Trinity College Preserves Neighborhood Outreach Efforts
August 11, 2005
By OSHRAT CARMIEL, Courant Staff Writer
For officials at Trinity College, the timing was unfortunate.
Several grants that paid for many of the college's well-regarded
neighborhood outreach programs were to expire in June just as
the college found itself in the middle of an unexpected fiscal
A committee of minds convened and weighed what to do.
Trinity can't afford to keep them going indefinitely, they agreed.
But the school also couldn't afford to let those programs expire.
"Withdrawing all support from activities currently funded
by expiring soft money would have severe effects on our relations
with the neighborhood and city and our image in the media," reads
the May report by the Trinity Urban Review Committee, colloquially
And so, quietly, the college decided to merge some urban programs
and fold their costs into the school's thin-stretched operating
budget for the current fiscal year - a year in which staff and
faculty will see no pay raises and tuition costs will rise.
"If an institution has a number of programs which it views
as being good programs, you have to provide an external review
of those programs and decide how and whether to continue them," said
Paula Russo, vice president of planning, administration and affirmative
action who also chaired the review committee.
Though no urban programs have been eliminated this year, the
very existence of a report on their merit has reverberated in
the world outside the college gates. Trinity's urban involvement
- crowned by the construction of The Learning Corridor - has
come to be seen as such a staple in its neighborhood, that any
alterations command notice.
The report circulated through the community and made the cut
for discussion on a morning news radio talk show, featuring Hartford
Mayor Eddie A. Perez as a guest.
The programs in jeopardy when
the college's fiscal year ended in June were: the Trinfo Café,
a neighborhood technology and computer center; the Trinity
Center for Neighborhoods, which uses students and faculty to
help with neighborhood research and fact-gathering for the
local community groups; and the Cities Data Center, which collects
and maintains statistics about Hartford.
All were heavily supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which
provided grant funding to the college for urban programs since
1995, Russo said. The foundation grants, which Russo said are
not meant to be perpetual, expired in June.
The committee decided that
Trinfo Café and the Trinity
Center for Neighborhoods were too important to let lapse. It
recommended merging the two programs and supporting them through
the college's operating budget. The cost is about $200,000, Russo
said, which is dedicated largely to running Trinfo Cafe.
Also included in the operating budget is a staff salary for
a full-time coordinator of the college's community learning initiative,
which aims to connect classroom studies with the surrounding
neighborhoods, Russo said.
The committee recommended that the initiatives be funded by
the operating budget for up to three years while they search
for other grants to sustain themselves.
The data center will be absorbed into the college, under the
auspices of the library.
"I don't see it as pulling back [from Hartford], I see
it more as recalibrating," said John Dougherty, associate
professor of educational studies at Trinity, who was not a member
of the review committee, but read the report.
The committee also evaluated other Trinity-affiliated urban
programs, whose grant funding was not about to expire. The committee
determined that programs such as Gateway to the Humanities and
Academy of Lifelong Learning, which open classes up to low-income
and adult learners, and Dream Camp, a summer camp for city kids,
certainly have merit.
"However, in a time of limited resources, the committee
believes that these programs have a lower priority," the
committee report reads.
Once the grant funding expires for those programs, the college
cannot consider paying for them with operating funds, the report
said. Those programs must find outside funding to survive, it
Perez, who worked on urban initiatives for Trinity prior to
his political career, said recently that he understood the initial
measures taken by the college.
"That's what we do here" Perez said, referring to
the city. "When we don't have enough money, we have to look
Still, he would like to chat
with Trinity President James F. "Jimmy" Jones
Jr. about any future changes to neighborhood involvement.
"I haven't called him yet, but I am going to give him a
holler," Perez said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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