TCDSU President disputes UT Oversight Board move

The Oversight Board handles disputes between the newspaper and TCDSU

The University Times (UT) has requested that the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Board of Trustees convene a meeting of the paper’s Oversight Board to hear a dispute between UT and TCDSU following an incident in which UT placed a recording device outside a student’s on-campus accommodation.

The TCDSU constitution outlines that the Oversight Board “shall be convened by the Board of Trustees in the event of a dispute arising between the Union and The University Times”.

Speaking to Trinity News, TCDSU President Shane De Rís explained: “The alleged dispute in this case stems from a comment I wrote in response to students questioning the relationship between the University Times and the Union.”

In the comment in question, De Rís outlined that TCDSU has “no editorial oversight” of the UT and is required to fund both the publication and the position of the Editor in accordance with the TCDSU constitution. He stated: “This can only be changed via college-wide referendum which may be called via Class Rep [TCDSU] Council.” He detailed the date of the next Council and the email address to which motions can be submitted.

“I do not believe informing students, members of the Union, as to the constitutional position of the University Times constitutes a conflict,” De Rís told Trinity News.

“In no way did my comment suggest whether or not such steps should be taken, and even if it did, that is completely within my right to do so.”

“Informing the student body, the membership of the Union, how they can shape that Union is within the remit of all Sabbatical Officers. All information I shared via twitter and facebook (identical wording and message), is readily available online and upon request by any member of the Union,” De Rís continued.

UT is being investigated by the Junior Dean for bugging the apartment of Ben Arrowsmith, a final year Law and Business student who serves as President of the Knights of the Campanile.

The Oversight Board is to include a member of the Law School, an external member with “appropriate background in student publications”, and an external member with “an appropriate background in Students’ Unions”, according to the constitution.

The newspaper approached a faculty member of the Law School on the legality of using information collected from bugging a student prior to the article’s publication. Trinity News understands that the same member of the Law School is to chair the Oversight Board.

The TCDSU constitution states: “The ruling of the Oversight Board is final.”

Speaking to Trinity News, Editor of the University Times Eleanor O’Mahony said: “We have welcomed a full and fair investigation of our reporting, which has been called into question by De Rís [in the comments]. We understand that many members of the union have raised issues with the reporting and so we feel it appropriate to request the Board of Trustees to convene the Oversight Board. I don’t understand why union officers would be opposed to using the oversight mechanisms built into the TCDSU constitution.”

The newspaper published a statement today signed by its senior editorial staff, stating: “We would welcome a full and fair investigation of our reporting methods by the Oversight Board.”

“We understand that the use of a recording device may be concerning to our readers, but it is important to clarify how and why these methods were employed.”

The newspaper, which is funded by TCDSU, published its findings on Friday evening in an article entitled “Knights of the Campanile Implicated in On-Campus Hazing Evening”, following a request for comment by Trinity News.

The article has received significant backlash from students since its publication, which details that UT reporters stood outside Arrowsmith’s apartment in House 37 where they heard “shouted instructions”, before placing a recording device outside the apartment door and waiting upstairs “out of sight for over an hour and a half”.

The Knights of the Campanile is an unofficial society with much of its membership comprising of prominent members of Trinity’s sports clubs.

UT released an article in January detailing allegations of hazing within the Dublin University (DU) Boat Club.

In defence of its recent article, the statement released today states: “Following our reporting on hazing within Dublin University Boat Club, we considered it in the public interest to investigate such practices in other clubs and societies.”

“Shouting from within the apartment, audible from outside the building, made it clear that hazing was occurring inside.”

“As such, reporters from The University Times decided to enter the building in order to fully investigate matters that this newspaper felt – and continues to feel – are in the public interest,” the statement continues.

This article was updated at 5:30pm to include a statement from Editor of the University Times, Eleanor O’Mahony.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.