“Patently absurd:” provost dismisses several student media stories

He made comments about “fake news” at the scholar dinner yesterday

 Provost Patrick Prendergast appears to have brushed aside several stories published  by student media this year, including allegations of sexual harassment against Sean Ryan and students being locked into the Dining Hall during its occupation. 

At the scholars’ dinner yesterday, the provost mused on the impact of social media in spreading fake news, before dismissing claims that a €1.95 million penthouse apartment was purchased for him by College last year. He claimed the story originated as a tweet, before stating: “Anyone with even passing acquaintance of Trinity would know to laugh, but the story was picked up by the national media.”

The information regarding the purchase of a €1.95 million building was reported  by The University Times in December 2016. According to a document submitted to the College Board last May, the property was bought with the intention of generating an annual rental income of €85,000. Trinity News reported in March that the provost stayed there on occasion due to the Luas works. A spokesperson for College said at the time: “Due to noise levels caused by the Luas works the Provost on occasion stays in campus accommodation.”

The provost also criticised “the claim, also tweeted, that students were locked into the Dining Hall” during the Take Back Trinity occupation of the building. “One tweet I saw even said that armed guards were coming,” he said.

He asked the crowd of scholars, fellows and Trinity employees: “Should college officers have retaliated with claims that students were beating up professors and burning the library?…Call me humourless but that doesn’t seem like any kind of a solution to me.”

“Are these kind of patently absurd claims the ‘new normal’? Are we supposed to slide happily into a ‘post-truth’ era where people can put out this stuff with impunity?” he asked.

Protesters were informed by Trinity security that any attempt to open certain internal doors would trip an alarm that would alert a garda emergency response team, according to Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Kevin Keane and several Take Back Trinity protestors, as the building houses Trinity’s silverware.

Finally, he also raised questions over an “unsubstantiated allegation” of sexual harassment against former TCDSU presidential candidate Sean Ryan, which was first published by Trinity News. “It should concern all of us that precisely that which makes social media so effective – its reach and its speed – can also be used unfairly,” Prendergast stated.

In response to the provost’s comments, Keane said: “This is an extremely disappointing development. The provost has been utterly tone deaf in his comments. I didn’t hear the speech myself, as it was given at the scholars dinner, but as they have been reported, I reject the substance and philosophy behind them.”

College had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

This article was updated at 11:22am on April 10, 2018. The original article implied that Trinity News claimed the €1.95 million building was bought for the provost due to the Luas works, a claim this newspaper never made. The building was not purchased specifically for the provost.

This article was updated at 12:31am on April 11, 2018. The original article stated that Tom Molloy, Trinity’s Director of public affairs and communications, confirmed the purchase of a home by college. This was incorrect and the article has been updated to reflect that. 

Aisling Grace

Aisling Grace is the current Online Editor of Trinity News. She is a Junior Sophister English Literature and History of Art and Architecture student, and a former Deputy News Editor.