As a Trinity Access Programme (TAP) student and the first in his family to attend university, Paul Molloy emphasises the unique background he would bring to the role of SU President. The Senior Sophister Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Sociology (PPES) student is current Auditor of the Hist and running on a platform of accessibility, affordability, and accountability.
In an interview with Trinity News, Molloy emphasised his attention to student accommodation. He sees it as an issue on which a lobby group can make headway and plans to work with other student unions to ensure it is a priority, as well as raising it on a national level with TDs. “I think there’s a lot of energy there than can be mobilised, in terms of marching and things like that to make sure it’s in the eyes of the public,” says Molloy. “It’s a case of a multi-prong strategy with a lot of pressure being brought to bear on administrative bodies.” He feels student accommodation is an issue that has gone “under the radar” of previous SUs but is something that he would prioritise.
He stresses the necessity of ensuring that College recognises the importance of student accommodation. “I think the rates that Kavanagh Court were being offered at isn’t acceptable. I think it isn’t acceptable for rooms to go unfilled and for the College to be paying for them either.”
Molloy positions himself as “left-wing,” “pro-Repeal” and “opposed to all increases in fees”. He supports the Aramark Off Our Campus campaign and believes that “to say on the one hand we support access to education and on the other hand support the way Aramark treats individuals in direct provision” is not acceptable. He finds College’s proposal of a €1,000 cap on supplemental exam fees “wholly unacceptable” and “something the SU shouldn’t accept”.
Molloy feels strongly about assisting Student Counselling Services in carrying out its practices. “I think with TEP [Trinity Education Project] we’re going to see far more strain on counselling services when we have Christmas exams coming in…making sure that space is provided for counsellors on campus is something that should be brought to the agenda when it comes to the Estates strategy.”
In relation to the SU budget, Molloy would evaluate expenditure on class-rep training, ensure that the SU’s revenue streams are maximised, and seek to gain more sponsorship for the University Times. “The SU’s debt did come into existence after taking on the UT sabbatical position, so I think it makes sense to look towards UT for balancing [the budget].” Molloy would look to exploring an idea proposed by Kevin Keane, current SU President, of cutting down the print run for the University Times.
“When it comes to the UT as a sabbatical position, that is something that effectively costs around €30,000,” Molloy says. “I wouldn’t be looking to [cut the position] but if you can’t balance the books, you have to make sure that student services are prioritised.” While the office and salary of sabbatical officers falls to the remit of Council, Molloy would not rule out suggesting a change in the position of University Times Editor, although he notes that it is a change he would not desire to implement. “But if it had to be done, you do have to do it,” he says. Molloy is prepared to make “hard choices,” but “would not allow for student services to be harmed when it comes to that.” Molloy emphasises that during his time as Treasurer and Auditor of the Hist, the society has repaid most of its previous debt.
In relation to the SU opt-out movement that has emerged on campus, Molloy expresses that “I do think there is something to be said for the idea of the conscientious objector…But I don’t think that students should be allowed to leave the union. I think there should be ways of accommodating students like that, but I don’t think anyone is helped by the opt-out movement.”
Molloy disagrees with the current strategy of using workshops to tackle disengagement with the SU. According to Molloy, students are disillusioned with the SU because they “don’t have a clue about what it does.” Molloy wants to break down the “insular mentality” he sees in the SU and promises to engage with students on a personal level during Freshers’ Week. “We need people to know what we are first before they’re going to come and get involved…If you’re the SU President, you know there’s going to be this one week in the year where I’m going to be during the day out talking to students, out telling them what the SU does and things like that.”
On the topic of learning from previous challenges, Molloy draws on his time in the Hist to explain lessons he has learned. “When I was treasurer of the Hist, I woke up one morning to a missed call from the Junior Dean because the Hist owed the College €7,000 that we did not know about previously. I think learning how to deal with that in terms of budgeting is something I can bring to the role when it comes to experience in terms of adapting.” He also stresses the importance of patience and not acting rashly when making decisions.
Speaking about inclusivity on campus, Molloy identifies the presence of a “structural bias” in relation to class which he feels can be dealt with. He is concerned about prospective students being dissuaded from attending Trinity due to perceptions of division amongst students which “can be intimidating.” As Hist auditor, Molloy sought to hold a chamber debate for TAP students during their orientation week. Although this did not come to fruition due to scheduling difficulties, he identifies working with TAP as an option that he would look to as SU President, along with outreach to DEIS schools.
Having been offered a medal in October which was subsequently rescinded, Nigel Farage spoke to Trinity students at the invitation of the Hist in February. “I recognise offering the medal was completely the wrong way to go about inviting him,” Molloy admits. “I think what matters is whether or not you recognise when you do something wrong and how you deal with it then. In terms of decision-making, I think most of the decisions I have made as Hist Auditor as ones I would 100% stand by. I think as well if you’re going to be SU President, you’re going to do things that will upset people, that people will look at and look at again.”
Molloy notes that he does not necessarily agree with Farage’s views, and finds “many of them to be deplorable” but stresses the importance of a university campus being “a place of free enquiry”. Molloy feels that it is not the role of the SU President to invite speakers such as Farage.
In response to concerns of students who may not feel represented by a President who has invited a speaker with a history of engaging in hateful or xenophobic behaviour to College, Molloy says that he “would tell them that [he] has done quite a lot as Hist Auditor to make sure that the Hist is a place that is welcoming”, noting that this was the first year the Hist had an equity policy. Additionally, he notes he has “fought for student welfare in going with students to the Junior Dean in cases of bullying” and “marched for the reduction of student fees”.
In October 2017, the Hist decided to remove its gender quota for weekly debates in favour of looking at balance over the course of a term. “It was a decision that was made after conversation and it’s one that I think ultimately has led to more inclusivity when it comes to our chamber debates,” Molloy states. Although Molloy was unaware of the resultant gender balance in last term’s debates, he said he “would presume that it was well above quota”.
“Sexism is not something I tolerate or have any time for whatsoever,” Molloy notes. Does he think women in the Hist feel more represented since the change in quota last term? “I think women feel more represented in the Hist now than they did two years ago. I don’t think they feel less represented by the change. I think they feel it’s a change that hasn’t made them feel uncomfortable. I think it’s a change they’re comfortable with.”