Thursday, December 13, 2018

Confusion Surrounds the Purpose of Trinity Days

FIONA MCELROY ’20

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

For the past week or two, stress levels have been rising here on campus as the semester moves into full swing. Luckily, when faced with a particularly taxing moment, we have had Trinity Days to look forwards to. Knowing that I had four days at home to relax, or to catch up on work if I felt ambitious, sustained me for a span of ten days when every waking moment was devoted to assignments for each of my classes.

A number of other competitive colleges in the country have adopted similar policies, giving students a day or two free from classes a month or so into the semester, as it has been observed that that is precisely the time when students are the most stressed and homesick. This is exactly why my mother affectionately refers to Trinity Days as “Suicide Prevention Weekend.”  That phrase comes from Cornell, a school infamous for its high suicide rates. They began implementing a February break in recent years in order to help students manage their stress and hopefully lower suicide rates in the cold, harsh, Upstate New York winter.

The exact purpose of Trinity Days is not entirely clear. Students are expected to stay on campus, with dorms and dining halls remaining open, but hardly anyone who is able to return home chooses to remain. Campus becomes a virtual ghost town, inhabited by only a few lonely souls whose roommates and friends have abandoned them in favor of home cooked meals and time with family and pets. Professors, too, are divided about the proper protocol for Trinity Days. Some choose to assign additional work, knowing their students will have spare time on their hands. Other professors more or less ignore the break, and stick to their weekly homework schedule. Then there are the rare professors who cancel homework for the week, because after all, Trinity Days offers them a chance to catch up too.

For many outside of Trinity, the concept of Trinity Days is a foreign one. When visiting a cousin of mine this past weekend, a Wesleyan alumna, she was confused about why I was not at school, and said she did not get one of those when she was in school. “I definitely could have used a break around this time of year,” she confided in me. Perhaps Wesleyan should consider following in Trinity’s footsteps and adopt a February break as well. Beyond the idea of a February break, the term “Trinity Days” has also been known to cause confusion. Outsiders have speculated whether we spent this time celebrating our dear old Trinity with rituals or banquets, etc., when in fact it is the opposite. Rather than rejoicing in school spirit, the bulk of the student body takes this opportunity to get off campus and ignore the responsibilities associated with life as a student.

Interestingly enough, at one point in the past, Trinity Days did have a specific purpose. It was a week long, but instead of a typical break, classes organized events outside of the classroom to enhance their curriculum, such as field trips or performances. Such opportunities still exist for Trinity students, but instead of taking place during a designated week, events are scheduled for common hour or other, often less convenient, times. And events do happen during Trinity Days. The Outdoors Club typically organizes a hiking trip, but that event is still intended to offer reprise from schoolwork and life in urban Hartford. I do not think there are many students who dislike having Trinity Days as a few days without class, perhaps Trinity should provide more alternative activities that students can choose to participate in, whether or not they would be normally be on campus during Trinity Days, to enrich their experience with programs designed to complement their courses through less conventional methods.

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