The first public meeting of the new Students Against Fees group was held Thursday evening, at which members decided that they will bring a new motion before Trinity College Dublin’s Students’ Union (TCDSU) council. The motion will be one which is against the introduction of student loans and increased tuition fees
The meeting was sparked by the defeat of a motion to oppose student loans at SU council two weeks ago.
The vast majority of those present at the meeting voted in favour of a broader motion that would address fees and loans as two halves of one large issue. The exact wording of this motion is to be finalised in the near future.
William Foley, one of the organisers of the group, opened the meeting by mentioning the SU council result and briefly explaining the Cassells Report to those in attendance, which pertains to increased funding for third level institutions via a rise in fees in conjunction with student loans.
He stated that student loans are “always detrimental” to students. He proposed that the new group find a common objective and try to put forward a new, adjusted version of the motion against student loans, which could be addressed at the next SU council.
Oisín Vince Coulter, another organiser of the event, stated that “equality at the point of access” to third level education was the general objective of the group.
The discussion was then opened to the floor. Students gave personal accounts, illustrating how important various access programmes were for some to get into college. A mature student who had left school after his Junior Certificate said that he “wouldn’t have a hope” of getting to where he was now had a loan system been in place.
Examples from abroad of the negative impact that student loans can have were then discussed, with one student from the US saying that the very prospect of the life-long debt that would arise from taking out a loan in the US “scares many away from education” in the first place.
It was agreed that the motion defeated at SU council two weeks ago was too narrow, in that it only pertained to student loans and didn’t talk about fees. It was proposed that the new motion should be a broader one related to anything that could be seen as a financial “barrier” to education.
A few students pointed out that one of the biggest issues around the SU council result was communication, because most students do not attend council and so their “voices were not heard.”
The discussion then turned to strategy. The conversation quickly became one of affirmative action via the mobilisation of the student body and pro-activity. One student stated that were the government to put a loan system in place it would be an “attack on students by the government and should be treated as such.”
Tactics discussed mainly focused on communication, particularly through class representatives focusing more on informing their respective classes of the current political matters discussed at SU councils. Leaflets and “fact sheets” would also be handed out illustrating the “fact versus fiction” surrounding the topic of loans and fees to eliminate any misinformation.