This Thursday, the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies will hold a staff-student forum in the Synge theatre. The poster for the event describes it to students as an “opportunity to express any concerns you have regarding teaching and learning issues in the School.” This is another positive development following on from the staff-student meeting held to discuss the future of TSM, which I wrote about in an earlier editorial. Communication between students and teaching staff is vital right now. Funding is being cut from various programmes and departments without debate, and a privatising agenda is being strong-armed through the governing bodies of College. Students and teachers are the backbone of any university, and if they do not communicate with each other about what is negatively affecting them both, then there is no chance that they will be to stop it.
We all experience frustration with Trinity as an institution during our time here. While teaching and administrative staff are often very helpful and sympathetic as individuals, there is a sense that College as a whole does not care about us, or even purposefully makes our lives difficult. This can cause division between staff and students. To some disillusioned students, staff can come to represent all of Trinity. They become the face of an institution that wants to take our money while offering very little academic support in return. This is an easy trap to fall into, but it has a negative effect on everyone. Teaching staff, especially those in smaller departments, are suffering hugely because of the funding cuts in recent years. It is wrong to blame them for the problems faced by students. They are being overworked and this is impacting negatively on the quality of education that they can deliver. Many of them are very vocal about this in private, but hesitant to speak out against College publicly.
If staff and students continue to come together to discuss the problems that they have in common, we can create a sense of support and community which will hopefully lead to more people speaking out against College when they do not agree with changes that are being made. It is much less scary to challenge those in power when you know you have the strength of a group behind you. Hopefully staff-student forums like the one being held this week by the SLLCS will continue to occur throughout all of next year. Ideally they would be occurring at department, school and faculty level, with input from the SU and teaching unions. There are enough dissatisfied people in Trinity to begin a participatory movement of real significance. All they have to do is start talking to each other and realise how much they have in common. It is very easy to push through harsh cuts when students and staff are not convinced that they can achieve anything together. If we can begin to move towards some kind of unity, Trinity will begin to look like a very different place.