At a meeting this evening, Students Against Fees outlined their plans for the near future and moved to a more formal structure. The meeting, titled “How we can win in our fight for free education”, was attended by around 20 students. It comes after the USI’s “Education Is” march on October 19th, which saw an estimated attendance of 10,000-12,000 students. A formal committee was elected to organise the group, having chosen not to adopt a formal structure at the final meeting of the last academic year.
Séan Egan was elected as Chair, Conor Reddy as Secretary, Ais Shanahan Daly as PRO and Stacey Wrenn as Events Organiser. Séan Egan explained that the immediate goal is to “urgently, in the next few weeks, reinvigorate our campaign and reintroduce ourselves to the students of Trinity.” The group agreed to write a ten-point manifesto over the next week explaining their goals, principles and plan. The group also considered the possibility of returning to the TCDSU Class Rep council with another motion or discussion topic to rally further support.
Egan stated: “After the success of the USI march, the importance of a radical, democratic, grassroots student movement that can campaign within the cracks of the USI, and further those aims, and can really fight for the students across Ireland that will be shafted by the drift towards income contingent loans. Our focus needs to be building up the movement and engaging the student body.”
The group agreed to step up engagement with social media, hold stalls and distribute leaflets in the run up to the end of Michaelmas term. Egan explained: “The draft manifesto is an attempt to reaffirm our commitment to free at the point of access, accessible education and to talk about deeper issues like educational accessibility and democracy in third level institutions.”
Commenting on the decision of the Irish Universities Association (IUA) to support the introduction of a student loan scheme, Egan said: “I think it’s disgusting that Patrick Prendergast, someone who oversees the most elitist institution in Irish third level where a third of students were privately educated, is advocating for the introduction of income contingent loan schemes and the resulting student fee hikes which will make education even more unaffordable and unattainable.”
The group voted to hold a large scale protest action before the reading week of Hilary term, either a march or an assembly in Trinity, and to begin rebranding with a new logo and banner.