Sunday, September 15, 2019

A “fenced attitude” prevents Trinity from being an open campus




Last week, my friend and I were walking down Crescent Street to our townhouse when we noticed something different—at the very end of the street a fence was being constructed between Broad and Crescent. Our first reaction was confusion and then, eventually, anger. Why build a fence around Crescent Street? Are we encouraging a fenced attitude in an open campus? There has always been a debate about whether or not to keep Trinity an open campus or a gated one. A gated campus would mean only students and visitors would be allowed to freely roam the school. The age-old argument for a fence around the school perhaps stems from the frequent muggings and thefts of laptops, phones and jewelry that occur around campus, mostly on Summit Street. A fair number of students feel potentially threatened and worried about walking around campus at night. A few years ago after a particularly brutal incident involving a student, there was a rally to increase security around the school and a demand to secure the campus by putting gates at the entrance and regulating entry into the campus during the night. This raises a fundamental question— should a college like Trinity be an island in the community with no connection to the people who live around it? Trinity is surrounded by an economically depressed neighborhood with run down houses, small corner shops and high levels of unemployment, which stands in stark contrast to the privilege and wealth of the college community. It is often said that a residential campus is one that imparts values of democracy to the young minds, teaching them about heterogeneity, integration, socioeconomic and ethnic diversity, inclusion, and empathy. Putting a fence around Crescent Street is counterintuitive to the ongoing community outreach efforts that Trinity has put in place. It will only create more division and segregation and deepen the feeling of “otherness” and exclusion that exists between Trinity students and the city of Hartford, creating chasms that lead to divided communities and divided cities. By erecting a gate around campus, we will be reducing our civic involvement in Hartford. Issues that occur in the neighborhood will become distant and isolated to us, existing either “in here” or “out there.” But we as Trinity students still remain part of the wider community of Hartford. In reflection, putting up fences around Trinity could potentially lead to a greater feeling of alienation and animosity in the community around us, which in turn could lead to more violence, thefts and the targeting of Trinity students. The mission of Trinity College according to our website is to “foster critical thinking, free the mind of parochialism and prejudice, and prepare students to lead examined lives that are personally satisfying, civically responsible, and socially useful.” So— how would we accomplish this mission by isolating ourselves even further? What civic responsibility would we learn from being a privileged island in the middle of Hartford? What values would we inculcate by emphasizing this sense of “otherness?” What message would we be sending to our fellow students who are from Hartford? In fact building a fence would be directly inconsistent to our mission statement; I do not believe that we are practicing what we are preaching. We have an open campus, but we are fostering a fenced attitude. If we want to be responsible world citizens let us not forget that good citizenship starts at home.

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