September 7, 2020

Dear Trinity Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The first day of classes at Trinity always provides us with a fresh start and a feeling of renewal. For me, it inspires optimism and the anticipation of a year of growth and learning for our entire community. In these ways, today is no different from any other first day, and I am delighted to celebrate the start of the academic year with all of you.

But as we know, this year is profoundly different. The context of the COVID-19 pandemic and societal calls for justice bring new challenges and demands that we care for one another as never before. We have an opportunity to rise to this challenge and to show the whole world the power of the Bantam community.

I want to extend my heartfelt and enormous thanks to the entire Trinity family, no matter where this letter finds you, for your support, flexibility, care, and commitment as we come together to start the semester. As you surely know, the last few months saw a coordinated planning effort at an unprecedented scale and pace to ready the college for a new academic year—attending to hundreds of details while keeping foremost in our mind Trinity’s mission to engage, connect, and transform, to prepare students to be “bold, independent thinkers who lead transformative lives.”

Our mission inspires me every day. It guides our work and serves as a beacon in what may seem like dark times for our world; it is, after all, academic institutions such as ours that can lead the way to solving society’s most vexing problems, whether a global public health crisis or centuries-old systems of inequity, racism, sexism, and oppression. Education empowers and uplifts, and it has the capacity to bridge differences and advance understanding of ourselves, our humanity, and our world, to the benefit of us all.

To our new students—the Class of 2024 and transfer students—you already have endured much and proven you are resilient. Welcome to Trinity! We are so glad you’ve made the decision to join this tight-knit community, and we will celebrate you in numerous ways throughout this year and your time at the college. We begin with this special virtual Convocation ceremony, which marks the official start of the academic year and unites all members of the Trinity family, new and returning. At Convocation, I invite you to reinvent yourself for the better this year. We also welcome five new tenure-track faculty members and several other new faculty and staff members, who bring new energy, perspectives, and ideas.

I am grateful for the enthusiasm with which the Trinity community is meeting the challenges before us. Thank you to the more than 270 individuals who answered the call to serve on the Task Force on Campus Climate. Although everyone who volunteered cannot serve, we will create opportunities for all who want to participate and to provide input into this important work. The task force, comprising alumni, faculty, parents, staff, students, and trustees, convened on August 24 for its first meeting. It was an honest and thought-provoking discussion, and I am confident that we will provide some of the needed infrastructure to bring about changes that we wish to see in our campus culture. Please see the task force’s website for a list of task force members, our charge, resources, and updates as we move forward.

As we focus on the work ahead, remember that there is much to celebrate. Here’s one terrific reminder: our Year In Review, which highlights individual and collective achievements, milestones, and historic occasions from the past year. Especially in the current context, it’s important to reflect on all that we have accomplished together. Doing so gives us perspective to know that we can “Protect the Nest” and see Trinity through these challenging times to a bright new future.

My best to all of you on the first day of fall classes!


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience