Our great Trinity family is showing a great deal of Trinity Spirit, resourcefulness, resilience and creativity during these difficult days. Bravo! But we also have many concerns, and these surfaced in a community survey we conducted this week. This blog addresses some of the concerns in Q & A format, and I will continue to do so in my daily emails and on this blog going forward.
In general, the top concerns among the Trinity community are:
For students, the #1 concern is keeping up with online classes. More on this below.
For everyone, the top concern is about coronavirus, whether personal exposure or a family member’s vulnerability.
Everyone is also worried about money — keeping jobs, paying tuition balances, getting refunds.
And, almost universally, we miss each other! Missing friends and colleagues ranks very high on the list of concerns.
The Q & A below attempts to provide some guidance to help manage your concerns.
Q: Can professors be more sensitive to the volume of assignments and amount of screen time they are expecting?
A: Yes. We have shared the student answers to the survey with the entire faculty and have asked them to consider all of the comments and make adjustments accordingly. Most of our faculty are learning how to deliver entire courses in a new format for the first time, and they did a fantastic job of changing their pedagogy almost overnight. But since no one planned for this experience, we are learning as we are going through it, and we definitely need student feedback to help faculty adjust their expectations. Provost Ocampo and Deans Ramamurti, Lewis and Romanello are working directly with the faculty in each unit and program to make sure that the volume of online assignments and participation in classes is appropriate.
Q: I have children at home who need to use the computer for school, and my spouse or partner also uses it for telework, so the amount of time I can be online is limited. Are you taking this into account?
A: Yes. This is a concern not only for students, but also for faculty and staff as well. Because we know that families are sharing limited computer resources — and wifi everywhere is slow because of the volume — we are asking faculty and staff supervisors to be sensitive and sensible in expectations about online presence. Synchronous participation — meaning “real time” or being online at the exact same time the class is occurring — is not always possible. Everyone should have some flexibility for “asynchronous” participation, meaning following the class or meeting but not always at the exact same time through using recordings or other materials that don’t require everyone to be present on line at the exact same time. This may not always work, and we do ask everyone to understand that sometimes you really do need to be present in a class or meeting online at a specific time. And everyone should be communicating not only expectations but needs, and let’s all have a disposition toward common sense and compassionate solutions.
Q: When will graduation take place?
A: We will have graduation, but we are unable to confirm a date because of the nature of this crisis. We will let you know when we know when the ceremony is possible. Meanwhile, for those who are scheduled to graduate in May, if you complete all requirements successfully, please know that we will confer your degrees and send your diplomas on time. Your degree completion date is May 16 and that’s the date that will be on your diplomas.
Q: Can I get a partial refund or reduction in tuition for this semester?
A: No. Some students have inquired about this in the belief that online instruction is less expensive than classroom-based instruction, but this is not the case. Most of our expenses for any kind of instruction are for faculty salaries, and we pay faculty the same whether they are online or in the classroom. Our staff continue to provide all of the usual administrative support, and in fact, the nature of this crisis has required almost everyone to work even more hours and learn new skills. Our technology costs are also increasing, and we continue to maintain our facilities to be sure we’re in good shape to reopen whenever that is possible. Lab fees were already expended on supplies and materials. Our goal is to make sure that every enrolled student masters the learning that we planned for this semester, earns all of the credits and completes the semester in a timely way.
Q: Can I get a partial refund for room and board?
A: Yes. If you moved out of residence we are processing partial refunds for room and board. Refunds are applied first against any outstanding balance on your bill. Please contact Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Karen Gerlach to learn more about the process for room and board refunds.
Q: I have a Trinity balance and am concerned that I cannot pay it down.
A: We are reviewing all balances and will be in touch with students individually about solutions that work for you. We are aware of your stress, and want to be as supportive as possible. We are also examining other solutions that might be available from public sources. In the meantime, we have removed financial holds for registration purposes so unless you are graduating, we ask all students to register for the Fall 2020 semester now so that we can make plans for the fall.
If you are expecting to graduate in May and have a financial balance that you’re not sure you can resolve, please know that we are reviewing those balances as well and working on a solution for you to get as many prospective graduates as possible to degree completion.
Q: Finances are really tight and I’m having a hard time with basic needs.
A: We have emergency funds, thanks to some very generous benefactors. Dr. Gerlach (202-884-9203 firstname.lastname@example.org) also administers the emergency funds so please contact her or visit the emergency fund website for more information.
I will be posting more Q&A as time goes along so please keep sending in your questions and concerns — you can email me at any time email@example.com
The most important thing right now is for you to stay healthy, stay home, be with your families and help your community to persist through the crisis. Remember, if you need healthcare advice or assistance, please be in touch with Dr. Jacqueline Newsome-Williams (202-884-9615 firstname.lastname@example.org)