‘I can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to say “Welcome back” to so many of our students,’ the Master wrote in the first of her weekly emails to all Current Members and staff for Trinity Term.
‘Two weeks ago … we could never have predicted that by the beginning of First Week, we would have more than 90% of Balliol undergraduates back in Oxford. Some students have decided to come back later in term, and others will be taking advantage of the lifting of the University’s residence requirements to remain away for the whole term, but we are delighted that students have been able to choose for themselves.’
While reminding everyone about the Covid-security rules and the importance of following them, she also said: ‘We want to make this gift of a Trinity Term as enjoyable and memorable for all our students and staff as we possibly can. I know that the Praefectus has been developing plans with the MCR, and the Domestic Bursar, Wellbeing/Welfare Officer, and many subject Tutors are already thinking about what might be possible for undergraduates. Social life may become easier in the second half of term, if the current rules are eased after 17 May. Meanwhile we are very happy to support students in their plans for social activities within the rules.’
Teaching will continue to be online for everything but a small number of practical subjects or classes, until 17 May at the earliest. With a handful of exceptions, all exams will be online.
Hall has reopened for breakfast, lunch and dinner (with Covid arrangements still in place: Hall is ‘boothed’ and booking required), and for the first time this academic year there will be student Formal Halls again, once a week on a Tuesday.
The Kitchen staff, the Front-of-House team and the Housekeeping team have all been working hard in recent weeks to prepare for the return of the students. ‘A number of College staff (for example in the Bursary and Development Office) will still be working from home for some or all of the time this term,’ the Master said. ‘Others have been working different shifts during lockdown or been on furlough. To everyone who has kept the College going so successfully over the past few months, thank you so much. Everyone had a part to play, whatever they were doing.’
‘If all goes well,’ the Master concluded, ‘by the time we get to the very end of term in late June, we hope to be able to celebrate in all sorts of ways a healthy and successful term together.’