Analysis: The SU’s €70,622 deficit explained

What the deficit means for the average student

“The SU should be prepared to deal with unprecedented needs to spend on salient activist issues such as Repeal and Take Back Trinity without running up a deficit that will cripple the Union for the coming years. It should not be at the behest of the incumbent to determine how important an issue is in terms of “discretionary spending”.

“The financial levies that have been aimed at students – postgraduate fees and repeat exam fees – had to be fought off by students. What is evident is that the problem lies not with students, but with mismanagement at bureaucratic levels. It is students who will face cuts to their services”.

The deficit which TCDSU has worked under since 2015/16 puts a serious strain on the functioning of the Union. The momentous deficit of this year, of €70,622, calls the legitimacy of the Union into question, particularly in the wake of a year where referendum on mandatory membership was only narrowly defeated. As the report states, the Union’s “long term viability” is at stake. If the Union cannot return a surplus via managing its accounts correctly, student services, which all students financially contribute to, are at risk.

The funding of the University Times (UT) remains an ongoing debacle, as the funded Editor position was never fully planned for, and UT continues to have issues raising revenue, in the form of advertising. The benefits of healthy student newspapers who can compete and provide different angles are clear, but not when the huge spending does not result in a paper which can sustain itself. “Trojan” efforts may have been made but the figures do demand reconsideration of UT’s budget.

UT’s deficit of €16,569 will once again raise the question of the necessity of such a large print budget for UT. With most students accessing content online, the need for so many papers to be printed will be questioned by students. The deficit does not include the fully paid editorship, which includes accommodation on campus.

The funding of student activism, particularly Repeal, appears to have strained the budget last year. The referendum was clearly a turning point for student activism, but the extent of the spending does raise questions. Given the huge amount of funding generated by Together for Yes, what exactly was this money needed for? Can we expect the SU to put so much weight behind other issues it is mandated to campaign for?

Spending on the Take Back Trinity movement would be seen by most as a necessity. The campaign paid off, and students will save thousands of euro each year as a result. The SU should be prepared to deal with the unprecedented needs of salient activist issues, such as Repeal and Take Back Trinity, without running up a deficit that will cripple the Union for the coming years. It should not be at the behest of the incumbent to determine how important an issue is in terms of “discretionary spending”.

Previous sabbatical officer teams have tried as much as possible to chip away at the glaring budget deficit, with Kieran McNulty’s SU halving the deficit of the previous year. Getting to a point where the SU was not held back by budgeting issues has been a priority for some time, and must continue to be if it is to maintain clout in its influence on decisions made about how student money is actually spent. However, this set of accounts is undoubtedly a setback.

The profitability of several shops, such as the Hamilton shop, Click, and the House Six SU shop, was previously in dire straits. Some of these have returned to at least making some profit, apart from the Hamilton shop and the SU Café.

The SU deficit is regrettable, but must be set in context, it pales in comparison to the deficit of Trinity itself. The latest Financial Statement from the 2016/17 year reported a €4.9m deficit. The poor state of financial affairs in Trinity is a systemic issue that students should be concerned about. The financial levies that have been aimed at students – postgraduate fees and repeat exam fees – had to be fought off by students. What is evident is that the problem lies not with students, but with mismanagement at bureaucratic levels. It is students, unfortuantely, who will face cuts to their services.

Alice Whelan

Alice Whelan is the current Comment Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Sophister Sociology and Political Science student, and a former Deputy Comment Editor.