A group of students who are or have been directly involved with the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union Entertainments Committee (TCDSU Ents) have brought forth a petition this week, with the goal of calling a referendum in the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) in favour of a reformed Ents position.
Trinity News spoke with Tony Gleeson, one of the petition’s main proponents and organisers, to better understand the proposal and its goals.
Currently, a singular, full-time paid sabbatical Ents officer is elected at the same time as all other TCDSU sabbatical officers, and their job is to take on the organisation of events throughout the year, culminating in Trinity Ball. The petition aims to promote instead the election of four part-time paid officers who would split the work of this office in order to plan events.
As third-year zoology student Gleeson put it, he saw “mediocre levels of engagement when it came to Ents events”, a problem that he feels that “everyone, second and first-years, can vouch for”.
As OCM for the Ents committee last year, he understood that on more than one occasion, the Junior Common Room (JCR) and residents of Halls “saved our asses” by providing attendance to Ents events.
Additionally, as Gleeson maintained that Ents committee members find little success in contacting students via email or Facebook and must instead rely on communication between SU heads and students to gauge student response to events, he quoted that the main problem of the current Ents arrangement is “inclusion, communication and just an overall structure.”
“If we fix the structure, everything else is going to fall in place,” he claimed.
Gleeson continued: “I knew that there was a problem that needed to be dealt with and I didn’t know what the answer was.”
While he was Ents officer for the Dublin University (DU) General Science Society and OCM of Ents, he feels that he still wasn’t “in the know” enough to understand why there were noticeable problems with Ents.
Raphi Patterson, however, had his own approach to this situation.
As last year’s treasurer to the Ents officer, which he describes as “basically consultant to the Ents officer” who does “very little treasurering”, he had “more insight” to the inside workings of Ents that allowed him to look to other organisations for inspiration.
By requiring students who run for one of the newly proposed Ents officers to have had at least one year of experience prior to running, this would ensure a combined total of four to eight years of experience, rather than the zero to two years of experience in the case of the current election process.
In the proposal for referendum, the four officers would have equal roles in the following positions: Head of Operations, Head of Planning, Head of Community and Head of Marketing and Communications.
As Gleeson detailed, the Head of Community “organises societies’ involvement in Ents events” and will “most likely liaise with DUDJ (Dublin University DJ Society) for DU events”. The role will provide advice on event planning for societies upon request and help other members of the leading committee as they see fit.
The Head of Marketing, will create marketing plans, which Gleeson admits has been “a bit of an issue that we’ve had with Ents the past couple of years”. As the petition provided to students stated, the budget for Trinity Ents is €200,000 a year and typically provides a return of only €210,000 to €220,000.
Additionally, the Head of Marketing will deal with “press releases for large scale events when relevant and writing Ents-related business SU emails”. Gleeson believes that communication via email with students is of prime importance as its purpose is to “let them know that Ents is always there and to let them know what we’re going to be doing”. ,
The Head of Marketing will also. be in charge of running social media pages.
The Head of Planning is “overall in charge of planning events including T-Ball and Freshers’ week”, and they will be responsible for coordinating a plan for the academic year to be released on Freshers’ week. Furthermore, their job will include “reporting to the union forum and the SU at every council”, and booking venues and developing art installations for events.
“Last but not least” is the Head of Operations, who is to be “in charge of running the events and nights of Trinity Ents and be responsible for the implementation of the exact plans for that night”. They would also be responsible for ensuring safety for nights out, which is of great importance when planning events for students.
Along with the support of a select few current and past Ents officers, including secretary Colin Hart, Public Relations Officer (PRO) Darragh Clark, Nights Officer Cíana Luskin, former secretary Cal Hennessy and former treasurer Greg Murphy, Gleeson and Patterson have brought their plan forward for discussion with the current Ents officer, Hugh McInerney. However, although they offered him the opportunity to support their cause, he has maintained a neutral stance and has advised his fellow TCDSU sabbatical officers to do the same.
Before implementing any other plans to do with the referendum, Gleeson maintained that the main priority of those backing the petition is to “make sure that the current Ents officer runs his course for the year” as its supporters still want to ensure that their proposal “doesn’t harm or affect anyone”.
After this, however, the petition’s creators hope to hold an AGM in order to bring in a new committee of four Ents officers. As Gleeson stated, he believes that the new positions “have to be strong in order for [them] to really kick off in the next year”, but if the AGM were to be successful, “the possibilities are endless”.
In total, four officers whose work is divided equally would have the job to “address the issues that one officer cannot handle”. Gleeson claimed that in this situation, the “job title is what they do”, whereas, in the case of a singular Ents officer, their job spans so widely that “sometimes the Ents officer may forget what they have to do”.
So far, the movement has gained the most traction on the Instagram page introduced on September 28. As Gleeson was the first member to have been “tagged” on the social media page, he reported that he has been approached by a considerable number of students asking for more information or congratulating him.
Gleeson was confident to report the reaction that the group has received so far. He revealed that further action is planned to be taken after Freshers’ Week ends because, given the current situation, both events are organised entirely online.
“We don’t want to be drowned out; we want to have a clear line of communication with the students, especially freshers because this will affect them most once it comes into play,” he affirmed.
Current freshers would be impacted most by a change in the Ents committee because, after this year, those who are advocating for the referendum now have little time left at Trinity.
“You know, I might not join Ents next year,” said Gleeson. “Most of us only have 2 years left in college; after that it’s done, we’re done, we have nothing to do with university anymore. So we want to do this now to set up the society.”
Patterson added that he’s put three years of his life already into supporting Ents, and if this referendum were to pass, he hopes that it will “go well in the future”.
Both students spoke of the past when looking to the future: Gleeson hopes to “reinvigorate” Ents and watch it “come back from the ashes and have really strong links with the student body”.
Additionally, he expressed hope that Ents would be brought down from its position of what he sees as “high and mysterious” or even “intimidating” and instead “really let people know that Ents is listening to those people and not just throwing club events here and there”.
If the petition reaches 500 student signatures, it will be sent to the Electoral Commission (EC) to become a referendum. At this point, the EC will have 2 to 5 weeks to call a referendum on the proposal, after which the SU constitution will be amended in favour of the students’ proposal.
Raphi Patterson approached past Ents officers David Flood and Judith Robertson, both of whom expressed disdain for the new ideas and chose not to support the program. However, as Gleeson stated, the petition has already gained considerable traction among students within the past few days.
Gleeson claimed that the problem of low student engagement at events would be “continuous” if not for the adoption of four part-time officers.
“Every Ents officer will face this problem and they’re just going to look at it like ‘there’s no real solution’,” he claimed. “This is the solution.”
He concluded by saying that he hoped to remind students that “a person who is running for the election to become SU Ents officer doesn’t need any prior experience to run the society” and that he believes this is the main problem.
“What happens is there’s a couple events that you need to organise that will make profit, which will be Freshers’ week, Refreshers, maybe Halloween, and Trinity Ball. Within these time periods, you have room for failure… That’s where Ents officers will fall.”
However, in the case of four officers whose combined experience equals at least four years, he believes that there is little opportunity for failure.
When comparing the prerequisites of totaling either zero to one year of experience versus four to eight years of experience, Gleeson claimed that it should be “an absolute no-brainer”.
“Who would they go for? Either an Ents officer who has to juggle four pretty much specialised roles, or four students who have four to eight years of combined experience having to deal with their own specific roles… which one would have better quality of events throughout the academic year? I think it’s kind of a no-brainer there.”
The petition continues to gain traction throughout the first week of term, and as it approaches 500 signatures, the next steps in the process to approve a referendum are at stake.