Trinity responds to complaints about their controversial ‘silent majority’ email

We asked Trinity to explain what they meant by ‘imminent danger’ and ‘silent majority’

Trinity College has responded to a request from The Cambridge Tab, asking them to account for the distress students have been expressing towards their controversial “silent majority” email.

The college’s Master sent an email to Trinity undergrads, outlining the college’s response to feelings of “frustration” from students about not being able to study in Cambridge.

The email reads: “I know it is hard for many of you to work at home and that there are disturbances and interruptions. We are, though, acting as guided by the Government and their Advisers.

“I must highlight that College is not the place you likely imagine it to be. Our Fellows and Staff, due to lockdown, are required to work from home where possible. Consequently, we do not have the full range of support services in place. We are in lockdown too – and for good reason.”

The email later continued: “If your situation deteriorates and you are in imminent danger at home, contact us. Otherwise, please all join our wonderful silent majority of students who are resiliently getting on with studies and life at home.”

This comment about a “silent majority” in particular has been picked up and questioned by students at the university. One Camfess submission asked: “Anyone else really pissed off by Trinity’s email?”, interpreting the email as saying, “In other words ‘unless you’re in physical danger, shut up’.”

The student went on to write that “[t]hey seem to have no understanding of the variety of issues people may face when being forced to stay at home. Physical violence is not the only circumstance that warrants a need to return to Cambridge!!!”

(Credit: Camfess via Facebook)

Another student wrote that “please all join our wonderful silent majority of students” are “words that should NEVER be said. EVER”.

The Cambridge Tab put these comments to the Trinity College press office and to their Master’s assistant. We asked them both to account for the distress they have caused these commenters, and to outline their return policy as to who can contact them to come back, regarding what exactly the college meant by “immediate danger”. Trinity responded to us this afternoon with this statement:

“The College takes the health and wellbeing of its community – students, staff and Fellows – extremely seriously and this commitment has guided Trinity’s response to the pandemic since government public health measures were first put in place.”

Trinity’s Senior Tutor, Professor Catherine Barnard, added: “The College is aware of and concerned about the consequences of the pandemic and related restrictions on students, particularly the effects on their mental health. In January we considered each application to return via a formal process and allowed those with evidence relating to their personal circumstances, medical and/or mental health to come into residence. The College will consider any subsequent applications to return from 22 February.

 “College life is not, as would be expected during a pandemic, the same lively environment that we are all looking forward to again, but alongside core services and study support, pastoral support is available from Tutors, the Chaplains and the College’s Mental Health Adviser.

 “This support is equally available, by telephone or Zoom, for those at home, wherever our students are in the world.

 “We remain open and listening. Please reach out to your Tutor, the Chaplains, or our Mental Health Advisor if you need support, guidance or simply to talk.

 “Alongside monitoring UK government regulations, the College maintains regular contact with all of its students through scheduled online meetings with Tutors and Directors of Studies, as well as social activities and the provision of pastoral support as above.”

A Trinity fresher shared their response to this statement with The Cambridge Tab, saying: “It doesn’t seem that Catherine Barnard is responding to the Tab’s enquiry at all in her statement – rather, she is just reiterating the generic information sent in the preceding email.

“The college keeps repeating the statement that college life is not how we are used to, which is something most (if not all) students are perfectly aware of. I understand and agree with their points on safety, but this and the general tone of their emails feels patronising (‘please all join the wonderful silent majority of students who are resiliently getting on’)

“They don’t seem to be truly listening to the concerns of students.”

Cover image credit: Jess Marais