On a particularly hot and humid September evening, under the shade of the visitor-side bleachers, dozens of football players huddled together, bouncing on their tiptoes, ready to storm the field. The crowd in the stands rose.
“Here come the Tigers!” The unmistakable voice of commentator James Hill ’76 boomed over the loudspeaker, accompanied by the sounds of whoops, hollers, claps, and homemade cowbells as the players streamed onto the field, coaches jogging behind them, referees tailing.
Football was back. With fans.
For the first time since the fall of 2019, parents, alumni, students, and friends outfitted in maroon poured into the newly renovated stadium to cheer on Trinity Football.
But not without precautions, of course. Tailgating was nonexistent, and concession stands were closed. Coaches struggled to be heard through their masks, while students sat separated from the general public. Fistbumps were the primary form of greeting.
But when the floodlights flickered on, and “Eye of the Tiger” rang out as players lined up for kickoff, and anticipation crackled through the stuffy, stiff air—for that sweet, special moment, life finally felt normal.
COVID-19 Campus Updates, as of Sept. 15, 2021
By the Numbers
campus vaccination rate
91.9% student vaccination rate; 99.8% employee vaccination rate
people vaccinated during campus vaccine drives from April through September
COVID-19 tests administered on campus since Aug. 1, 2020, with fewer than 200 positive test results
Athletics is just one part of campus finding its footing in Fall 2021. Once again, students are raising their hands in the classroom, dunking friends in Miller Fountain, lining up for Thursday milk and cookies, hanging twinkle lights in their dorm rooms, perusing a printed Trinitonian, and laughing on the lawn. Campus feels alive.
That would not have been possible, Tess Coody-Anders ’93 says, without the entire Trinity community’s buy-in.
“Because we’re a primarily residential community, we think of Trinity as a small town where people learn, live, and play together,” the vice president for Strategic Communications and Marketing said in an interview with KSAT-TV. Coody-Anders also heads up the Nerve Center, Trinity’s cross-departmental task force charged with managing all things COVID-19. “Because we live in that congregate setting, we have to take some extra precautions in order to mitigate the potential for the spread of the virus in our small community.”
Because we’re a primarily residential community, we think of Trinity as a small town where people learn, live, and play together.
Those extra precautions began with a lofty community vaccination goal. The Nerve Center aimed for an 80% vaccination rate by July 1 to begin lowering COVID-19 safety protocols on campus, including a return to in-person living and learning. Tigers met that challenge head-on.
As of press time, more than 96% of the Trinity community—99% of faculty and staff and 92% of students—are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s a number frequently seen by the more than 700 universities around the country that have made the vaccine a requirement for returning to campus.
Trinity, however, had no such mandate.
“I think Trinity people really believe they are part of a community they have an obligation to,” Coody-Anders says. “Whether it’s faculty, staff, or students, people are committed to doing the right thing by each other.”
Whether it’s faculty, staff, or students, people are committed to doing the right thing by each other.
“As a small residential college, Trinity emphasizes community and really values being on campus,” she says. “I think our students wanted to be on campus in a safe way and make this semester successful. They took that call to get vaccinated to say, ‘This is the way that we’re going to do this, together.’”
That’s why, once the Health and Wellness workgroup finally procured a batch of the then-scarce COVID-19 vaccines in April, Tigers flocked to Murchison Hall en masse to get their shot. So far, Trinity’s COVID-19 Health Team has vaccinated more than 1,000 people on campus.
Alongside the high vaccination rate, Trinity implemented numerous safety protocols for the fall, including mandatory masking indoors, baseline testing, and daily health checks. Trinity’s COVID-19 Health Team still diligently tests community members for COVID-19, assists in contact tracing, quarantines exposed students, and creates custom treatment plans for those who test positive. Unvaccinated people undergo weekly surveillance tests.
Even amid the frustration of lifting most of these protocols in the summer and reinstating them once the delta variant began spreading, Coody-Anders says Tigers have held up their end of the bargain.
“The unspoken social contract is real, and it was tested,” Coody-Anders says. “We always talk about relationships and connections being at the heart of the Trinity experience. Well, if anything has ever tested our mettle, it was COVID-19. People rallied—for each other as well as for themselves.”
This community-wide commitment has not only allowed students to return to living and learning on campus, but it has also green-lit various community events. Commencement in spring was the first test, where hundreds of people filled the Multi-Purpose Stadium for graduation on the field. Since then, the University has welcomed thousands of visitors for athletic events, move-in day, and Fall Family Weekend, with the caveat that they, too, follow the safety protocols in place at Trinity.
And when they do arrive, those visitors find a community of Tigers resilient and caring, eager and hopeful, determined to make the most of this time on campus once taken for granted.
Here come the Tigers, indeed.
The top photo is of Trinity Football playing Macalester College in the Tigers' home opener on Sept. 11, 2021. Trinity beat Macalester 64-0 and went on to have an undefeated regular season.