about the same as expected), and light green (better than expected).
What we are seeing in the April survey is some deterioration in student and faculty sentiment over the February results. 20% of both groups are telling us that things are going “worse than expected,” and in the case of faculty, the decline is quite large from 6% to 20%. That also matches the decline in faculty responses on the bottom “better than expected” declining from 30% to 16%.
What is driving these results? Read on below the chart for comments from each group, and the subsequent questions in the survey also tease out some of the reasons.
Here are some of the comments accompanying the question above on “how’s it going?”….
“Classes this semester have felt draining and overwhelming. The amount of work that is given in short amount of time and graded pretty rough is not quite fair.”
“My Mental health really took a toll this semester it was hard to feel motivated to get up and eat, go to class and do my work. I feel as if I struggled more this semester than last.”
“I am feeling more overwhelmed this semester.”
“This semester did definitely come with more workload. I have to say it was the heaviest but towards the end, some professors were very understanding and gave us the chance to pick our assignments by giving us a variety of options.”
“I am on track to have dean’s last this semester and I because on the mini-spring break we had during Easter, I was able to get a lot of work done early.”
“School work was very overwhelming, which is expected as being a rising senior however Trinity didn’t give students a spring break. I believe with a spring break, my mental health could’ve been more at ease. I felt very stressed out with so many expectations to meet all bottled up. Easter break didn’t make up for us not having a spring break as Easter is meant to spend with family but instead I spent my entire Easter finishing up papers.”
“It has been a transition from doing virtual learning to in-person learning. For me, my social anxiety has lessened, so I have made progress in my participation in the classroom. Also, having the deli reopen has been extremely helpful for a commuter who takes the metro.”
“My classes this year have been interesting and informative, my grades have been good as well.”
NHP and PGS students:
“Classes are going well. Teachers are very helpful and resourceful.”
“This is my second year here at Trinity, and I have really learned a lot. I have achieved more than I expected. The teachers I’ve encountered were very generous and helpful. I have had my ups and downs with one teacher, but I do not wish to elaborate, but I can say, I have learned that you can’t grasp everybody’s teaching strategies. Other than that I have enjoyed my time here at Trinity.”
“I did not think that I could maintain 3 or more classes. I did it and got on the Dean’s List. It can’t get any better than that. Well, yes it can. Now, if I receive Cum Laude!!!!! AWESOME!!!”
“Work/home/school balance was not great. Spring courses were very demanding, on top of all of the COVID restrictions from working in a school and being a mom.”
“I have been struggling to keep up with the work load of classes while working full time.”
“It’s been challenging getting students to come to class and to complete homework and readings.”
“Everybody’s tired. Engagement has slipped this semester despite faculty using best practices. A spring break would have provided a chance to catch up.”
“Students are doing well and succeeding in class.”
“I don’t know whether it’s because the first few days were online, or whether Covid and winter malaise just affected students more than normal, but the student engagement levels this spring were lower than I’d hoped. Quite a few students just haven’t been making it to class on time, despite various attempts to encourage them to; others have been absent a lot. This has definitely contributed to unevenness in the classroom, and lower engagement levels.”
“A majority of students are reporting stress, exhaustion, and difficulty achieving their best academic performance. This became noticeable worse by March 7- midterms.”
“I have a very good group of Senior Seminar students. They meet all deadlines and have submitted quality work.”
“While a few of my students have stopped coming to class or submitting assignments, the majority are working very diligently. Furthermore, my colleagues have been a tremendous support to me this year.”
“The good news: all semester, my students have been engaged, in contact, and conscientious about their work (it is sometimes late but they are getting it done). They seem interested in the course material and excited about learning new ideas and skills. The caveat is that absenteeism is high (illness and family issues mostly) and they are stressed by the workload in all their classes.”
“I feel comfortable coming to work little by little and seeing more people after rough times of the pandemic. The pandemic had taken a toll on me mentally due to many relatives passing of COVID-19 all around the world.”
“I thought we’d have more community spread of COVID, but we’ve kept it under control. Although I’m tired of wearing masks, keeping the indoor mask mandate has been good.”
“It has been good to be on campus and seeing more students and colleagues, but in many ways, things are not back to normal and there is definitely a lack of collaboration with so many people rotating in and out with hybrid schedules.”
“With the return of classes face-to-face, I was afraid we would have a large outbreak given the high transmission rate after the Christmas break but luckily our campus has been spared. The semester has been quite successful thanks to the diligence of the faculty, staff and student body who has consistently followed our health protocols.”
“Better than expected because the covid protocols are still in place which continue to offer protection. Also, having to work two days online helps mitigate the exposure. I am very pleased that Trinity chose not to give in to the pressure of relaxing the guidelines; I feel safe to come to work which helps me concentrate in my work. ”
Question on Covid Protocols
Based on the results of the survey question on Covid protocols, we will CONTINUE the mask mandate indoors for the forseeable future. Many students, faculty and staff tell us that they feel more comfortable and safe with the masks. We will also continue the vaccine mandate, and we do hope to be able to provide the vaccines through Health Services in the fall.
Question: What Stresses You Out?
The answers to this question are very helpful for understanding the mental health issues we are hearing about, and it’s also interesting to see how students compare to the faculty/staff cohorts:
We know that money is a huge issue for Trinity students. We will continue to provide as many emergency grants as possible through the federal and private funds we have available. Trinity is fortunate that some private benefactors have made donations to help students out with private grants, and we are so grateful for this support!
It’s noteworthy in the above responses that substantial proportions of all campus populations have had to cope with their own illness due to Covid (23% of students, 27% of faculty/staff) and also the terrible pain of losing family members and loved ones due to Covid (19% of students, 23% of faculty/staff). Everyone expresses concern about getting sick, or about family members getting sick, and this supports continuing our effective Covid mitigation strategies on campus.
Some of the comments on this question:
“I like that the Trinity campus remains open. I can come here or stay after classes to get away from home and focus on my assignments. I feel safe on campus and it helps with the stress I’m feeling from the pandemic. In regards to the faculty instructors giving too many assignments, I felt this a lot in the spring semester. The end just feels so rushed.” (Student)
“The year 2020 changed the course of history and our everyday routines. It’s been challenging to go back to what we consider “normal”. The stressors of 2020, 2021, and now 2022 has taken it’s toll in such a peculiar way. We’re constantly bombarded with bad news that is beyond our control- whether it’s rising prices, new variants, ongoing restrictions, the Ukraine war, mass shootings, etc. It weighs on your mental ability to thrive despite feeling like the world is falling apart. People are ready to snap at any moment, and it’s likely they all feel like the walls are closing in. I wish there was a magic remedy to make it all better.” (Staff)
“The monetary assistance last year was very beneficial. It helped me pay bills and provide the needs that I could not have gotten since I had to cut down my hours at work due to school.” (Student)
“I’m a care giver for my grandmother and disabled father. More flexibility with my schedule would be helpful. Safety is also huge priority for myself and family. I’d prefer if Trinity doesn’t get too relaxed with their covid-19 procedures.” (Faculty)
“For a community that has a physical presence (i.e. campus), I think it’s important that we do start gathering together when possible (Certainly outside now that the weather is getting warmer or inside in smaller groups) so that we can continue to build/rebuild the sense of community especially for all the newer people that are here. I feel that in some sense we have “forgotten” how to be together as we have been so isolated for the past couple years. The best way to remember is to start to gather whenever possible.” (Staff)
“Mental health support + leniency on assignments for the next few semesters would be great as everyone has been struggling with finances and mental health since the pandemic at even higher rates. While some professors seem supportive and understanding many are still taking a more challenging approach. But this approach often only truly affects those who really aren’t trying OR that are struggling with life all around and aren’t able to be given any understanding because “if I make an exception for you I must for everyone”. So general leniency.” (Student)
“The level of stress most are experiencing has been and continues to be incredibly high and most people are already well past having any reserves to deal with the unknowns of daily life. It is hard to say what would help in that we all just have to keep going regardless of how worn out we might be. I am honestly not sure what would ease the stress enough to build back any reserves to manage the unknowns of daily life. Things are hard and continue to be. Trinity has done so many things to try to ease the burdens of the Covid situation and the unknowns that pop-up, but the reality is, there is, potentially, not much else Trinity can do as we all just have to muddle through until things get easier?” (Faculty)
“It could be helpful to provide more mental health resources like infographics and support groups. As a first gen student, I’ve realized that a lot of my peers and myself often don’t have the language to describe how we feel and it has made it difficult to talk about what we’re going through (loss, illness, etc.).” (Student)
“More activities and events that allow students to fellowship together may help improve the mental well-being of the students, faculty, and staff. I advise students who are dealing with at least two or more of the above items. In each of our student cohorts, we have students who are dealing with every box listed above.” (Faculty)
“Although it would be ideal to have more student activities on campus, I worry about covid cases increasing and catching covid myself which is stressful. I believe that having the weight of the semester and the many homework assignments and projects, combined with the lack of socialization causes a burnout which not only affects students’ academics but most importantly their mental health.” (Student)
Question: What Can We Do To Provide Better Support?
The responses to this question, and the comments, indicated general agreement about the need for more time off, more breaks, and more mental health service options. Students also want faculty to be more sensitive to the volume of assignments across courses. Faculty want more help in working with students in crisis. We will be addressing these issues going forward as we plan the 2022-2023 academic year.
We will be responding to the academic calendar issues separately…. stay tuned!
Thanks to everyone for participating in this and all of our community surveys this year. Your engagement really helps all of us to stay on track, make changes as we go along, and be more responsive to the needs of all persons on campus.
Onward to our year-end celebrations, commencements and a great summer!