In 2013, planning permission was placed for the new six-story Trinity Business Building. On the May 23, 2019, it was proudly opened by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. This was a momentous occasion, but as the weeks have progressed it has become apparent that this building has several issues that are difficult to overlook.
A key issue, which became immediately apparent, were the new lecture theatres. The seats in the majority of these rooms are fixed rows of benches, which means students need to shuffle into their seats. For any taller students, leg room becomes an immediate issue. For those who are shorter, the space between the back of the bench and the desk also poses problems, as they are faced with the choice to stretch over or to sit on the edge of their seat. These hard, fixed, plastic benches mean that by the end of a two hour class it is difficult to concentrate due to the discomfort. This is not an environment conducive to active learning.
In the 600 seat-auditorium, there are comfortable individual chairs that each have a small, flimsy desk attached. If leaned on or pushed too harshly, this desk will completely detach. Less than one in twelve of these seats can be used by left-handed students, as over 90% of the seats are designed for use of the right hand. If the left-handed students decide to type their notes as a result, they must bear in mind that there are no plug sockets available.
Lecturers also face issues in this building; there are no whiteboards, despite more than adequate space on the walls. When the I.T. systems fail, which they have done numerous times since the beginning of term, lecturers are therefore left with no alternative. This is an issue for the few business lecturers who have the privilege of being in the Business Building, as many of the business tutorials are still being held in the Arts Block. The new building does not even have lockers for students or a place to store coats.
UCD has an excellent student union shop where you can buy a variety of meal-deals for an affordable price, but Trinity has not taken such an approach, instead opting to charge city centre prices.
Lecturers and students alike have faced problems concerning the signage in the Business Building; many of the doors do not have numbers printed on them. Some lecturer offices simply have their business cards taped to the doors and the room numbers are handwritten onto these cards and no official designation is provided. One of the most interesting of these sign-less rooms is on the second floor. In the planning permission, the floor plan for the building has a room simply labelled “student lounge”. This room, however, has remained completely empty of all furniture and the door firmly locked. It is a marked failure on behalf of the College to see students sitting on the floor outside of this room every day, eating their lunches from their laps. There is nowhere in this building for students to heat food or use a kettle, nor use a vending machine to perhaps buy a coffee.
The new €86 million Trinity Business Building does, however, provide students with a beautiful restaurant Forum, which is packed with healthy options. Less inviting are the prices, which are certainly not “student-friendly”. UCD has an excellent student union shop where you can buy a variety of meal-deals for an affordable price, but Trinity has not taken such an approach, instead opting to charge city centre prices.
It was a missed opportunity to decide on a six-floor-high-ceiling, but no library or place to study. There is room in this 11,400sq metres state-of-the-art building – the average two bedroom apartment is 50 sq metres in size – yet the decision was made that students are to learn and leave.
I have serious reason to believe this building was not built for undergraduate business students to study, but rather as a space for start-ups, executives, conferences, and the generation of revenue.
Are undergraduate students wanted in this building? I pose this as a serious question. It is based on these issues that I have serious reason to believe this building was not built for undergraduate business students to study, but rather as a space for start-ups, executives, conferences, and the generation of revenue. It better serves as a means of soaking up some of the extra students from the overcrowded Arts Block than as a genuinely student-inclusive space.
Aside from this, I think this building reflects the time we live in. It truly is a modern building and third-level education in Ireland is desperately underfunded. The writing is literally on the wall; upon entering the building, you are reminded that the largest donors have been considered above everyone else during the consultation process, as opposed to the students or lecturers. I am not condemning Trinity for making these decisions, attracting industry experts and welcoming top external talent will undeniably help the School of Business as a whole. If Trinity really does facilitate the next Apple or Stripe, all students will benefit from this revenue. At the end of all of this, though, I do feel misled about the purpose of this building. This is an uneasy feeling about Trinity’s priorities, which I also felt when The Perch Café was redecorated for tourists and when there was a plan to introduce fees for students to sit supplemental exams.
There is no doubt that the new Business Building is beautiful. It is sleek, the architecture is modern and future-focused. It is fully accessible for people with disabilities and it is an almost zero-energy building – these qualities should be recognised and applauded. Trinity is on the cusp of starting its new €1 billion campus in the Docklands, and I look forward to one day seeing it. However, I do hope that Trinity remembers that its core will always be its students, and that their educational needs come first.