Karon, Martin, and Devastated Dreams

January 16, 2023

(Karon Blake, screenshot from NBC News)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Quincy street in northeast DC is normally a quiet road, lined with modest bungalows and brick homes, with the peaceful Franciscan Monastery at the top of the hill, bisected midway by 12th Street with its dry cleaners and pubs, and, at the bottom of the hill, the Turkey Thicket playground and recreation center just across Michigan Avenue.  Also, adjacent to the rec center, is the Brookland Middle School where 13 year-old Karon Blake was a student before he was shot to death on the corner of Quincy & Michigan at 4 am on January 7.

A violent death in our city is a great sorrow at any time, but Karon Blake’s death has triggered a level of outrage, pain and anger beyond the usual grief at too much violence.  Fueling the outrage is the refusal by police and city authorities to name the suspect, rumored to be a Quincy Street resident who allegedly shot Karon for breaking into cars on the street outside the suspect’s home.  Mayor Bowser, MPD Chief Robert Contee and other officials have pleaded for calm, insisting that the investigation and judicial process must play out before an arrest can occur.  The outrage continues unabated.

In an effort to quell the anger and stop rumors on social media, the Mayor and Police Chief have revealed three aspects of the suspect’s identity:  he is a city employee but not law enforcement; the gun he used was legally purchased; and he is Black.

That latter statement, identifying the suspect by race, is a profound indictment of our nation’s failure to internalize the message that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to preach and teach so long ago.  Dr. King envisioned a society where people would be judged on “the content of their character” and not the color of their skin.  But in this deeply divided nation —- riven in so many ways by the ongoing consequences of slavery and racial oppression from 1619 to this very day — the color of skin still infects human judgment about other persons no matter how hard we try to say it does not matter.

Why does the race of Karon’s killer matter?  For many, if not most, it does not matter at all — a person who kills a child commits a reprehensible act regardless of the race of either.  But in this society hyper-charged over issues of race, the possibility that the shooter is white is immensely inflammatory.  But, paradoxically, why would the outrage be any less if the shooter is Black?  I get it about why Chief Contee felt is necessary to identify the shooter’s race, and yet, that very statement plays into the racism and hatred of the real racists in this nation, the white supremacists who will chalk this child’s death up as one more tally point about Black-on-Black crime.

“One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

So, the gun was “legal.”  Let’s consider that dimension of Karon’s case as well.  At last count, America has more guns than people, and the stockpile keeps growing.  The Second Amendment activists claim that the Constitution protects Americans’ right to amass guns in order to protect themselves and their property (and, oh yes, deer hunting…).   The death of Karon Blake is a natural consequence of a society that has invested more value in the “freedom” to own guns than in the protection of human life.  The shooter who took Karon’s life was protecting…. car windows.  Second Amendment activists rejoice.

The inability of this nation to have sensible gun control is a massive moral failure; the bloodshed as a result if overwhelming.  If the shooter was unable to possess a “legal” gun, perhaps he would have reached for his phone to dial 911 instead of reaching for his pistol in an act of pure vigilantism.  Anarchy is the result of a political system that cannot control violence, and the excessive arming of American citizens is a manifestation of the growing tendency toward anarchy in the United States.

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Dr. King wrote his letter from the Birmingham Jail not in response to a KKK march or blatant government discrimination, but rather, in response to some of his fellow ministers who felt that his campaign of nonviolent protest was rocking the boat, an agitation that might incur the wrath of public officials.  They wanted less noise, fewer marches, more politesse.  Dr. King was biting in his response to his brother preachers:

“Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But they went on with the conviction that they were a ‘colony of heaven’ and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be ‘astronomically intimidated.’ They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest. Things are different now. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the archsupporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

We must shout it out — louder, louder, LOUDER!  Too many young people are victims of gun violence in the District of Columbia.  The potential of the rising generation is pouring out on our streets, wasting away in petty disputes and vicious vigilantism and senseless shootings.  Dr. King is remembered for preaching about his “Dream” but for too many of our children, the Dream is gone, replaced by the devastation of losses that mount higher each day.

Of course, the legal process must move forward, and perhaps we will soon know more about the case of Karon Blake and the man who shot him.  But if all that happens is information about that one tragic incident, we will have failed, once more, to make progress in addressing the most fundamental challenges our city and nation face when it comes to building a good society of peace where real justice is possible.

Justice for Karon Blake will not occur on the day that the suspect is arrested, or tried, or even convicted if that happens.  No, justice for Karon will only come when those of us in the supposedly responsible adult community develop a real and effective response to violence; when we stand up to the gun lobby and insist on a reduction in the private armories of citizens; when we practice what we preach by ending the tendency to use race as a prism through which we judge others and their actions. When we develop more effective educational and community responses to the tendency of some children to manifest disruptive and even violent behaviors, not by killing them but by responding with love, care and effective interventions.

Justice will only come when children can actually live long enough to realize their dreams.  The children must have dreams to start with — too many have suffered the devastation of dreams, childhoods ruptured by death and despair.  How many children in our city are suffering the trauma of gun violence, children like Karon’s siblings and friends and classmates?  Our schools, our educators, our community centers and volunteer services must find ways to help the children recover from the trauma they experience too often, to rebuild a sense of hope, to believe again in the potential of pursuing bold dreams for their lives.

“In a real sense all life is inter-related… I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

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Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic Education

January 5, 2023

As Pope Benedict XVI is buried this morning at the Vatican, I have reflected on the only occasion when I heard him speak in-person.  In 2008 the Pope visited the United States and during that visit he called a meeting of the presidents of Catholic colleges and universities.  We met at Catholic University.  Here is the video of the address, worth watching, and also the text here:

In advance of this meeting at Catholic University, many conservative commentators opined that the Pope would use the occasion to smack down American Catholic higher education for being too liberal, for failing to uphold orthodoxy.  The critics were salivating.

In fact, the Pope did nothing of the sort.  His address was thoughtful, scholarly, and affirming.  He called the commitment to Catholic education in the United States “an outstanding apostolate of hope” and he cited the historic examples of religious women now saints — Elizabeth Ann Seton, Katharine Drexel — who led the creation of educational ministries to marginalized persons, particularly African Americans and Native Americans.  He called Catholic educators to be faithful to the teachings of the Church as essential to the work of Catholic education, but he did so in a way that was affirming and forward-looking.

For Catholic higher education and our faculty, most importantly, the Pope affirmed the “great value of academic freedom,” saying:

“In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.”

The Pope’s wise and thoughtful address was also very smart; presidents and faculty who went into the meeting fearing chastisement left thinking differently, admiring the Pope and being more open to the message about how we must balance our freedom with our responsibility to teach in fidelity to the Church’s mission.

In the week since his death, many commentators have explored the complex dimensions of Pope Benedict’s papacy, and his transformation from the doctrinal enforcer he was as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the more pastoral and reflective pope he became.  He succeeded someone who is arguably one of the great popes of all time, Saint Pope John Paul II, a gregarious world traveler and charismatic figure on the world stage for several decades.  He struggled with the demands of the job, and the relentless evidence of the sex abuse crisis that undermined so much of the Church’s credibility in the modern world.  Some say his greatest contribution was his surprise resignation in 2013, an act that led to the election of Pope Francis I, a completely different pope in world view, personality and action — and yet someone equally concerned about fidelity to Church teaching.  Benedict and Francis lived with the “two popes” phenomenon and in their overt respect for each other they presented a new, modern image of how the papacy can still be relevant in the modern world.

Rest in Peace, Pope Benedict.

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Let’s Make 2023 Better

January 1, 2023

The new year dawns against a backdrop of sorrow and heroism, criminality and selfless action.  A Pope is dead; the Pope will bury him.  A horrific war rages; the Ukrainian people rise, undaunted by each new terror.  A President faces potential criminal indictment at the recommendation of Congress; a man in a blizzard in Buffalo, turned away from a dozen homes, finds shelter by breaking into a school and saves 20 other lives.

On Thursday, January 6, Pope Francis will preside over the funeral of retired Pope Benedict XVI who died on Saturday.  I will write a separate blog about Pope Benedict later this week.  How will his passing influence the Church in 2023?

In Ukraine, the horrors perpetrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin seem unending, and yet, he is losing badly because of the indomitable spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people and their leader Volodymyr Zelensky.  Will 2023 bring victory to Ukraine?

Former President Donald Trump — oh, where to begin? — became the first president that Congress has recommended for criminal indictment, but it’s up to the Justice Department to act.  Meanwhile, Congress released Trump’s tax returns, so shameful — most of us pay more in taxes than he did since 2016 at least, and most of us give more to charity than he did.  Will 2023 see justice come for Trump at long last?

Jay Withey, a common man, a 27 year-old mechanic, got caught in the Buffalo blizzard that killed nearly 40 people — but he saved lives through quick thinking, breaking into a nearby school and helping others get to the shelter; police and the school superintendent hailed him as a hero.  He took a big risk to help save others — would we do the same in 2023?

We live in a time that can easily evoke despair and selfishness — who among us hasn’t just turned off the news because it’s too much to bear?  Individually, most of us have no idea what to do about Ukraine, and we know from long experience that no matter how much some of us might rail against Trump, many others will praise him and he is just as likely as ever to escape consequences for behaviors that would have landed any of the rest of us in a very secure prison long ago.

But while it is not our job, in 2023 or ever, to solve Ukraine or make Trump go away for a long time, it IS our job to be agents of peace, of justice, of hope and charity.

It IS our job as educators to teach — and to teach well and vigorously — about the necessary conditions for democracy to thrive, about the dangers of authoritarianism, about the consequences of wars not only for one country but for the entire community of nations.

It IS our job as educators to teach about ethics and truth, to expect our students to manifest honesty, to impose consequences for lies and cheating.

It IS our job to show students the exemplars of courage, selflessness, heroism so that they can study and learn how to do the same.  Such values are not merely good secular traits in polite society (remember that?), but rather, they are essential qualities for living and acting according to the principles of social justice.

We can and must teach our students the real meaning of social justice — to stand up for human life and dignity, to work in community, to live in solidarity with those who need us, especially the poor and vulnerable of this earth, to resist exploitation of workers, to care for the environment.

Can we make 2023 better?  Yes!  We can, we must.  We need to plan our lessons in education for justice each day, extending welcome and hospitality to each person we encounter, discerning the conditions that cause conflict and sorrow, helping our students to move away from danger to themselves and their families, opening every opportunity for them to find shelter, comfort and peace in our classrooms and corridors, in all that we do at Trinity.

No, we cannot change what’s going on elsewhere.  But we can be darn sure that what goes on right here at Trinity is an example to the world of how to live with charity, hope, justice and peace.

Happy new year!

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All I Want for Christmas….

December 22, 2022

Here we are in the “most wonderful time of the year” again with all the pressure to be jolly amid the holly, bells and lights.  But these are serious times, and while some frivolity is important, let’s not forget the Real Meaning of Christmas — the Child was born to redeem the world, not to rack-up credit card bills that will come due long after the needles have fallen off the holiday trees.  Is that too gloomy for a Christmas blog?  Well, I’m thinking of the people of Ukraine — the people whose heroic agony was so sharply drawn in stark terms by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his speech to the joint session of Congress this week:

“…in two days we will celebrate Christmas. Maybe candlelit. Not because it’s more romantic, no, but because there will not be, there will be no electricity. Millions won’t have neither heating nor running water. All of these will be the result of Russian missile and drone attacks on our energy infrastructure.

“But we do not complain. We do not judge and compare whose life is easier. Your well-being is the product of your national security; the result of your struggle for independence and your many victories. We, Ukrainians, will also go through our war of independence and freedom with dignity and success.

“We’ll celebrate Christmas. Celebrate Christmas and, even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out. If Russian — if Russian missiles attack us, we’ll do our best to protect ourselves. If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other. And we don’t, don’t have to know everyone’s wish, as we know that all of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same: Victory. Only victory.”

What I want for Christmas — what all freedom-loving people should want for Christmas — is an end to the terrible assault on Ukraine by a monstrous dictator, Vladimir Putin.  Why should we care about the sorrows of people half a world away when we have plenty of our own woes here at home?  Quite simply, as President Zelensky said so eloquently last night, this is a war that pits tyranny against freedom, democracy against authoritarianism.  This war engages all of us and our futures.  He said,

“This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live, and then their children and grandchildren.  It will define whether it will be a democracy of Ukrainians and for Americans — for all. This battle cannot be frozen or postponed. It cannot be ignored, hoping that the ocean or something else will provide a protection. From the United States to China, from Europe to Latin America, and from Africa to Australia, the world is too interconnected and interdependent to allow someone to stay aside and at the same time to feel safe when such a battle continues.”

What I want for Christmas is a clear sign that the dangerous authoritarian impulses that have convulsed so much of American politics in the last few years will be defeated.  Too many Americans have accepted the idea that Democracy may need some limitations, that authoritarian rule might be acceptable — the authoritarian state is a place that exalts a small cadre of like-minded people over all others, that restrains diverse expressions of human communities, that denies freedom of speech and press in favor of state-controlled communications.  White supremacy flourishes in the authoritarian dream, along with repression of dissent and oppression of people who may be different from the ruling cadre, e.g., people of color, immigrants, Jews, LGBTQ persons, liberals, feminists, the whole cacophony of human life reduced to a dull hum under the tight lid of authoritarian rule.  To our immense shame, some Americans have even said out loud recently that Hitler had his good points.  Shame on them, but also, shame on us for the conditions that have fostered the demented rantings of some celebrities,

What I want for Christmas is a broader public acceptance of the idea of working for the common good, a restoration of the sense that practicing the “Habits of the Heart” is a worthy and noble calling, lacking in selfish preoccupation about returns on investments save for the return to the entire community in more peace and greater justice for all.  Let’s stop complaining about the price of gas; let’s do more to help people who are having a hard time putting food on the table.  Can we talk more about poverty and less about Elon Musk?  Just sayin’…

While I’m at it, what I also want for Christmas is to be able to go out to my favorite wildlife refuge and not see plastic trash bobbing along the river, or dead forests crowded with the silver stumps of trees that drowned in the rising tides that are inexorably destroying natural habitat as the planet’s climate continues to warm.  And for those who say, “Look at the ‘bomb cyclone’ it’s not warming, it’s freezing!” I want you to learn a lot more about climate change, the difference between climate and weather, and the causes of extreme weather events as the climate changes.  Let’s have less ignorance and more intelligence when it comes to the stewardship of the only world most of us will ever know.  Getting serious about looming environmental catastrophes is part of the necessary agenda for ensuring long-term global peace and security.

What’s that you say, Santa?  This list is too long, too ambitious, not something the reindeer can carry across the sky?  Well, I’m too old for toys and have enough socks, don’t need more stuff.  But I do believe in the Miracle of Christmas… and that if enough people of goodwill will stand up for what is right, we will, in fact, have the capacity to rekindle hope and begin to restore a lasting peace for this world.

Merry Christmas to all!

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November 2022 Survey Results

December 11, 2022

At the end of November, as we have done in previous years, we took a survey of the Trinity Campus Community to gauge the general tenor of the community, to get some informal assessment feedback on campus operations, and to gather input on some specific issues.  192 faculty, staff and students responded in the proportions illustrated above.  This blog summarizes the survey results.  We provide some of the written comments along with the question summaries; we do not reprint every comment but provide those that seem most representative of the comment group.  The Senior Executive Staff review all surveys and comments and discuss actions necessary to resolve some of the problems identified.  Deans may also share the surveys pertinent to their collegiate units with their faculty for further analysis and problem-solving.

Thanks to everyone for your valuable and candid participation!

Question #2:  Is the Fall 2022 semester going better, the same or worse than you expected?

We have asked this question in every survey since 2020, and the responses below are consistent with earlier surveys at this time of year:

Student Comments to Q2:

This Fall Semester was better because I had excellent professors. (ECA)

I have never been to college. So everything is new to me. But the staff and the professors make it easy. They communicate very well and I try to do that in return. They are respectful. The cafeteria staff are the best. (CAS)

As a transfer student I would say the process getting into Trinity was better than I expected.As far as the glasses and work ethic in general I will say things have been going as expected, having those good and bad days. College is definitely hard work. (NHP)

I am grateful for Trinity’s flexibility during this unprecedented time. I’m sure it was difficult navigating these last few years and ensuring that students received a stellar experience. I started school in January 2020 right before the pandemic really took hold of us and was unsure of how my future at Trinity would unfold. I am pleased to say that Trinity transcended my expectations! To ensure momentum was not lost but rather gained, Trinity immediately transitioned to online classes and made sure we were all equipped to succeed. Although change is inevitable it is not always abrupt. In this situation, it was! I’m grateful that Trinity valued us as students and took control of the situation and brought about a sense of normalcy by continuing education. Thank you! (SPS)

Fall Semester has taken a toll on my mental health. I have really been struggling to ‘keep up’. I feel like I have heard similar comments from my friends and other peers. Honestly, it can be the pressure of graduating in May but also the continuous semester with only one break. Others, like myself also work outside of school and sometimes do not feel supported when asking for assistance from professors such extensions or making us feel comforted whenever we express ourselves. Majority of students that I have spoken to about this feels the same way- we know we have deadlines to meet and we always meet them but I believe that support should be warranted from professors as well. We are brilliant students with brilliant minds but sometimes we need a break. (CAS)

The intimidation of coming back to school was getting to me. The Professors and students are amazing, and they display an attitude of no one left behind culture and it has pulled and propelled me to succeed. (SPS at THEARC)

I am not as stressed as I thought I’d be coming back to school after a four year gap. My communication with staff and advisors hasn’t been stressful as well. Something that was anxiety inducing in my previous college four years ago. So I’m glad the staff here is friendly and willing to help. So, I feel relieved and thankful. (CAS)

…this is the 3rd time I have had a professor at Trinity who was absolutely awful and it’s really frustrating and it’s like no one is holding these professors to any standard I’m actually glad to see this survey to get feedback! (SPS)  [Note from President McGuire — we encourage students to complete course evaluations candidly, and also to contact your dean if the issue cannot wait for the final course evaluation.]

This fall was very tough for me. Life outside of college got really hard and depressing on top of the stress of school already. I had gotten into a bad car crash and after that my mental have not been right. Finding the energy to come to class was tough on top of constantly fighting migraines. I honestly feel though Trinity does not value a student’s life outside of classes especially when it comes to the unexcused absence. One of my professors stated that every absence counts as a unexcused absence regardless of a doctors note. Which is very unreasonable when neither professors knows a student on a personal level and don’t know what a student go through outside of that 1hr and 15min of class. (CAS)   [Note from President McGuire — I invite this student to visit with Dr. Gerlach, VP Student Affairs, to discuss what happened.  We expect faculty members to respect medical excuses and not penalize students who are sick.]

I was not ready for in-person class this fall. Many of my classmates did not want to wear a mask in class which made me feel uncomfortable. I wore my mask and the professor wore hers as well, but I still got sick not COVID. It was hard going to class knowing that I was not feeling well. My professor sent me home one evening because she could see that I was struggling to breathe through my mask and I had this dry cough. My professor was very understanding and I appreciate her being so kind and considerate.  (SPS)

Faculty Comments to Q2:

Some graduate students are continuing to struggle to meet the demands of their work in the workplace and at Trinity. Accommodations have been made at Trinity but the upheavals and challenges at the workplace have continued to impact the students’ attention to quality of school work and the energy to complete assignments. (PGS)

Students seem overwhelmed and stretched too thin between work, school and family.(PGS)

Difficulty with attendance, student engagement, completion of assignments. (CAS)

There has been a lot of student issues this semester as this was probably worst than other semesters even in during the pandemic. The issues pertain to a lot of mental health issues, students having close family members/friends/contacts who have lost their life or been diagnosed with illnesses, to students just being unmotivated to complete assignments and a lack of regard to established due dates. (NHP)

Students were very appreciative to resume in-person class because it makes lectures and demonstrations far more audience friendly. (PGS)

Students have become accustomed to in-person classes and seem to prefer being together. I invited guest speakers both in person and virtual, but my students preferred in-person guest lecturers. (CAS)

It’s been a challenging semester, but not in any surprising ways. I do believe our students experienced a good deal of learning loss from the pandemic and their work is suffering. (CAS)

…and many similar faculty comments about absences and student disengagement, most attributed to ongoing pandemic stress.

Staff responses to Q2:

I am worried about the overall economy. Macro-economic conditions have worsened and puts pressure on Trinity.

Celebrating Trinity at 125 has made this a most memorable time!

I am experiencing burn out. I think my emotional health is more fragile than last fall or spring semester. I have been seeking support to improve, but I am still feeling burned out and overwhelmed.

I feel the activity and energy is back to pre-pandemic levels.

I enjoy working at Trinity, the environment is peaceful overall. I enjoy the telework day and having my own office space. It is refreshing coming to work and not feeling stressed but know that I am supported and my opinion matters in my office.

I’m pleased we still use the mask mandate. I would prefer proper distancing to be implemented due to the three-virus pandemic that we are currently in. It would be awesome to create a bubble of health on our campus.

Preparing for the 125th Anniversary and Reunion celebration, along with my other duties, was very hard work but it was so very rewarding! The teamwork, with everyone working at their best with an upbeat and can-do attitude, made the work a pleasure. The responses from our grateful guests provided a great deal of satisfaction knowing that our efforts brought them closer to Trinity. I feel appreciated and respected which makes it much easier to jump to the next priority with enthusiasm!

Question #3:  Opinions on a List of Issues

Below you can see the issues listed on the left side and comparisons of responses by faculty, students and staff:

Regarding the Mask Mandate:  while the majority opinions in each group agreed with the statement “Make Masks Optional” — with the largest majority among staff — there is a very strong minority opinion in favor of keeping the mask mandate to respect the health and safety of those who are immuno-compromised, or who live with at-risk individuals.  Given the current “triple threat” of Covid, Flu and RSV, and the concern of public health authorities that the holiday break will result in a surge of cases, Trinity will continue the indoor mask mandate at least through January and we will assess campus opinion again in early February once the spring semester is underway.

We also continue the vaccine mandate including boosters.  All of the science tells us that being up-to-date on all necessary immunizations is the best way to contain disease (Covid, flu, other).  Even though we all know breakthrough cases (people who get Covid even while being fully immunized), we also know that the cases are less severe and less likely to result in hospitalization.  Please get boosted for your own sake and the sake of all in our community.

We are evaluating responses to the questions about in-person, hybrid and online classes.  A lot of factors go into decision-making about course delivery formats, and we want to be sure that we are serving our students in the best possible ways in every course.  We are also reviewing quality standards for online and hybrid instruction to be sure that our practices meet all contemporary standards.

Regarding the staff work week, we will continue with 4 days on campus and one day remote for all staff members, with a strong preference for staff to take their remote days on a Monday or Friday so that team meetings and group engagement can occur T-W-Th with reasonable assurance that everyone will be here to participate.

Rating Operations and Suggestions for Improvement

We asked a long question to give informal assessments on a number of campus operations.  The input is extremely helpful and thanks to all those who took the time to answer and provide thoughtful comments.  We will not repeat the ratings or comments here — we are discussing them with the managers responsible for each area — but in summary these are the largest areas of concern:

Dining Services:  many comments about need for improvement in the food itself, the dining hall atmosphere, and the hospitality of the dining services staff.  We hear you!  While we are in a capital campaign for a major renovation of Alumnae Hall, we do need to tackle some short-term improvements and are working on a plan to do just that.  Gilles Syglowski joined the Metz team as the director of Dining Services in October, and he will also be addressing the critical issues — he has already hired a new chef and we are looking forward to more changes going forward.

Bookstore:  a comment called the online bookstore an “experiment” but, sadly, it’s not.  Barnes & Noble did not wish to continue a bookstore on campus, and there are no other vendors who will engage a contract for an on-campus store that has relatively low revenues.  This is not just a Trinity problem, it’s pervasive not only in higher education but in the bookselling business generally — online stores (Amazon, we see you!) have crushed in-person shops and that trend is unlikely to abate.  In general, the fall semester with online book purchases went reasonably well, thanks largely to Assistant Provost Kathelon Toliver who provided immediate and helpful assistance to work through challenges.  Provost Ocampo and Dr. Gerlach are also closely involved and continuing to assess what other bookstore-related services we might provide more effectively, e.g., the online spirit shop for logo merchandise, and the sundries.

Parking:  some of the comments raised perennial concerns about parking, but this is a problem that tends to arise at certain times of day on only certain days of the week.  One solution would be to go back to parking permits with fees, but that is likely to cause even greater consternation.  There is often parking available on the back side of campus, and the shuttle does make stops around campus for those who have to park in more distant locations.  We will continue to assess other options.

Services and Greater Inclusion for SPS and All Adult Students:  We hear you.  This is a topic that has become more neuralgic as a result of the pandemic and extensive delivery of SPS/BGS courses online.  We know the students enjoy the online courses, but that also creates a challenge in terms of providing on-campus activities and opportunities.  Dean Tom Mostowy and his team will be in dialogue with students about this topic and how we can improve available activities for SPS students in the Spring semester.

Campus Activities:  a more general concern flows through various comments about a need for more campus activities, and particularly for resident students on weekends.  We would be happy to hear more from students about the kinds of activities that would be attractive — our staff is concerned about low turnout when they try to stage different kinds of events.  We are open to ideas about this issue.

A final question asked for ideas about symposia in 2023 and we had a lot of great suggestions, top topics below:

We’ll be back to everyone about the symposium topics for 2023 and welcome your engagement with planning.

Thanks to everyone for your participation!!  Your engagement makes Trinity stronger.

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