October 17 Letter to the Community

October 17, 2012

Dear Member of the Trinity Community:

We are pleased to announce that the Board of Trustees, at its meeting this past weekend, has unanimously voted to approve the recommendations of the Charter Committee for Building Social Community at Trinity College. After a fact-finding process that has involved extensive input from the broadest possible spectrum of campus interests, the Committee’s conclusions are thoughtful, far-reaching, and designed to retain and strengthen those aspects of our community that position Trinity as a nationally respected leader among liberal arts colleges.

Rich and complex interactions between the College’s social life and its intellectual life determine both the quality of the Trinity experience for our students and Trinity’s reputation in the world at large. The Committee’s recommendations are designed to enhance both. The intention of these actions is to create a student-centered community of scholars who are fully engaged, both socially and intellectually, inside and outside the classroom. To that end, the Board of Trustees endorses the following six Committee initiatives:

  1.  Develop a House System that will provide a new residential, intellectual, and social center to our students’ lives and shape our students’ sense of identity within the College. Our residence halls will be clustered around six Houses, each led by a designated House Dean and an Academic Adviser. These houses will be small, comprising 375 students each, and students will remain affiliated with their Houses throughout their Trinity years. The House experience will feature regular shared dining opportunities and specific programming such as lectures, special speakers, and extra-curricular events; 
  2. Strengthen the first-year experience by extending orientation, expanding pre-orientation Quest–type programs, and adding rigor and discernment as each student undertakes his or her intellectual journey at Trinity;
  3. Improve the quality and quantity of social spaces by opening a reconfigured and refurbished Vernon Social Center with new hours of operation and purposes that appeal to students and faculty alike; investing in better lounges for each of the new Houses; and designating other College properties for social spaces based on the organic input of students themselves;
  4. Institute a clear and transparent Social Code that outlines the standards, principles, and expectations of the College and provides directives for appropriate behavior among our students. A designated committee will oversee the implementation of this Social Code and diligently monitor and support those social organizations that function with a defined membership comprised predominantly of Trinity students, that involve initiation activities, and/or that occupy real estate. New GPA standards, community service requirements, and the Trustee amendment to abolish pledging are principal features. Failure of an organization to abide by all aspects of the Social Code will result in the inability of that organization to continue to operate;
  5. Restore staff positions and program funding cut over the last decade in order to support the new House System, oversee the new Social Code, and create vibrant cultural and social options for the campus community;
  6. Reinvigorate the co-education mandate, initially approved by the Board of Trustees in 1992, to ensure that all social organizations with access to facilities, and particularly the fraternities and sororities, have gender parity.

The full report of the Committee is available on the College Web site by clicking the link in the right column of this page, and we encourage you to review it carefully. Your comments are welcome and can be made via e-mail to president@trincoll.edu. Every effort will be made to respond to individual questions and comments. In addition, College administrators and members of the Committee have already begun on-campus informational meetings with student leaders of the Greek system and members of the faculty and the administrative staff. Additional information sessions are planned with the leadership of alumni and parent organizations, and this letter will be sent to all alumni and parents. There will also be opportunities to further discuss these actions in alumni/parent receptions around the country. There will be opportunities for all concerned to dialogue with administrators and Committee members, and we begin the process today with the following on-campus meetings.

  • Wednesday, October 17 (today)—12:00-students, faculty, staff-Washington Room, Mather Hall
  • Thursday, October 18—12:15-students, faculty, staff-Washington Room, Mather Hall
  • Week of October 22—Series of four student meetings at theme and Greek houses, to be announced by the Dean of Students Office.

An Implementation Committee for Building Social Community is being formed to carry forward the initiatives as outlined here. President Jones will chair the committee and will appoint representative members from the Trustees, faculty, staff, and students, with the expectation that work will begin immediately. There will also be an Assessment Committee to monitor the results of these initiatives.

We are deeply grateful to the Committee for their dedication to the College and for the care with which they have approached this task. We thank the following members of our community for their thoughtful work on this critically important project and for their ongoing involvement: Faculty: David Ahlgren ’64, Karl W. Hallden Professor of Engineering; Diana Evans, Professor of Political Science; Dan Lloyd, Brownell Professor of Philosophy.  Students: Paige Greene ’13, Jesse Hunt ’13, Shaun Stuer ’13. Administration: Fred Alford, Dean of Students; Allison Read, College Chaplain. Trustees: Sophie Bell Ayres ’77, P’12; Philip Khoury ’71 (co-chair); Luke Terry ’67; Cornie Thornburgh ’80 (co-chair); Tim Walsh ’85, P’15. David Andres ’04, Director of Special Projects in the Dean of Students Office, served as non-voting staff to the Committee. We join the Committee in believing that expanding social opportunities for students will enrich not only the social, but also the academic life of our community. We are fully committed to moving the plans detailed here forward.

Trinity College has a long history of meeting new challenges and growing in the process, whether it was the historic move from our initial downtown location, the shift to coeducation, or the more recent expansion of our urban/global curriculum. The initiatives adopted here represent another historic moment, as Trinity moves vigorously to ensure that the quality of our social and intellectual experience remains at the highest possible level.

With best regards,

​Paul E. Raether ’68, P’93, ’96, ’01
Trinity College Board of Trustees
James F. Jones, Jr.
​President and Trinity College
Professor in the Humanities