November Community Survey Results

December 3, 2020

We are taking the final survey of the Fall 2020 semester to gauge how the campus community is faring in the latter weeks of the 2020 pandemic era.  This survey compares results from two prior surveys taken in September and October, and also asks some new questions.  We are grateful to all who have participated, and there’s still time to take the survey if you have not yet done so.  We will discuss these results in the Campus Conversations gathering on zoom on Thursday, December 3 at 4 pm.  Somebody asked whether we pay attention to the results of the survey and the answer is Absolutely YES!  These surveys have helped us to understand the many challenges that students, faculty and staff are facing and we work on finding solutions to as many of the challenges as possible.

Here are some of the key answers and comments so far:

Each month we asked students, faculty and staff to respond to the question of whether the semester was going about as expected, better than expected or worse than expected.  This is a very generic phraseology specifically to tease out the general sense of the community and our various constituencies in this most difficult era.  What we can see in the results presented above are these issues:

Students generally have a more pessimistic view of how things are going than do faculty or staff, but over time we’ve seen some interesting changes in the various cohorts:

  • CAS students started the semester optimistically, took a downturn in October (mid-terms??), but appear to be ending on a more positive note;
  • NHP students are expressing deep concerns in this final stretch of the semester, with 35% now saying things are going worse than expected, showing a notable downturn from earlier;
  • PGS students also are expressing more concerns although 50% now say things are going “better” than expected;
  • Full-time faculty and adjunct faculty remain fairly positive in their outlook, but showing some small concerns;
  • Staff also remain generally positive but showing a small downturn.

CAS student comments:

I say better than expected because this all new to us. We’ve haven’t done online schooling and everyone is doing so well. Yes, at first this was something to get used too, but we’ve got it handled.

I started off strong because I knew that all my classes would be online. I prepared myself with getting a planner and large calendar so I won’t miss assignments. My midterm grade from this semester was better than last semester. Though as the ending is coming I am slipping from my strong start.

Online school seemed easy and manageable at first but as time went by it seems that there is more work than anticipated. Balancing more work with my everyday life has become an issue

I have adjusted to the online format better than I anticipated. Professors are still accessible and accommodating. However, I miss the interaction with my fellow students that only the classroom can provide. Often in zoom, people have the option of not being visible via video so all you hear is a voice and that is no fun.

NHP student comments:

I did not expect the work load to be this much. However, I did not expect to be learning so much.

This semester have been extremely exhausting with the amount of work that has been required for just one of my classes. At times I feel that the work consumption is for two classes. It’s been difficult to focus at home since I can’t go to the library as I would normally do. I feel that there is no separation from work, school and home. Since my home occupies all of those domain currently.

I am a graduate student. I am able to focus more on assignments because I no longer have the stress of traveling and spending 1 1/2 hours to and from campus. Also, professors are more willing to meet with you one on one when it is convenient for you. They are becoming more flexible with assignments and are now more understanding if needing an extra day to complete.

My class was able to come into campus for all but one of our planned class sessions. No one was sick as a result of class sessions. That exceeded my expectations – we’re going into a hands on profession, we need hands on training. We also had use of the Sim Lab, which was a fantastic experience. Safety protocols were great between availability of cleaning supplies in all rooms, covid forms at the start of every class session, “pods” per classroom, minimal people on campus.

PGS student comments:

This is my first time taking online classes. I was afraid that I would easily lose focus, due to me not getting in the classroom lectures. However, my professors are understanding and made this semester a breeze. Thank you!

I’ve always been scared that I would never learn anything with virtual learning/ online classes but by my surprise…. I did!

With the situation that we are currently experiencing with COVID-19, and being my first experience as a graduate student, the teachers have been very supportive during this process. I have gained so much knowledge and kills, which I am able to apply to my current role as a Center Director for a child care center in DC.

Faculty comments:

Began semester being mindful of the souls of my students (having personal stressors and anxieties) and adjusting as needed to make sure they learn the content, but they practice selfcare. In order to do this, I also had to be mindful of my needs and how I needed to show up, being prepared emotionally and mentally, to teach and support my students.

Teaching online is going well. My students are actively engaged and express that they like attending class. I checked the stress level before and after Thanksgiving for students to rate their stress level from 0 to 5 (highest). More students were at 3 or lower before the Thanksgiving holiday and higher after Thanksgiving.

Faculty continue to express frustration with the “black box” phenomenon — an issue we’ve discussed several times this semester and will need to resolve for the Spring 2021 semester:

Teaching to “black boxes” is uninspiring and everyone is beyond exhausted.

I am really disappointed in the engagement of students. 95% of them stay blacked out/no camera and it is very difficult to connect with them.

It’s too easy for them to turn off the video and not connect.

Staff comments:

Social isolation and mental health is a major issue for students, which is not surprising, but they have shown a lot of resilience.

Students, faculty, and staff adapted albeit with some struggles. I sense a disconnect at times. I worry the lack of cohesion may impact our programmatic and professional development.

We asked this question in both of the earlier surveys, and the answers at the top of the list are very consistent:  students want faculty to be more flexible in giving assignments, a topic that the faculty rate fairly well down the list (77% of students v. 16% of faculty).  On the other hand, faculty want students to learn more about how to learn online a topic that is less popular with students (60% of faculty v. 12% of students).    There is general agreement about the need for greater awareness of managing Trinity studies and teaching, family responsibilities, other work and the many different life issues that everyone in the community is facing right now.

Lots of comments on this question (to be posted soon, but let’s get to the next question which is very important).

This graphic includes the responses from everyone in the Trinity community, in a subsequent analysis we’ll break out students, faculty and staff, but the responses are quite similar across the groups.  The #1 concern of each cohort is the worry that someone in their family will get sick with Covid-19, and that concern shapes much of the response to questions listed below as well.  The #2 concern is staying healthy, yourself, and that drives so much of our response these days.

We also need to be mindful of the tremendous other needs that many students have, particularly financially and with life needs.  Trinity maintains emergency funds to help students with these needs, support for food and housing issues, and other kinds of support.  I urge any student who needs help to contact Dr. Karen Gerlach (gerlachK@trinitydc.edu) or let me know directly (president@trinitydc.edu) — we can help you!

[Note: the comments offered on this question were very personal for most of the respondents, so we are not publishing them here but wish to note that many members of the community express a great deal of stress about finances, and are coping with sickness and death among their families.  We will be developing more support services for the community as these conditions continue.]

These responses inform our thinking about the Spring 2021 semester and also how we will approach the issue of the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available publicly.

Most of the respondents to the survey say that they prefer to continue learning/teaching/working remotely, and our plan for the Spring 2021 semester does continue a largely remote operation, as we have had this fall, with most courses online or hybrid, a few face-to-face conducted very safely.  Our staff are rotational in offices with most working remotely several days and no more than 2-3 in any given office suite.  Our approach to personnel continues to be that no one is forced to be here, we will accommodate faculty and staff who wish to remain remote.  We have the same policy for students, no one is forced to be here.  There are some programs, e.g., Nursing and Occupational Therapy, that do require face-to-face instruction for certain courses and clinicals, and students who do not wish to do those components may also need to delay their program completion.  But aside from those issues that are accreditation and licensure requirements, we are working as flexibly as possible with everyone.

Our campus environment is very safe.  As of this writing (December 2), we have had NO cases of Covid-19 transmission through on-campus contact.  We have had 28 members of the campus community test positive since we started tracking in mid-March, and that count is quite low.  All of those cases occurred in off-campus transmission and had to follow the quarantine protocols.  Similarly, anyone who reports exposure must follow quarantine protocols.

The survey above tells us that some members of the community will be eager to get the vaccine, some will wait, and some say they will not get it.  We will be working closely with the DC Department of Health on the vaccine protocols when we know that the vaccine is available, and we will have more on this and Trinity’s policy and practice about vaccines when we know the timetable.

Finally, with all of this very valuable input from our campus community, I am also mindful that some of our Trinity family are suffering a great deal with sickness and deaths in their families.  Our hearts go out to all those who have experienced so much loss, and please know that we also want to extend whatever comfort and assistance we might be able to provide. In this season, during which many faith traditions observe solemn rituals as well as festivities, let us offer prayers in whatever language and faith tradition we practice, remembering all those who have died, those who are left behind, those who are sick, and the family members, healthcare workers and others who extend themselves completely to try to care for others.  We pray that the blessings of the Trinity will give you strength and hope in the days ahead.

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Women Building Civilization

November 22, 2020

In April 1897, just one month after she started plotting the establishment of Trinity College — encouraged by Dr. Philip Garrigan who was then the vice-rector of Catholic University — Sister Julia McGroarty, SND, began to admit doubts.  The money — where would she find the money? — a refrain echoed across the last 120 years.  But from the start, the persistence and fortitude of Trinity’s leaders led them to figure it out.   Julia and her co-conspirator Sr. Mary Euphrasia Taylor were trying to do something extremely unusual, start a college for Catholic women that would be an institution of higher education for women from the very beginning, not growing out of a high school.  Dr. Garrigan proposed the idea because Catholic University, founded in 1887, could not admit women back then.  Hence, Catholic women who wanted to go to college were going to (scandale!) the “new” women’s colleges like Vassar, Smith, Mt. Holyoke and Bryn Mawr, none of them Catholic.

Euphrasia wrote back to Julia with an impassioned plea to keep going, outlining an ambitious fund raising campaign and declaring, “The project is so grand… the incentives so great… We shall succeed!”

Succeed they did, and on November 22, 1900, the new Trinity community of students, SNDs and several hundred friends gathered to dedicate the new college in a building that was decidedly unfinished — only the south wing of Main Hall existed at that time.

Along the way, the SNDs encountered many challenges, not the least of which was opposition from right wingers in the Church who declared that the idea of a college education for Catholic women was tantamount to a heresy (specifically, “Americanism”).  But after entreaties that went all the way to Pope Leo XIII, the sisters secured the permission of the hierarchy to proceed. James Cardinal Gibbons gave his approval:

The SNDs secured Trinity’s articles of incorporation on August 20, 1897.  That same summer, they bought the property, a plot of land that was formerly part of Glenwood Cemetery on the outskirts of the nation’s capital.  They drew up plans for the building and the curriculum, recruited students and faculty, and set about the heroic work of raising up a great college from scratch.  The first students arrived on November 3, 1900 and classes began on November 8, 1900.

At the dedication of the new Trinity College, on November 22, 1900, Catholic University Rector Monsignor Thomas J. Conaty underscored the importance of education for women at the highest levels — see his quote above.  He also paid a great tribute to the Sisters of Notre Dame and other religious women whose work in education truly changed society:

“The Catholic nun as an educational force is not a result of modern civilization, nor of modern educational demands; she is rather one of the forces which have made modern civilization possible…” 

Across the twelve decades of Trinity’s history, many heroic Sisters of Notre Dame continued to build the college, each one making Trinity new and fresh for the times in which they lived.  As the Trinity community gathers again on November 22, 2020, we salute all of the heroic SNDs whose selfless devotion to the education of the women of Trinity changed so many lives for the better.  Trinity has grown and changed over the years, adding graduate and professional degrees, welcoming men into some programs, and becoming Trinity Washington University.  But the essence of Trinity’s founding vision and commitment remains the same, to educate students with the intellectual capacity and talents to make significant contributions to our society in each generation.

Today, November 22, 2020, we also remember one of the greatest leaders of Trinity, Sister Margaret Claydon, SND, Class of 1945, President from 1959 to 1975 and Professor of English.  In her many speeches and essays, as well as through her own powerful example, Sister Margaret continuously reminded students, faculty and alumnae of the reasons why Trinity must persist in our mission.  She never hesitated to remind us of our constant duty to act as “inheritors of a revolution,” to be ready and willing to work for change and improvement in society:

“We, the inheritors of a revolution… must gird ourselves with the expertise and knowledge of the latest technology to become leaders of the revolution.  Ours is a demanding and challenging task, but with faith and trust, courage and boldness and knowledge, we can…believe and live by the belief that indeed one person can make a difference.”

Thank you, Sisters of Notre Dame, and congratulations to Trinity on the occasion of our 120th Anniversary of the dedication of the College!

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Voices of Trinity: What the Election Means to Us

November 8, 2020

(President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris)

What does the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris mean for students, faculty and staff at Trinity?  I invite the community to submit your thoughts via email to president@trinitydc.edu and I will publish them here.  Here are the comments so far:

Students in Dr. Kimberly Monroe’s U.S. History Class reported out from small group discussions and agreed to have their group comments posted on this blog:

We are more so excited that President Donald Trump is removed from the White House. We were somewhat worried that Donald Trump was going to win the election again. Joe Biden is not perfect and has his own flaws, but he is going to fix the damage that Trump created. This is a great time for particularly the minority communities to heal. Also, he has a great Vice President Kamala Harris standing behind him. (Students: Savannah Miller, Alicia Mejia, Sierra Malloy, and Destiny Thurman.)

We are relieved Trump is out. Whenever Republicans are in office, the timeline always seems to focus on money. There have been so many problems that have been created with the Trump administration, especially with COVID, healthcare, and racism. However, we believe that this generation of millennials are more open-minded and take action. It was many of our first times voting, so we believe that our votes mattered and made a difference.  We just wanted Trump out of office. There is a lot that needs to be worked on during Biden’s administration because Republicans left a mess behind. We are also glad that Kamala Harris is the new vice-president elect. It is a historic moment in time for all women of color. We hope that women can shatter the glass ceiling more frequently, and that our rights will be protected. We never expected Harris to become vice president, it is honestly crazy. We also wonder how Trump is feeling and what is going to happen to him. (Students: Emely Fortiz, Chakola Paris, Deja Wilkerson, Jennifer Flores-Blanco, and Cailane Wright)

Throughout the whole election we all felt a sense of nervousness because we believed that if Donald Trump was elected again, there was no way our society would be able to survive another four years under his administration. So, when Joe Biden was announced as President-elect we cried tears of joy because it felt that hope was not lost and we saw a possible future ahead of freedom and unity. Ever since Trump became president, individuals who were not a part of the white community started to be attacked in horrible ways. Police brutality has been an ongoing issue that Trump had no intent in fixing. Children were being separated from their parents, individuals under DACA and TPS no longer had protections and low-income communities were suffering daily with no sense of hope. Of course, we can celebrate because we finally came together and were able to take Donald Trump out of office, but our fight cannot stop here. Joe Biden is not the answer to all our problems, we must help rebuild communities who have been injured by the government and the contentment of oppression caused in these four years of the Trump administration. We should also look into the Supreme Court and evaluate their decisions because even though they live in the same world as we do, they do go through the struggles that we have to live on a daily basis. We do need to address the economic diaspora inciting freedom in unity for the working and middle class who are at the core of our society. We believe that the first issue that Biden should tackle when he gets into office is the racial issue. Although race has always been a prevalent issue in the United States, once Donald Trump became president racism and injustice were blatantly conveyed, encouraged, and overlooked. The second and most important issue he needs to tackle is COVID 19, we are a nation that needs a president who is going to put the citizens first before the economy and that is something that was never seen in trump’s administration. He did not care to reflect in all the lives that were being taken away, the families that were being torn apart because our president decided that money comes first before the wellbeing of our society. We must put our faith in Biden despite his past and continue to fight to see the change we want in our society.  (Students: Maryuri Garcia-Mendoza, Taylor Holmes, Myra Strickland, Benny Villarta.)

Deshala Square: Still feels nervous. She does feel like Biden will be able to help us more than trump ever did in his presidency. She feels like he made our economy worse instead of making it better.

Praise Oladoyin: Hopes that Biden can keep his promises. Although Trump did keep his promises, they were negative and divided people. Whereas Biden’s promises are all about uniting people.

Dania Mata-Garcia: I feel like I agree with both. I hope that Biden can do things for minorities. And he that he can make life easier for them because trump would take away many of the minority rights and only focus on white supremacy and the rich.

As someone who is undocumented in this country it gives Arlin a sense of hope that under the new administration there will be new lawmakers who will help to create more right for immigrants in this country.  Asia thinks that with the new administration it will bring a sense of relief to those who are elderly and depend on social services that trump was trying to cut.  Diana does not think the fight is over. We need to still fight for reform and hold Biden accountable for everything he said. Communities need to come together and work to make changes. For me it was about voting for the lesser of two evils, getting someone out the office whose hate has ignited so much terror in this country through his worlds try to start a new war within our country, and bringing someone whom I hope will make the changes he stated. (Students: Payton Green, Arlin Tellez, Diana Ortiz, and Asia Collins)

Overall, as a group, we were happy with the results of the election. We were happy that Trump is out of the office. However, there is still a bit of uneasiness and nervousness around the future. We believe that to a certain extent many things won’t change. Also, we believe that Trump won’t back down too easily. We believe Trump would try everything to prevent Biden from office and perhaps get away with it. But, no matter what happens we hope that the Biden/Harris administration will keep the promises they have made. We hope that they turn out to be the people they have depicted themselves to be.  (Students: Daniela Romualdo Castro, Nakiyae Harris, Phoenix Stevens, and Shiera Mejia-Galvez)

Carmella Doty, Adjunct Professor

I am very concerned that Trump is further dividing our country and will not leave the White House. Everything he is doing is taking down our democracy. Having studied American History, I find too many similarities with him and how Hitler came into power. It is like Trump read Hitler’s playbook. I took time to search “Comparison of Hitler to Trump” in the Trinity Library database and was surprised that there were many peer reviewed articles written by historians about this topic. The curious thing is the authors went further to compare Trump to Mussolini. Now that is scary.

Jaelyn Torrence, CAS First Year Business Administration

This election was so nerve-wracking, I kept looking at the map it was so close at certain times. On Saturday when I looked at the map around 11:20am  it had said Joe Biden won, and it felt like a weight was taken off. I think after all that Donald Trump has done to Americans, DREAMERS, and immigrants mentally and physically. It was almost like you had to walk on eggshells for 4 years, so once I saw the results that weight of fear, and unprotected feeling went away. Not only for Blacks but for DREAMERS, Muslims, and other minorities. For me I would say the election is a hope for change, I hope Joe will try to make the Nation a place where people feel safe again and not have to worry if their child/ someone they love is going to make it going and coming back. I wasn’t there physically, my family and I had our own little celebration.

David Wolfe, SPS ’22 Human Relations

This election ousts a corrupt president who has solely cared for himself, not America and not democracy. But instead of shouting in celebration, I could only sigh in relief. Our incoming president Biden has been in leadership of the last decades that made the policy that set us on the path to Trump. In this moment we need to stay involved and keep us off that path with real reforms that help people.

Rohanna Robinson, NHP ’20 Nursing

I have watched history welcome the first female vice president on Saturday November 7, 2020; not only is she a woman but a Black woman! There is no word I can use to describe this overwhelming feeling of joy, I am extremely proud of Kamala Harris. I am confident that she will do right by the people of America and pave the way for other great female leaders that will make much more history. I can feel the bounds of inequality shaking! and I have hope that one day every citizen of America will play a better part to make America a country for all people. I am also proud of Joe Biden who is elected the new president of America with more votes than any other American president. I hope all the changes that are about to take place will be beneficial to all the people of American. I was deeply moved by his speech and will forever hold him to his words. I look forward to watching these two great human being working together for the people of America. I will forever remember this day as I danced and shouted for joy.

Hope Witherspoon, Director of Dual Enrollment and Early College Programs

The 2020 Election outcome reflects the deep divide in this nation.  It highlights the pervasiveness of the fight for power.  I have been most impressed with Stacey Abrams.  She was able to infiltrate a system and win.  I think she embodies the kind of will that we all need to help us realize and experience a true democracy.  Her ability to register so many voters provided me with a glimmer of hope in our trek to obtain equity.

Martha Molina, Director of Financial Aid

I thought about how I have felt since November 8, 2016 until today and I can only think of the word “Relieved”.  A second word would be “sad. Yes; President Elect Biden has a record 75 million votes to his favor but let’s not forget that Trump has the second highest record of 70 million to his.  It is sad to think that all these 70 million think like him (it doesn’t matter the reason; you vote for Trump, you are like him in some way or another).  Other words are “hopeful” and “vigilant”.  I am hopeful that President Elect Biden would try to unite us all, no matter what one believes and I am hopeful in the American people finding its way to what is decent and right…. but I will be vigilant as well with all, especially with our elected officials, no matter what party, to ensure that they do what it is best for all and not just a few.  I will continue to use my voice because “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Dennis Farley, Assistant Professor of Economics

When the dust settles, Trump will be out of office, but control of the Senate will likely remain in Republican hands.  Those two runoff elections in Georgia could go to the Democrats, but that is highly unlikely.  The occasional Republican senator may decide to vote with the Democrats, but that isn’t something to count on either.  In addition, the Democratic majority in the House will be reduced.  Pelosi will get a lot of blame for that, and her Speakership may be at risk.

In other words, there won’t be smooth sailing for a Democratic agenda.  Biden will be better able to work with a Republican Senate than Trump was to work with a Democratic House, but Biden will have to build coalitions across the aisle for every major piece of legislation.  Most of Trump’s mischief can be undone by executive order, but big things. like raising taxes on the rich, will be a tough fight.  The outlook for a DACA fix seems better now that Dreamers will no longer be demonized from the White House. Biden will be in a weaker position than Obama was in the first two years of his first term, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.

 We will have to wait and see, but my guess is that the left wing of the Democratic party will become more and more frustrated with Biden as he does not deliver what they want quickly.  If the left wing becomes a divisive force, Democrats could lose both houses of Congress in 2022.

Cynthia Bond, Enrollment Recruiter, School of Professional Studies 

The election has restored my faith in democracy.  Seeing how our Country was being led by the current administration had me in a state of disbelief.  I have never witnessed such antagonistic behavior from our Countries Leadership.  I am proud to see that as Citizens we are still being heard and that our votes do matter.  To see history being made by President Elect Biden choosing Vice President Elect Harris, it shows that that he embraces inclusiveness and values the leadership qualities of women.  I am extremely grateful to see that our United States of America is showing its’ readiness to embrace new possibilities for our Country.

Maria Solache-Nava, CAS ’24 Pre-Nursing

This year has been full of situations and events that cause great anxiety.  I think the election was the most anticipated event.  As a dreamer with DACA I felt directly affected by the election.  Although I cannot vote I never stopped praying for the outcome.  Now that it is nearly finalized, I feel a sense of relief, hope and joy. We are truly witnessing a great moment in history, even if this year was crazy.

Paola Pinto, BGS ’21 Strategic Communications and Public Relations

I am from Venezuela, a country struggling with a horrible crisis that forces millions to flee the country, searching for better opportunities. The House of Representatives has tried to pass a TPS bill for Venezuelans inside the U.S. However, Republicans and Trump have denied it multiple times because it is not compatible with their strategy. As my friends with DACA status and other immigrant community members, these election results have given us a little hope. I know in my heart that Biden and Harris will help those in need and fight for what is right inside and outside of America. I know they care a lot about climate change and believe in equality, which gives peace to my heart.

On the other hand, I come from a place where the media’s censorship and the dictatorial politicians thrive. Since I arrived in the U.S. in 2017, I have felt scared and triggered by the authoritarian actions and words the current President has shared. I am concerned that this victory is not worth celebrating until January 20th when Biden is finally in office. President Trump has reminded me Hugo Chavez (former Venezuelan President) on multiple occasions by blaming others for his failures, not accepting facts, denying science, making immigrants enemies of the country, and not respecting democracy. Trump has used the word socialism to scare people and make the democratic party look like they want to take away your freedom while he has been hurting many families throughout these four years. People are scared of what they do not understand; the word socialism is not what they should worry about. America is already a Democratic Socialist country and the regime in Venezuela used the socialist movement to convince and manipulate their people. Yet, in the end, it was a dictatorship closer to communism than anything else, not real socialism. There are socialist-leaning countries that are successful, and those are who people should be used as an example.

I feel sad and disappointed with my Latin peers who fell into his trap and voted for him after all he said and did against our people. Many Venezuelan Americans supported him because they thought he would be their savior, the only one who paid attention to our starving country. But, sadly, he just used our story to sow doubts and fear in his followers.  I haven’t been able to sleep some nights, hoping I will not re-live the same situation that I was trying to escape, this country is my home now. Even though I cannot vote, I still have my voice, and I hope my story inspires and becomes an eye-opener to others. It is time for them to accept their loss and throw away the dictator’s handbook.

(In the photo below, our Vice President-Elect and Senator Kamala Harris speaks to a group of Trinity students including Paola Pinto in front, center with pink glasses. The students were at the U.S. Capitol to witness the impeachment hearings in January 2020 at the invitation of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Trinity ’62.)

 

Krystal Gordon, NHP ‘2023 Major:  School Counseling (Urban Track) 

Vice-President elect Kamala Harris is well informed about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their impact on the mental and physical health of individuals within our society. Therefore, I am hopeful that more financial resources will be allocated to schools, hospitals, and healthcare centers to provide more affordable and effective mental health care services to marginalized groups.

Maria Giron Castro, CAS ’24 Early Childhood Education

Today is a day I will never forget.  2020 has been a crazy year and it has been filled with many uncertainties from Covid, DACA and this election.  Today, we welcome a new president and vice president! We hope this change will bring more peace and clarity during this time.  I am hopeful for DACA and my fellow Dreamers.  I pray things will get better in the USA. God has provided and will continue to provide!

Sharin Adriana Guerrero Ramirez, CAS First Year Criminal Justice

On this date, November 7, 2020, I am grateful to be living in this time in history because I know this generation will change many thinks! And I am excited to see it!

Sister Ann Howard, SNDdeN, Director of Campus Ministry

November 7, 2020: Reflecting on today’s developments; the conclusion of a 5-day election process.  I fee two things.  Relieved and hopeful.  I cannot imagine how those close to the campaign waged by Biden and Harris feel, yet, I believe they are buoyed by their sense of support in the people and in the system called democracy.  It is as if goodness has prevailed.  I don’t want to vilify Donald Trump but he does that, himself.  Instead of his lies and callous selfishness, we will see a restored Presidential Office and expect the decency and honesty which we rightfully expect of the person who holds the office.  May we step into this new day with hope.  Racial justice, Covid-19, healthcare, decency and many civil rights — DACA status! — will be addressed.  We, the People, have learned that there is a large support system that will actually miss President Trump’s ways, but I intend to focus on those of us who see this as an American moment — a time to listen to others, respect differences, and yet, expect decency in our interactions.  Relief — hope.  This is a positive healing reflection on November 7, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Carlota Ocampo, Provost

On Saturday morning at just about 11:30 am, my quiet Takoma Park neighborhood erupted in cheers, music, Biden/Harris signs, shouting, drumming, flag waving, cars honking, dancing in the streets.  The spontaneous party lasted to the afternoon, with neighbors greeting and congratulating each other, some in tears.  The joy – and relief – was palpable.  This election signals a restoration of democracy, decency, and the American way, as the prior administration was (and is) a true kakistocracy.  Kamala Harris’s historic election as the highest-ranking woman ever in the US (note: the two highest ranking women both attended mission-driven schools – Trinity’s own Nancy Pelosi, from a woman’s college, and Kamala Harris from an HBCU – a resounding endorsement of the education we provide!) is a huge crack in the glass ceiling.  But mostly, I am happy for our students for whom the policies of the prior administration were so toxic and hateful, and for the world that can once again look to America as a beacon of hope for a better future.  Excited to see who will be in the new President’s cabinet, and to have a first lady who knows education from the inside-out!  This election showed that when we civically engage, we create change.  The work is not over – we must continue to engage and to push for  the return to more humane, just, data-supported and science driven policies!

Dr. Lynda Jackson, Assistant Professor of Business

  • WAITING TO EXHALE* I’ve got a medley of songs is on my mind!  Honestly, it felt like I had been forced to inhale…since November 4, 2016.  On a daily basis, my breath seemed restricted by my country’s unprecedented leadership failures due to: banned Muslim Visitors; reneged Dreamers’ policies; racial division; overt White Supremist Support; ceaseless Police Brutality; black and brown Anti-Immigration Policies; brown Kids in Cages; dislodged Paris Accord; ignored Global Warming; rampant neglect of the Covid 19 Pandemic; ignored Health Care Crisis; disengaged World Health Organization; increased Economic failures; and endless Pathological Lies.  These monumental failures caused an unprecedented buildup of both literal and figurative Walls.
  • HOPE IS AN OPEN WINDOW*      After election day 2020, I agonized with a triad of feelings.  I was disappointed to see the early voting results that seemed to signify a tremendously divided country. Secondly, I was skeptical because of my overwhelming concern about nationwide voter suppression, courtesy of reading and following research conducted by Stacey Abrams. Yet, I remained hopeful because hope was the open window that would reveal the eventual outcome.  As the early and mail-in votes were counted, hope revealed that American citizens were determined to elect a leader who focused on preserving our cherished democracy.
  • CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES…COME ON*   Our President-elect, Joe Biden, won the most votes in history!  He has suffered many losses in elections and in life.  These defeats have enabled him to demonstrate empathy and humanity right when we needed him.  Our new Vice President-elect, Senator Kamela Harris, has “first” in front of her name in myriad instances.  She is the first woman Vice President-elect, period! Additionally, upon winning the post as Vice President, she has become the first woman of color, first woman of Asian/Jamaican descent, first Historically Black College graduate, and first Greek Sorority member.  An American dream…celebrating good times, were realized for both candidates!
  • A CHANGE IS GONNA COME*    I am not naïve enough to believe it will happen overnight, but at least now we can realistically contemplate welcoming our Muslim visitors, relieving Dreamers’ of their fears, quelling racial unrest, addressing Police Brutality, welcoming all Immigrants, love on and releasing the Kids in cages, realigning with the Paris Accord, scientifically addressing Global warming and the Covid 19 Pandemic, fighting for Health care, stimulating the Economy, and significantly lowering the decibels of a Pathological Liar.  As for the Walls—trust and believe they will be destroyed because a change is gonna come!
  • WAITING TO EXHALE*   After a 4-year “helluva” wait, at 11:30 am on Saturday, November 7, 2020, I can now breathe the sweet smell of victory.  Yes!  We fought the good fight and finally we all could stop waiting to exhale.

*Song and Film References:

WAITING TO EXHALE (1995 Film, starring Angela Bassett, Whitney Houston, and Loretta Devine)
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES…COME ON (by Kool and the Gang)
HOPE IS AN OPEN WINDOW! (by Diana Ross)
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME (by Sam Cook)

Dr. Cristina Parsons, Associate Professor of Economics

The day after the last election, I went to work, and several students of mine were DACA. I tried as best I could to tell them that we would do our best to protect them, that we had their back, but one of them in particular was inconsolable. Silent tears streamed down her face the entire class. On the eve of this election, my daughter reminded of that moment. I had told her the story, so it was seared in her memory as well. So yesterday, when the election results were announced, it was that student’s face I saw. And the face of all the DACA students I have taught over the years. I was so happy. And so relieved.

Dr. Sita Ramamurti, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Professor of Mathematics

11-7, or easier to remember it as 7-11…a date in the pandemic era that will live in my memory forever! I feel incredibly lucky to be part of an immigrant group that has added its share to the will of the American people, their powerful voices and remarkable actions to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next President and Vice President on this date in US history. I feel absolutely overwhelmed with joy and happiness to see a woman with ties to my hometown, Chennai, India, assume such a powerful position in American politics. It gave me goosebumps when Harris acknowledged her chithis (‘aunts’ in Tamil, my mother tongue), on the national stage, in her nomination speech. I continue to hold my hopes high for a more inclusive United States of America!

Dr. Stacey-Ann Baugh, Associate Professor of Psychology

As a Black Jamaican 🇯🇲 woman, myself, I was beyond proud to watch Kamala Harris on that stage. She carried with her all the hopes and dreams of so many many women before her. I am relieved to live in a world where my own daughter sees that the highest offices in the land are indeed attainable by people who look like us.  I watched with pride as my teenage son and his friends cheered as President-elect Biden took the stage. For us, this election feels like a return to decency and an opportunity to quell some of vitriol that has become commonplace these last few years.

Jessi Alexander, CAS Pre-Nursing

I am both hopeful and moved that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been elected as President and Vice President. Kamala Harris has taken a huge step for women everywhere. She has decided to take a leap, and embark on this journey that had an uncertain ending. Her courage and fortitude inspires me to be everything I can be. It makes me want to make the hard decisions, to not take no for an answer. It makes me want to hold my head high and empower other women, especially minority women. I will push myself to achieve things I never thought were possible, because Vice President elect Kamala Harris showed me I can.

Simone Johnson, SPS BA General Studies ‘19, Master of Public Health 2021

Taking PHIL103 Reasoning and Argument at Trinity in the Spring of 2018 the class was concerned at the current political administration but the professor said something that has stuck with me through many different experiences. Professor said, “The only way to change things is that you must not complain but act because you have the power to do so.” I became a United States of American citizen in 2019 and during that process, I understood my civic duty and responsibilities. Therefore, placing my first-ever vote in my fifty-five years on this earth in any country was a high priority for me. I was seeking a Difference Maker team to lead the country.

Lashon Clark, CAS ’21, Sociology

The election results of the President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris represents a sense of peace, hope, and normalcy. These past four years have been difficult for us all, particularly black and brown communities, but Harris and Biden provide hope.  Besides the extraordinary outcome, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s future role as V.P represents so much for African American women like myself and so many other women. Today is a good day. We have a long road ahead, but I am hopeful.

Barbara Sanders, SPS First Year, General Studies

To me, the election means unity for people of all races, more funds for education and housing, more income for the poor…more health funding and a vaccine for covid.

 

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November 3: The Day the Revolution Began!

November 3, 2020

(Pioneer Women in the Trinity College Class of 1904)

November 3 is a momentous date in Trinity history.  120 years ago on this very day, on November 3, 1900, the first students stepped onto Trinity’s campus, moving into the very-unfinished south wing of the great granite building that would become Main Hall.  In that simple act of starting college at Trinity — a radical idea for Catholic women at the dawn of the 20th Century — those pioneer women sparked a revolution that continues to this very day.

November 3, 2020 is Election Day in America, and we are all intensely focused on the future of our nation and how the outcome of this presidential election will affect our lives.  As we go through today and the next several days, let’s keep in mind the courage and resilience of the women who first gave life and meaning to the idea of Trinity College, now Trinity Washington University.  They were undaunted in the face of scarce resources (poverty is our grand tradition!), political criticism from the right-wing clerics who said that women should not go to college, and doubt about their chances for success in such a remarkably radical adventure for that era.  The Sisters of Notre Dame and the pioneer Class of 1904 did not let any of that stop them, and their success laid the foundation for 120 years of Trinity’s mission in education to change lives and society for the better.  Our important work today continues inspired by their example and with gratitude for their courage.

We’ll have more on the 120th anniversary of the opening of Trinity in the next few weeks… mark your calendars for Sunday, November 22 at 2 pm when we will have a special event celebrating the Dedication of Trinity College.

(South Hall — the only part of Main Hall that was built in November 1900 when students and SNDs moved in — and it was still under construction!  Student recollections of those early days include memories of much sawdust and hammering…)

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2020 Election: What’s At Stake For Trinity Students

October 29, 2020

Elections have consequences for every person, and voters cast their ballots based on what’s important to them, their families and communities.  As I think about the 2020 presidential election, I want to know what is most important to our Trinity community, and most especially our students.  What are the stakes in this election for Trinity students?  Last week we conducted a survey that asked members of the campus community to rate a list of top issues, and the student responses are summarized above.  Following is my reflection on the top issues at stake for our students, and an assessment of how the candidates would address the issues.

Improving Equity and Racial Justice

96% of students rate “strongly agree/agree” on improving equity and racial justice — the top issue for our students.  This is a broad topic that includes a range of issues from police brutality as seen in the cases of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor among many others, to the ongoing effects of race discrimination in employment and housing, to chronic poverty that affects Black and Brown populations disproportionately, to inadequate public education and mass incarceration among many other issues.

While President Trump’s fanciful rhetoric congratulates himself on “being the least racist person in the room” and “doing more for Blacks than all American presidents in history except Abraham Lincoln” (yes, he said both of those things in the October 22 presidential debate, and has made those claims on numerous prior occasions), the fact is that this administration’s track record on racial justice is scandalously horrible.  Remember, this is a person who repeatedly attacked the citizenship of the nation’s first Black president as Trump persisted in “birther” lies about President Barack Obama.  Just a few among many examples of the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll-back the hard-won gains of the past century’s struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity:

  • The Administration has issued an executive order prohibiting anti-racism and diversity training in federal agencies, calling such educational efforts a “malign ideology,” and the ban extends to all federal contractors which includes many colleges and universities;
  • Additionally, in an announcement of his plan to promote “patriotic education” President Trump specifically attacked educational initiatives that expose the truth of American history, stating, “Critical race theory, the [Pulitzer-Prize-winning] 1619 Project and the crusade against American history is toxic propaganda, ideological poison, that, if not removed, will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together, will destroy our country.”
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black communities exposing brutal racial equities in healthcare and health conditions, and yet President Trump and his administration officials have failed to manage the pandemic in any effective way and failed to express concern or even acknowledge the disparate racial impact of the pandemic;
  • President Trump has repeatedly refused to express empathy or concern for police brutality and the killings of Black persons at the hands of police; at the same time, he has championed “law and order” while deliberately attacked citizens exercising their right to protest against police brutality and racism, showing zero concern for the underlying causes of racial protests across the country; he has shown only the greatest contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement, calling it a “symbol of hate” rather than acknowledging the suffering and pain of racism that led to the creation of Black Lives Matter;
  • At the same time, President Trump’s rhetoric and actions have encouraged white supremacists and violent vigilante organizations;
  • In many tweets and numerous campaign appearances before largely white crowds of supporters, President Trump has repeatedly talked about an “invasion” of low income housing in suburbs that he claims he would prevent, rhetoric which is a thinly disguised racist call to segregation and elimination of fair housing policies;
  • In the weeks leading up to the election, President Trump and his allies are engaging in egregious tactics of voter suppression that harm Black and Brown voters in particular.

Candidate Joe Biden has some serious flaws in his track record on racial justice as well, but these do not amount to the serious outright racism of the Trump actions and rhetoric, and Biden has also acknowledged mistakes and articulated a clear plan to improve.

  • As a young member of the U.S. Senate, in 1972, Biden opposed busing as a means to enforce judicial orders to desegregate schools, a position that Senator Kamala Harris, now his running mate, criticized sharply during one of the primary season debates;
  • In 1994, Biden was the architect of the Crime Bill that led to a substantial increase in the incarceration of Black men;
  • Biden was also been criticized for being willing to forge compromises with segregationists in the Senate like the late Strom Thurmond in order to get legislation passed.

On the other hand, Biden was vice president serving with President Barack Obama, the first African American president in U.S. history, and Biden chose Senator Harris as the first African American woman on a national ticket.  In contrast to President Trump’s lack of a serious platform to promote racial equity and justice, Candidate Biden has released an extensive plan to realize his commitment to racial justice, including such specific actions as funding greater educational opportunity especially in impoverished communities, reducing incarceration penalties for non-violent drug offenses (including legalization of marijuana), expanding federal efforts to reduce instances of police misconduct, improving healthcare and support for mental health and substance abuse conditions, and a range of related programs.

The Bottom Line:

Biden will do more to advance racial equity and justice.

Trump will continue to diminish efforts to improve racial equity and justice.

Restoring DACA Protections

86% of Trinity students agree that restoring DACA protections for undocumented immigrants must be a top priority.  DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — was created in 2012 by President Obama to provide some legal protections (work permits, drivers licenses, e.g.) for young immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

Donald Trump campaigned vigorously on the idea of restricting immigration, promising to “build the wall” and to eliminate DACA.  He rescinded DACA in 2017, and despite numerous court rulings staying his order and a Supreme Court ruling overturning his recission, Trump and his administration have persisted in trying to dismantle DACA.

Trump’s campaign rhetoric in reference to immigrants is outrageous, repeatedly and shamefully mischaracterizing them as violent criminals and threats to American job security.  He has cruelly and with malice separated families at the border, denied refugees the hopeful relief that the U.S. once offered, and denied the truth that immigrants have contributed mightily to American economic and social success.  His administration now cannot find the parents of more than 500 young children who were forcibly separated from their parents.  By just about any measure of decency and moral care for others, the Trump administration’s approach to immigration management is a horrific failure.

Candidate Joe Biden pledged to restore DACA as one of his earliest official acts if he is elected president, a position consistent with the actions of the Obama Administration in creating the program.  Biden has also promised to end the family separation practices at the border, a terrible federal practice that should never exist.  While some Trump advocates claim that the practice actually started during the Obama administration, the practice did not occur as a deliberate and massive effort to curb illegal immigration as it was used by the Trump Administration.

The Bottom Line:

Biden will restore DACA.

Trump will eliminate whatever remains of DACA that he has not already destroyed.

Enlarging Pell Grants for College Students

86% of Trinity students say that enlarging Pell grants must be a top priority.

The Trump Administration has virtually no coherent plan for higher education policy.  To the extent that President Trump or Secretary of Education even think about colleges and universities, their positions seem ideological rather than arising from a true understanding of the role of higher education as an engine of economic prosperity.  So, the administration launched a probe of Princeton after that venerable university publicly admitted a history of systemic racism, something that just about every major university can or should admit as a step along the way to developing a true anti-racist environment.  Of course, mentioning “anti-racist” could invite a federal investigation given the administration’s ban on programs that examine critical race theory and systemic racism.  While Trump has also issued an executive order concerning free speech on college campuses, the intent was to protect conservative speech, not all speech, and certainly not speech examining the reality of racism in American society.

But the question is about enlarging Pell grants.  Trump does not seem to have any real plan for federal financial aid, including Pell grants.

Candidate Joe Biden, whose spouse Dr. Jill Biden has continued to teach in community college, has an extensive plan for higher education including doubling Pell grants and providing significant new funding for Minority Serving Institutions like Trinity.  Biden would also propose to Congress a plan for helping low income families to afford a great college education in public and community colleges, and also private MSIs that already serve large numbers of low income students.  Trinity students would reap many benefits from the Biden plan.

The Bottom Line:

Trump has no plan to enlarge Pell grants.

Biden’s plan calls for enlarging Pell grants and reducing or eliminating tuition for low income students and families.

Expanding the Affordable Care Act

85% of Trinity students “strongly agree/agree” that expanding the Affordable Care Act is important to them.  Healthcare is a huge issue in this election, particularly during the pandemic, and both candidates have fairly clear positions.

President Trump has made it a goal of his administration to abolish the Affordable Care Act, a signature achievement of President Obama enacted in 2010 with the strong participation of Trinity Alumnae Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ’62 and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius ’70.

(Photo left: Secretary Sebelius, President Obama, Speaker Pelosi at the signing of the Affordable Care Act)

 

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has reverted to using Congress and the courts to cutback and strip away many of the benefits in the original ACA.  In November, the Supreme Court will hear new arguments about whether the ACA is constitutional, with the timing of that hearing being one of the factors that hastened the Republicans’ desire to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as the new Supreme Court justice to take the seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The controversy revolved around questions about whether Barrett, who is conservative and who made previous comments calling the ACA into question, might rule against the ACA whereas Ginsburg, a reliable liberal, would have voted to uphold the law.

Candidate Biden is committed to restoring the ACA to full strength and building upon its benefits to make sure that all Americans are able to get the healthcare they need.

The Bottom Line:

Trump says he has a new healthcare plan to replace the ACA but he has yet to reveal the plan.

Biden would seek to restore and enlarge the ACA.

Centralized Federal Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic

87% of Trinity students “strongly agree/agree” that there should be a centralized federal response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  To date, no such response has occurred despite the fact that the United States government has within the scope of its agencies some of the world’s most knowledgeable and powerful healthcare experts — the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health.  The lack of a concerted and aggressive federal response has left the states to enact a patchwork of many different programs to manage the pandemic, most of which are failing.  As I write, coronavirus cases have surged to their highest daily total, with 88,500 cases reported on October 30, 2020; more than 228,000 Americans are dead, and nearly 9 million infected.

President Trump has recently insisted that the United States is “turning the corner” on coronavirus, and even though he was also infected recently, he continues to mock basic health guidelines like wearing a mask and keeping social distance.  He has sidelined experts who do not agree with him, notably Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH who is the nation’s top infectious disease expert.  He has politicized the CDC to the point that the once-globally revered agency has lost its credibility.  At various times, the president has blamed the fact of conducting coronavirus tests for the rise in the number of tests, and he has also blamed Democratic governors and mayors for the incidence of disease in their states, mostly coastal states with high diversity demographics.  He does not seem to have a similar explanation for the steep rise in cases in midwest states where Republicans control the statehouses.

Candidate Joe Biden has a plan to combat the Covid-19 pandemic that includes a larger coordinated federal response including a national mandate on wearing masks, more coordinated federal support for testing and the ultimate vaccine distribution, and greater federal assistance to states for their local mitigation programs.

The Bottom Line:

Trump continues to insist that he’s done a great job fighting coronavirus and it will go away soon.

Biden pledges to mobilize the resources and organizing power of the federal government to direct an aggressive national program to contain the spread of coronavirus and prepare to vaccinate the population.

The Bottom Line

College presidents generally do not endorse political candidates — we strive to encourage political engagement and action among all students, faculty and staff, and a healthy climate for teaching about the issues and respecting all opinions.  I do believe that an open climate in which everyone feels free to express their viewpoint is what our work in higher education must be about.

However, there are times when the gravity of moral issues at stake requires a president to take a stand.  This is not in any way intended to stifle or diminish the validity of any other point of view.  Mine is one voice among many on campus, albeit a voice that goes along with the title “president” that carries some weight.  I do note that the Trinity campus community has also expressed its opinion in several surveys this semester.

In the face of the grave moral issues our nation faces on the issues listed above, issues that affect Trinity students deeply — the prevalence of racial hatred encouraged by the current administration, the inhumane treatment of immigrants and stripping DACA students of their minimal protections, the failure to address the urgent need for greater financial aid for low income college students, the deliberate efforts to debilitate healthcare protections, the failure of this administration to address the coronavirus pandemic with anything resembling a competent and effective program — I feel a deep obligation to speak out.

I also see other issues not listed above, but issues that go to the very heart of our mission at Trinity:  the imperative of our Honor System to speak and act with truthfulness and integrity in all matters; the essential importance of respecting and upholding knowledge and scientific evidence as the basis for official action; the fundamental principle of social justice to respect and advance the dignity of every human being, including women, including persons of color, including those who are impoverished and marginalized, including those who profess beliefs not our own, including those who celebrate life in other languages, cultures and traditions.

The moral foundation of our work at Trinity is a belief in the beauty and wonder of all of God’s creation, and the whole purpose of our work in education is to empower our students to be effective stewards of that creation for future generations.  This belief was the motivating force for the Sisters of Notre Dame in founding Trinity; 120 years ago this week, the very first SNDs and students arrived on this campus, and we have been pursuing that mission and vision ever since.

For all of these reasons, in assessing the candidates and these issues, I believe as a matter of my personal opinion as one citizen (not to be construed as an official position of Trinity) that Joe Biden is the candidate most likely to be a force for effectively addressing the core issues of most importance to our students and to Trinity, and to lead a restoration of the idea of a moral center in the conduct of national affairs, in the administration of the federal government, in providing relief to all those in need and in lifting up our national ideals of equality, liberty and justice for all.

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