The Central Societies Committee (CSC) today asked student societies to remove colours associated with the movement for LGBT equality from their logos, Trinity News has learned. The ruling came after several societies changed the logos displayed on their social media accounts to incorporate the colours of the rainbow flag ahead of the marriage equality referendum on May 22nd.
In emails seen by Trinity News, societies that had taken part in the initiative were asked to return to using their official colours in logos. “I know we all support marriage equality, but I’m afraid a society is not allowed to espouse a political opinion,” societies were told. “A society is made up of the members, and a committee cannot take a political stance as it may not be representing the views of each and every member.”
Among the societies that have changed their logos in support of the marriage equality campaign are the College Historical Society (Hist), the Medical Overseas Voluntary Electives (Move), DU History, Trinity Orchestra, Suas, the European Law Students’ Association (Elsa), Trinity TV, the Horse Racing Society, Young Fine Gael, the Physics Society (PhySoc), the Law Society, the Genetics Society (GenSoc), the Zoological Society, Trinity Fashion Society, and the Caledonian Society.
The Trinity branch of Amnesty International is an exception to the CSC directive as it is allowed to espouse the views of its parent body.
In a statement to Trinity News, the CSC said: “Societies in College are not permitted to espouse opinions. They are not representative bodies; they exist to further their aims as stated in their Constitutions. Societies are constituted by their members and do not have a mandate to selectively represent opinions that members may / may not have.”
It added: “The Students’ Union is the body that represents student opinion on campus, not societies.”
But Kevin Keane, the second-year law student who began the initiative earlier this week, said: “I think this is the kind of issue that transcends protocol. There is very broad support for marriage equality across the spectrum in college. I feel it’s something worth bending protocol for.”
In a response to the CSC, seen by Trinity News, he added: “I disagree with your classification of this movement as a political one. After all, at no point has there been any reference to any referendum, asking people to vote, or anything else. Rather, this is an embodiment of the widespread support that societies have for the LGBTQ movement in college, nothing more.”
He, along with other members of the marriage equality campaign on campus, are planning to formally respond to the CSC request with the below letter.
To the Central Societies Committee,
On behalf of a number of societies, we would like to respond to your concerns with regard to the use of rainbow colours in society social media images. These images were not edited with the intention of excluding members, nor were they political. We feel that we are trying to be more inclusive towards the LGBT community within our university, without involving politics.
In relation to the upcoming referendum, we disagree with the stance that the rainbow colours are political, as both sides of the referendum have LGBT members. Indeed those opposing the constitutional change have repeatedly claimed that their issue is not with the LGBT community, but with changing an institution. As such, we feel that as a symbol of the LGBT community, the rainbow flag is not a political statement, and we support the rights of individuals from both sides of this debate to belong to a recreational organisation that will not take a stance which they might disagree with for political reasons.
Furthermore, we feel that your stance on LGBT symbolism is damaging to the No campaign, as it implies that only people who support marriage equality support the LGBT community. This is simply not the case.
DU Amnesty, Cancer Soc and Law Soc have so far endorsed the statement, while the Hist in the last hour outlined its reasons for retaining its revised logo in a post on its Facebook page.
Julia McCarthy, the Hist auditor, told Trinity News that the society is ignoring the ruling pending further communication from the CSC. “We have been although we’re ignoring it for the moment. If they threaten us with something we will probably change it back because we can’t afford to piss them off,” she said. “We’re just disappointed in colleges response to this, although we don’t blame CSC for trying to keep societies neutral as I assume there have been complaints.”
Cancer Soc’s Dan McFadden said he responded to the CSC email earlier today “citing that ‘it was a support of the LGBT* community as a minority, and not a symbol of a Yes vote in the referendum, therefore surely it would fall outside of the category of a political stance’.” He added: “I am currently awaiting a response.”
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.
Dee Courtney contributed reporting to this piece.