The College Board has passed an amendment in the College Conduct and Regulations which will increase the Junior Dean’s power to discipline students.
The amendment, which was officially past at September 16th’s board meeting, makes an addition to paragraph four of Section Three. The paragraph now includes the ability to discipline: “Actions of students responsible for, or contributing to, the activities of student publications and/or student societies and/or sports clubs which may be injurious to the health, safety and welfare of any person.”
The addition comes less than a year after Trinity News revealed that the Junior Dean, Dr. Emma Stokes, had gone outside of her power to discipline Andrew Booth, the then-Editor of Piranha! magazine.
At the time, it was revealed in an email by Dr. Stokes herself that “following a request for legal advice, I understand that, under current arrangements, the Office of the Junior Dean does not have a role in dealing with what you, as Editor, allow to be published”.
Dr. Stokes has now succeeded in her bid to legally increase her ability to discipline, something which is a cause of concern for many students. Luke Maishman, Chairperson of Trinity Publications, feels that this addition will limit the fundamental rights as students.
According to Maishman, such a move “represents a creeping censorship that is a blow to our proud tradition of freedom of speech in Trinity College.” Such freedoms, he believes, are the “foundation stones of an enlightened community.”
Sally-Anne Fisher of the Communications Office defended the addition, saying that the College has a “duty of care to its staff and students to ensure that the College is a safe environment in which to work and study.”
Asked as to the reasons the College felt it was necessary to increase the Junior Dean’s power further, Ms. Fisher replied that it was necessary for the College to “specifically define all students who would come within the remit of the Junior Dean should there be an alleged action which would be injurious to the health, safety and welfare of any person.”
Graduate Student Union’s President Ronan Hodson said that he and then-Welfare Officer Orlaith Foley had been invited to discuss the intended changes by the Acting Secretary last July. As their respective unions raised no objections, Hodson and Foley felt that the addition “made good sense”.
Trinity Publications are not the only student representation wary of such a move. Student Union President Conan O’Broin has also expressed concern with the Junior Dean’s new powers.
“I would like to state that this decision was taken prior to this year’s sabbatical team taking office.” O’Broin continues, saying that “the Student Union will be monitoring the situation closely” to ensure that the new powers will be used in a manner that is “keeping with the intentions of the Board of the College when granting them.”
The Junior Dean was not available for comment and did not attend the Board meeting on Wednesday 16th September.