Alumni weekend causes controversy after attendees seen indoors without masks

Pictures circulated showing attendees without masks, sparking student frustration


Joann Xu

Alumni Weekend Balloon Arch

Trinity University’s Alumni Weekend is an annual event that invites Trinity University alumni back to campus to reunite with their classmates and participate in weekend festivities. However, the 2021 Alumni Weekend, which occurred from Oct. 21-24, became a source of frustration for the current Trinity community as alumni were spotted at an indoor event, unmasked, despite Trinity’s COVID-19 current mask policies.

Roughly 800 alumni and friends participated in over 60 events that were hosted on campus, from lectures to affinity-based gatherings to sporting events. While most of the events were hosted outside in order to reduce the possible transmission of COVID-19, some events still took place indoors.

According to Ryan Finnelly, senior director for Alumni Relations, the few events held indoors were in accordance with university capacity protocols. Doors and windows were opened when possible to improve airflow.

“Campus guests were all required to come to central check-in and provide proof of a negative COVID test. Those who arrived without documentation were invited to purchase an on-site test from the COVID Test Center,” Finnelly said.

One of these indoor events was a reception in the atrium of the Center for Sciences and Innovation (CSI), of which pictures of the unmasked alumni were circulated via TU Snaps. As soon as the pictures were spread online, students began expressing their frustrations toward the apparent lack of enforcement of the ProtecTU protocols that current students and staff are still expected to follow every day on campus. Students began speculating about the possibility that alumni were given special privileges, such as staff turning a blind eye to the ProtecTU protocols during Alumni Weekend, so that the school would not threaten the influx of donations given by the attendees.

Tess Coody-Anders, Trinity’s vice president for Strategic Communications and Marketing, challenged these rumors.

“Staff working the event, they did two things,” Coody-Anders said. One, they tried to model it by wearing masks, and two they would nudge folks, ‘Hey you know, masks, masks,’ but I don’t know how successful they were at getting them to do it.”

Sophomore Anne Gardner-Hajek said of the event, “I feel like the situation was a little disrespectful toward students, faculty and staff that have given up a lot to protect themselves and others. I have had several professors ask us to be mindful of wearing masks because they have small unvaccinated children. I am more than happy to do my part to protect everyone, but it seems like our hard work is being undermined by people not wearing masks at a large on-campus event like this. We have given up a lot of our college experience to protect others, and I think we deserve more recognition and respect for that.”

Coody-Anders affirmed that Trinity did not condone the actions of the alumni who were not wearing masks while indoors. However, since every attendee at Alumni Weekend had to present a negative COVID-19 test, even those who were fully vaccinated, ultimately the situation likely presented little risk to the Trinity community. Despite this, Coody-Anders asserts Trinity’s continuing need to commit to the current ProtecTU protocols.

The circulation of the incriminating photos during Alumni Weekend have reignited the campus debate regarding whether or not masks should be required by those who are fully vaccinated in indoor settings. For now, however, the indoor mask protocol remains in place at Trinity as the possibility of a winter surge in cases has led campus officials to remain cautious when reconsidering COVID-19 policies.

“Those of us who are living, learning and working on campus, we do have a protocol to follow, and we do have to do that for now until we are clear about winter trends and we can get vaccinations for 5-11 year olds,” Coody-Anders said.