November 10, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Years from now, we will look back on this as a historic semester at Trinity College and a historic period in our country. I hope you all know that you have played a key role in both.

History was made last week, when nearly 160 million ballots were cast in the 2020 elections. We were asked to vote “as if our lives depended on it,” and a record number of Americans across the political spectrum heeded the call. We all should take pride in this record turnout fueled partly by young, first-time voters. This bodes well for our future.

I am reminded of the important role Trinity plays in preparing students to be engaged citizens. Thank you to all who contributed to our collective work to promote active participation, particularly in this election. You voted and encouraged others to do the same, you worked at polls, you ran for public office, you sponsored learning sessions and hosted critical conversations. The Trinity community was engaged and involved, and, as a result, your voices were heard.

Regardless of your political persuasion, I hope that you can appreciate the significance of another glass ceiling being broken in America with the election of Kamala Harris as the first woman and the first African American and first Indian American as vice president. I congratulate her on her election, which is significant for the country and for me personally and which powerfully reminds me that America is a country of possibilities.

But we know that many in our country are not happy with the outcome of the presidential race, and the election results show that we have much work to do in bridging the deep divides within our society. For us to make progress, we must try to heal as a nation, set aside some of our differences, and focus on our common goals—and we do have common goals. Higher education can model for our nation how to foster understanding and speak civilly across differences. We must continue to treat people and different points of views with respect. We must continue to listen with empathy. But we also must demand action to move the country forward along the arc of justice. Indeed, we are moving our Trinity community toward justice with our continued progress on racial and gender equity.

Meanwhile, we continue to experience a historic semester on our campus (and a historic time for higher education) as we manage through the COVID-19 pandemic. This week marks the last week of in-person classes for the fall semester. While reaching this milestone makes me want to run up to the top of the Chapel tower and yell, “We did it!” of course we’re not quite there yet. Still, we can take pride in having made it this far.

Since resuming in-person learning and living in late August, we have navigated several rises in COVID-19 cases among our community, and we demonstrated our deep care for one another by wearing masks, physically distancing, and following other health and safety practices. Whether on campus or learning remotely, more than 2,000 students are benefiting this semester from Trinity’s special brand of real-world liberal arts education.

As I write this, we remain at a green campus alert level. And yesterday’s promising news of an effective vaccine provides some reason for optimism that the pandemic will come to an end.

Soon, many of you will be departing for different parts of the globe, taking with you lessons learned from this most unusual semester. Some will participate virtually in courses during January and February, some will continue to work remotely. We look forward to welcoming most students back in late February for the start of in-person classes on March 1.

Let’s continue to show one another respect and show our Bantam spirit, using our real-world liberal arts education to bridge divides, to build community, and to focus our passion on making the world a better place.

Congratulations on reaching this milestone and on making history!


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience