During a hustings event hosted by the faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), Professors Linda Doyle, Linda Hogan, and Jane Ohlmeyer were challenged on how they would improve facilities on campus were they to be elected provost.
Candidates faced a question that claimed that the Hamilton and Goldsmith Hall are “not fit for purpose” and were asked how they would improve these spaces and otherwise enhance the student experience.
Professor Doyle said that she would start with a refurbishment of the buildings, similar to that which recently took place in the Arts Building, stating that “a relatively modest investment can lead to big improvement”. She added that there is “much digital infrastructure missing from our university”, stating that working on this would require “outside investment”. Doyle also committed to delivering a student centre “over the lifetime” of her time as provost.
Professor Ohlmeyer stated that she thought the refurbishment of the Arts Building was “okay”, but she “wouldn’t necessarily” use it as a model for improving the Hamilton and Goldsmith Hall. Touching on what has become a central theme of the campaign, as a position shared by all candidates, Professor Ohlmeyer said that she would reduce student to staff ratios, stating that this was of primary concern for improving the student experience.
Professor Hogan stated that Goldsmith Hall is in a “shocking state” that “absolutely needs to be addressed” by a “radical refurbishment”. Hogan stated that there are “opportunities for significant transformation of our existing space”, but added that “more space is needed”.
In response to a question about where the candidates might derive funding for research, Professor Ohlmeyer responded that having conversations with policymakers and other potential funding sources has become a “crowded landscape” among higher education institutions. Instead, she urged that higher and further education speak with “one voice”.
Additionally, Ohlmeyer highlighted the importance of engaging with a series of enterprises, including Trinity alumni, in order to derive funding.
Professor Hogan added that higher education as a whole is a “radically underfunded system” and that it is important that the public and the government realise this fact. The €40 million that Trinity is currently allotted for funding research, she argued, “needs to be doubled”.
Regarding engaging with the Irish Universities Association (IUA) for funding, she stated that “we cannot be just one more lobby group”. Instead, she argued, universities through the IUA should engage with the government “through the contribution we make”.
Finally, Professor Doyle responded by highlighting the fact that “we don’t have a consistent engagement” in terms of research funding; her promise would be to build this engagement.
Her plan for a research policy interface, she claimed, would offer “enormous opportunity to deepen that engagement”. Through this, she would request €800 million from government in an aim to upgrade facilities.
The candidates were also asked about the “bureaucratic overload” faced by academic staff and how they would reduce this. Professor Ohlmeyer said looking around the country there were examples of universities being run far better at the administrative level. Ohlmeyer said she would first focus on the Academic Registry and Human Resources departments, stating “that’s where the greatest problems are”. She noted that College has “chronically underinvested” in the administrative supports and systems.
Professor Hogan said that she would not implement a “large scale administrative reform project”, adding that these “don’t work”. She said that stripping back the bureaucracy would require “proper diagnosis, attention to detail, integration of systems, and a change of culture”.
Professor Doyle argued that Trinity “loves bureaucracy” and that the current attitude was, “Why have 2 steps when you can have 22?”. Doyle stated that there was a need for a “systematic change” of Trinity’s digital platforms as well as providing training for people in navigating these systems. She stated that she would embark on a “simplification agenda”.
The candidates were asked about their plans for cross-faculty initiatives, with the question citing the examples of the E3 Research Institute and the Cancer Research Initiative. Professor Doyle answered first stating that she is “completely committed” to those two initiatives. She highlighted the potential for development of the Trinity East campus and the opportunities that initiatives such as these present in “allowing clinicians and scientists to work side by side.”
Professor Ohlmeyer spoke next and also highlighted the “phenomenal opportunities” that these initiatives present. She expressed plans to “encourage colleagues to co-teach” across faculties, saying that at the moment they are “punished” for doing so, when they should be rewarded. She continued by saying: “very few universities can get this right but I absolutely believe that Trinity can.”
Professor Hogan continued the discussion emphasizing her commitment to both the Cancer Institute and E3. She stated her plans to empower academic leadership to ensure people have “the authority, the truth and the bandwidth” to carry out these and other cross faculty initiatives. However she also stated that she is “as committed to individual PI research” as she is to larger cross-faculty research initiatives.
This afternoon’s STEM forum was the last in a series of hustings events hosted by the three faculties within College.
The election to appoint Trinity’s next provost will take place on April 10 with the electorate made up of full- time members of academic staff as well as several representatives of the SU and GSU.