June 24, 2022

Dear Members of the Trinity College Community,

I hope that you are all finding time to spend with family and loved ones as the summer begins. Over the past month, we had the opportunity to honor the classes of 2022 and 2020 as well as host reunion celebrations for so many proud alumni. Furthermore, yesterday, the country celebrated the anniversaries of two key policy accomplishments of the last fifty years that have advanced higher education and expanded access to generations of Americans seeking a better future.

June 23 was the 50th anniversary of the Federal Pell Grant program, which has served as an important and necessary financial pathway for low- and middle-income students to attend college. It was also the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX which prohibited sex discrimination at educational institutions, such as Trinity College.

The impact of these two laws has transformed our country and the landscape of higher education. Pell Grants have provided financial access to higher education for millions of students since its passage. In acknowledging the anniversary of Title IX, the U.S. Department of Education proposed new rules to strengthen Title IX. The proposals will serve to restore crucial protections for female students, and for the first time codify important rights for members of our LGBTQI+ community.

Despite the societal progress that these two anniversaries represent, I also must acknowledge the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturns decades of legal precedent in Roe v. Wade. This decision is disheartening, and while many different points of view exist about abortion, the Supreme Court’s ruling is antithetical to the interests and well-being of women everywhere, threatening their health and autonomy and the ability to exercise control over their own bodies.

The Court’s ruling today will have a reverberating effect on our community. And while Connecticut is currently standing firm to protect a woman’s right to choose, we are a community where many of our students come from states where this right will be confronted. We will work with the Trinity College Health Center to help make sure our students have all of the information needed to make the most informed and best decisions for their reproductive health care and well-being.

As an institution of higher education designed for the public good, it’s in our DNA to support equal opportunity for all persons to strive for and obtain a Trinity education. It’s hard for me to imagine how the court’s decision does anything other than limit options for women, stripping a fundamental right that is critical to a woman’s ability to control her life and future – including pursuing higher education. I also fear how this may negatively impact those already disenfranchised.

In the future, we will also work with the Women & Gender Resource Action Center as a place of advocacy and support to help determine our path forward.

In the meantime, please know that our commitment to advance the work of women’s rights and to promote the essential freedoms for all individuals is unwavering. I’m thankful to serve a college and a community whose passion for equity is second to none.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience