Tower climb canceled after debris hits student

Concerns about tower construction postpones campus tradition for second year in a row


Claire Sammons

Debris that fell during the 2021 tower climb, sparking inquiry into the safety of the tower

This year’s Trinity Tower Climb was cut short as pieces of the tower began to fall, one student being hit in the head by the debris. About 160 first-years were able to participate before it was shut down.

A Trinity tradition, first-years climb Murchison Tower and shake hands with Danny Anderson, university president, as a symbol of the beginning of their careers as college students. On Aug. 23, first-years and sophomores lined up to climb the tower. However, due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, students were only able to take a photo with a cardboard cutout of Anderson. Still, those that participated appreciated the tradition.

“I was part of the fortunate group that got to go,” said first-year Mikaela Zibby. “It was a very long way up and a little scary when getting close to the windows, but overall the view was beautiful.”

However, as they walked up, first-years were skeptical of the tower itself, worrying about its stability. Students noticed visible cracks where pieces of concrete had fallen off as they climbed.

“My friends and I did make comments about how ‘this thing looks like it could come apart any minute,’” said Elena Guajardo, another first-year.

After getting through less than a third of the first-year class, debris began to fall from the tower, one piece hitting a student. This student allegedly suffered a concussion. Immediately after this, the tower was shut down and the Tower Climb was canceled.

“About 160 students completed the climb before the event was canceled out of an abundance of caution, particularly as one student did report being struck by a piece of debris,” said Tess Coody-Anders, Vice President for Strategic Communications and Marketing.

Sophomores, too, missed out on experiencing this Trinity tradition. Because of COVID-19 concerns during the 2020-2021 school year, students were unable to climb the tower and were rescheduled to climb on Aug. 24 of this year.
Gabriella Stein, sophomore theatre major, expressed her disappointment with not getting to do the climb two years in a row.
“I just wish that I was able to climb the tower originally,” Stein said. “I wanna do it. I like the milestone; I like the tradition, but I feel like all the traditions have gone past.”

This is not the first time that the tower has had safety problems. During the 2018 tower climb, a piece of rubble fell to the ground, causing students to evacuate the area.
Coody-Anders explained that work has been done on the tower since 2018.

“A similar incident a few years ago prompted an inspection but yielded no reports of structural defects,” Coody-Anders said.

There is talk of a rescheduled Tower Climb later in the semester, outlined in an email sent to the class of 2024 by Sidney Lopez, coordinator of Young Alumni and Student Programs. However, no one will be climbing the tower until further notice.

“To be safe, Facilities expects the Tower to remain closed for the rest of the semester so that an additional engineering analysis can be completed and appropriate repairs can be made to the 60-year-old landmark,” Coody-Anders said. “Hopefully, we will be able to revisit the tradition in the spring for both first-years and sophomores.”