Trinity Voice(s)

Connection on campus will promote student expression

Abby Hernan, Opinions Editor

   According to the Trinity website, a portion of the mission is to “develop individuals who will excel in college and in life, contribute to their communities, lead in a changing society.” For students to excel in life and lead in an evolving society, they must have the opportunity to become agents of change within our campus first. However, the limited connection between students and administrators hinders student voice and expression, leaving our mission unfulfilled. 

Lack of Communication

   Administrators are staff who manage school operations without directly teaching students. Due to no in-classroom relationships, it is easy to create a gap between administration and students. Without a familiar relationship, a student will not feel comfortable approaching an administrator even if the administrator is willing to listen to their concerns. 

   Our Trinity family is left estranged if our school cannot connect across all aspects of our campus. It is up to both the students and the faculty to work together to re-establish the Trinity family. 

   The lack of communication creates a bigger issue on campus; no communication breeds resentment. As more rules are enacted and enforced, there is little communication explaining the rules’ purpose. The mystery of the rules facilitates rumors that demonize a policy that had harmless intentions. 

   Getting student input or explaining the reasons behind the rules eliminates confusion. For example, when hall passes first appeared on campus, many students were confused about their purpose.

   “I think [hall passes] are not useful because teachers never stop to check hall passes or ask why you are not in your class,” sophomore Abbie Thompson said. “Since hall passes are not always enforced, I see no point in having them. As long as your teacher knows where you are there shouldn’t be an issue.” 

   To most students hall passes appeared out of nowhere, making them unfavorable across the student body. However, they originally had good and necessary intentions.

   “A lot of the catalyst for [hall passes] had to do with attendance, the accuracy of attendance was highly problematic. I know a lot of people don’t believe this, but the one legal requirement that all schools public or private have is attendance records.” Head of Upper School Tracy Bonday said. “There have been inconsistencies in tracking attendance. The hope was that by using the hall passes, we would get teachers to go back and be more accountable to accurately reflect right whether a student was physically present in their class or not because they would have that visual reminder.”

   While the hall passes were a good way to solve the inaccurate attendance issue, many students were unaware of this. The failure to communicate the true reason for the passes to the student body leads to them being unpopular and thus not consistently used. Therefore, their original purpose is defeated. 

Limited Voice

   Not only does minimal communication hurt policies on campus, but it also hurts student expression. Clubs such as the diversity club have facilitated conversations about inequity on campus. While they have made a valiant effort, most of their ideas have been thrown to the side; the dress code remains the same, and feminine products are still not provided in the girls’ restrooms. As more student ideas are overlooked, the less likely students are to continue to share their thoughts.

   A way to create familiarity is through clubs and the student council. These extracurriculars are good ways for passionate students to get involved and get into contact with the school. By communicating what was wrong and what needs to be changed, a relationship can be formed. The student will then feel more comfortable expressing themselves to an administrator because they feel the administrator already knows them.

   The school is making positive steps to creating communication and connection on campus. For example, the student council is able to participate in many changes occurring at the school.

   “[Student council] sat down with some of the candidates for the new assistant, Head of School as well. We’re not making decisions about that, but it’s a way that candidates coming in for administrative positions can get a student’s perspective on things that are happening,” student council advisor and Assistant Dean of Students and Activities Director Kyle McGimsey said. “I found our students were pretty honest. They were very upfront about how they were feeling.”

   McGimsey also explained that members of the student council have a chance to share their thoughts on making revisions to the student handbook.

   However, communication like this only is available to the four students from each grade elected into the council. Allowing certain clubs or other interested students to come to speak at certain meetings would give a more diverse range of the student body the chance to feel heard by the administration. This range does not have to apply to the entire student body, but it helps people who want to get involved to have a more official opportunity of sharing their thoughts.

   By creating situations where administrators must directly talk to students, the campus will slowly progress to a more unified space.

   Using assemblies to address new rules or even simply acknowledging to the students they have heard their voices can foster a more connected campus. An administrator can meet with clubs to get an idea of student perception on campus. 

   The student body and faculty should work as partners with the goal of creating the best learning environment. Both must be open to hearing ideas, accepting ideas, or understanding why the idea cannot happen. 

Actual Action

   However, while verbal communication is a good stepping stone, actual action and changes are what will successfully connect the entirety of the school. Either actively changing issues on campus or creating conversations about why that policy cannot be changed can create a stronger connection. 

   For example, when a student posts Google forms over campus to raise awareness about amending the dress code, an administrator can meet with that student. They then can explain to each other their concerns and compromise on a new policy that will please the most people on campus. 

   “I think it is really important that everybody in the community, students, faculty, staff, administrators, feel like they have an opportunity to be heard,” McGimsey said. “Understanding that just because I say once it’s going to happen, doesn’t mean it’s always going to happen. But to feel like somebody is genuinely listening and really considering where I’m at, it’s important because it gives us all a sense of ownership of the school. When we feel like we have ownership of the school, we are able to take more pride in what we do every day.”

   Once the campus is more connected, students will be able to express themselves and voice their opinions. Ideas, such as the ones presented by the diversity club, will have more effect. Even little steps like having an administrator explain a dress code referral or speak to a club that has brought up a concern will create more connections. Once students can become agents of change on campus, they will then excel in life, and they will carry what they learned at Trinity into helping create change in the world. 

   “The value to communication is that students want to know that their voices can be heard. There’s a benefit and mutual respect also being taught like the idea of how you should communicate with an adult and how we can have respectful conversations and discussions,” Bonday said. “That’s part of learning valuable 21st-century skills that helped to have you ready for the college experience and careers after college. Having the opportunity to be able to come forward and have a frank conversation with an administrator is an important part of the informal learning process and growth and development as high school students.”