May 10, 2017

Dear Members of the Trinity Community,

As I was working on my speech for Commencement, I was reminded just how tumultuous a year this has been for our country and our world. I thought of the many global events that we experienced in very real ways on our own campus and of events that happened here that reverberated far beyond the Long Walk.

Indeed, time after time this year we saw the ways in which Trinity College exists within the world, not apart from it, and how fundamentally we are not only in Hartford, but also of Hartford. The relationships are complicated and not always easy, but our roles in the surrounding community and the broader global one are what make the education we provide so relevant.

It was a politically active year on campus. Many within our community felt marginalized and at risk in the wake of the federal executive orders concerning immigration and other emerging federal policy initiatives. In addition to protests aimed at local and national policymakers, our students pushed Trinity to be a more accessible, inclusive, and welcoming community. That work is critical and ongoing. As one piece of that, I am pleased that the Board of Trustees has approved a budget that includes a full-time position to better support inclusion efforts and our LGBTQ community.

With regard to our relationship to Hartford, our downtown presence at Constitution Plaza will take shape in the coming months, its Liberal Arts Action Lab bringing together students and faculty from Trinity and Capital Community College in studying and addressing local challenges and deepening our civic engagement. And we hope that our partnership in pursuing an Innovation Places grant from the state will soon lead to a medical technology innovation zone in the area around Trinity’s campus and Hartford Hospital, spurring economic development around our Summit campus.

At the same time, we seek to be an even better neighbor and property owner in the local community, working with residents and law enforcement to ensure the safety and security of our campus, as well as the Frog Hollow, Barry Square, and Behind the Rocks neighborhoods.

Last fall’s Broad Street porch collapse, which deeply affected a number of students and touched all of us, was a reminder of our need to attend to critical maintenance of our properties, including those we own on the edges of campus. I am grateful that the trustees recently authorized $1 million in spending to make necessary structural and code-related repairs to such properties. As the seniors involved in the porch collapse prepare to graduate, I am still amazed by the way our community came together after that incident to care for and support one another.

More recently, the assault of several students at St. Anthony Hall last month has led us to re-evaluate our campus security procedures and practices and recommit to ensuring the safety of everyone at Trinity. This isn’t merely about keeping uninvited guests out of closed parties, and it’s not a problem solved by erecting more barriers to keep people off of our campus. This is a larger and more complicated issue of nurturing our relationships with the surrounding neighborhoods and of working to provide a safe environment for all students at all times — at parties and in residence halls, on campus and off, in Hartford and around the world. I’m encouraged by the collaborative response we’ve seen to the St. Anthony incident, and I assure you my commitment to student safety remains steadfast.

Our resilience as a community is remarkable. We learn from our mistakes, we grow stronger and more close-knit, and we are ever more dedicated to this College we love and to making it better and better. As we prepare to send the wonderful Class of 2017 out into the world, we do so knowing these soon-to-be-alumni will take with them that resilience and determination, and we know the communities they’ll inhabit will be the beneficiaries. My congratulations to our graduating students and a fond farewell to those who will be leaving campus, and my best to all of you for a happy, healthy summer. For those of you returning, I can’t wait to see you back here in the fall!


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience