EMMELINE ENDRESEN ’21
On Sunday, April 8, the Student Government Association (SGA) opened its meeting with a discussion of the concerns brought up by students at the office hours held on April 3. Some complaints of the students included dissatisfaction with Chartwells and food quality. Students also found it unacceptable that Mather has a B rating from the Health Department. Further, several student complaints focused on a desire to see an improvement in housing, citing serious mold, ventilation, and cleanliness issues. Finally, students expressed a desire to see a publicized endowment and for President Joanne Berger-Sweeney to be more transparent in her priorities.
Director of LGBTQ+ Life Carrie Robinson was thereafter introduced to the SGA. Ms. Robinson discussed the school’s opening of more gender inclusive restrooms. These new restrooms included changes and signage in restrooms in the library, admissions, and fine arts/neuroscience building this past summer. Ms. Robinson and Dean of Students Joe DiChristina are also looking at ways to expand this campaign to the rest of campus, including addressing restrooms in the Chapel, Mather Hall, and certain academic buildings. The new restrooms would be changed over to be gender inclusive. To fund this project, Trinity is using some of its capital funding. Mr. DiChristina also stressed that this effort is part of an “ongoing process to create a welcoming environment for all members of the community.”
The meeting concluded with Mr. DiChristina and Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Dan Hitchell reviewing the college budget. President Berger-Sweeney and Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success Angel B. Pérez gave a presentation to faculty and staff earlier in March regarding the college budget and aspects of the college’s forthcoming comprehensive campaign. The college enrollment constitutes a significant portion of the revenue used to fund the annual operating budget. However, decreasing enrollment trends have become a national issue in higher education. The number of children being born is much less than 20 or 30 years ago and this consequently has had a significant impact on smaller institutions. The high school age population in New England has therefore gone down about 2-3%. Additionally, the government questioning the value and cost of higher education has also had an impact on colleges across the country.
Moving forward, Trinity will have to continue to closely monitor its financial positions. Mr. DiChristina acknowledged that the rate of tuition has outpaced the rate of inflation the past several years and that “it is important that colleges remain very aware of that” as they continue to plan. Mr. DiChristina suggested that. With a family’s ability and willingness to pay reaching its ceiling, it is therefore strategic budget planning that will be imperative.
Despite these difficulties, Mr. Hitchell added that “Trinity is very well situated to face these challenges” and that we “have all the ingredients needed to weather this,” citing Trinity’s generous alumni, committed board of trustees, and excellent faculty and staff. In discussing the college’s strategic plan, Mr. DiChristina and Mr. Hitchell highlighted the installation of the fuel cell as a key accomplishment. This energy source reduces the college’s environmental footprint by 39% and will save about $300,000 in electricity bills as well.
One SGA member asked about the possibility of making the endowment and its investments more accessible. However, while adding that he could share the asset classes that have been invested in, Mr. Hitchell also said that it would be difficult to list every single project undertaken within the budget. He added that a quarterly update on the endowment could potentially be sent to SGA.
The meeting concluded with a reflection on aligning the goals of the college with donor interests in order to better offset the annual costs of Trinity’s operating budget.