Issues of internal debate, respect and wellbeing discussed at Council

The discussion item was brought forward by S4C’s chair László Molnárfi and Rían Errity

This evening, Trinity College Dublin Student Union (TCDSU) Council discussed issues regarding debate, respect and wellbeing.

The discussion item was brought to Council by chair of campaign group Students4Change (S4C) László Molnárfí and Rian Errity, expressing a need “to create an atmosphere where (…) no member feels ostracised or unwelcome”.

Speaking at the meeting, Molnárfí said: “I’ve been glared at, had personal attacks used against me when debating, bad-faith arguments used when arguing against my motions. I have been dogpiled at Council, in the Zoom chat of meetings and with the #yupcouncil Twitter hashtag.”

“There are a slew of passive-aggressive messages on the latter if one takes a look, and they are about me.”

“I’ve seen screenshots of me being called ‘mentally ill’ as a slur” he added.

Molnárfí concluded: “There is one set of standards for those who fall in line and a different one for those who are viewed as being critical. By themselves, these are one off-incidents, but together, they add up to a culture of the strictest dictatorship.”

Welfare and Equality Officer Sierra Mueller-Owens spoke on the issue as well, saying that “it is a really good time to reflect on how to respect others as well as how to remind others to respect you”.

“In general, on social media, slack and in person, we need to remember that we are all here for the same reason; to make students’ lives better” Mueller-Owens continued.

TCDSU President Leah Keogh spoke as well, saying: “I don’t think we’re a council that doesn’t accept opposition – we are the opposition, when it comes to College.”

“The only way that we’ll get through is to engage. There will be hiccups on the way, but we’ll get through it” Keogh added.

Several issues were discussed in Molnárfí and Errity in their written submission to Council, such as Council procedure, clarity in voting, hybrid council, respectful debate, wellbeing, and speaker time limits.

In regards to hybrid council, the pair believe “it is time that [TCDSU] open up a meta-discussion regarding council procedure, to ensure those at home and here in-person feel equally empowered to participate”.

With regard to respectful debate, the item says: “for interactions that are constructive, everyone should refrain from chatting on Zoom, snapping their fingers or posting on #yupcouncil during debates so that no one is ‘dogpiled’”.

Molnárfí and Errity believe time limits to be “disconductive to debate at Council, since it means that those speaking might not be able to fully share their thoughts”.

They propose that the SU “should strive to allow as much time for debate as possible”.

Additional reporting by Jack Kennedy, Kate Henshaw, Grace Gageby, Ellen Kenny, Connie Roughan and Caroline Higgins.

Bella Salerno

Bella Salerno is currently a Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Fresh Middle Eastern, Jewish and Islamic Civilisations and French student.