Provost Patrick Prendergast acknowledges the strain higher education is under, apologises for his absence during supplemental exam fee protests and asks for patience in an email circulated to students this evening, following an email with student representatives.
In the email, Prendergast states: “The protests over the last week have been a necessary reminder to us all, staff and students alike, of the financial strain the higher education system is under,” the provost said. “Students have the right to an excellent education that sets them up for a career contributing to society and staff have a right to the resources needed to deliver such an education. Responsibility for this rests primarily with me as an individual and with the Board of the College overall, which is made up primarily of elected representatives of staff and students.”
“This arrangement means that Trinity College is a self-governing university and its fate is in our hands. Financial support from the State continues to be important and now runs at about 40% of the University’s income. We might wish it were higher, and we will continue to engage with the State for an increase but, in the meantime, the College must pay its teaching, research and administrative staff and cannot continue to run a deficit.”
“The academic staff and student representatives put their trust in me when they elected me in 2011 and I feel it more strongly than ever at a time like this. I am sorry that I was in the USA representing Trinity and not in College last week; however I did talk many times by phone with colleagues and with the student leadership.”
“I will honour that commitment. This morning I met again with the student leadership, and I will continue to do so over the coming days and weeks.”
He also stated that while protesting is “an honourable tradition that I respect,” patience is required.
“Your forbearance as we find a solution would be appreciated. I am not asking that anybody wind down their protests – student protest is an honourable tradition that I respect. But I am asking that everybody respects that Trinity belongs to all who study and work here – those that agree with the protests as much as those who disagree with the protests – and that, as a workplace and a place of study, Trinity should be allowed function as we work to find solutions to the issues.”
The provost met with Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Kevin Keane and Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Shane Collins twice today. The Union presidents asked for the €450 supplemental exam fee to be scrapped, no further increase in the cost of on-campus accommodation, and no further cost on non-EU and postgraduate fees.
The meeting and statement follows the provost’s assurance that he would consider alternative proposals to the €450 flat fare for supplemental exams fees, in a tweet sent from his official Twitter account after several protests erupted on campus last Wednesday evening. Students poured into the Examination Hall, blockaded Front Arch and gathered on the Dining Hall steps after it emerged that private security had prevented access to bathrooms and food and water coming in to students occupying the Dining Hall. The occupation ended the following afternoon, after an outdoor concert was held on Front Square.
Entrance through Front Arch has been prevented by protesters several times in the past week, while tourists have been turned away from viewing the Book of Kells due to protesting at its door against the €450 supplemental exam fee.