Take Back Education brings together student activists from across Ireland

The event is led by grassroots campaigns Take Back Trinity and UCD Fair and Free

Take Back Trinity and UCD Fair and Free are co-hosting a “Take Back Education” event on campus today, an afternoon of discussions and workshops on student activism. Over 40 students from six colleges are attending the event.

The event is centred on the topic of “what’s next?” for campus-based activism following successes in student activism this year, particularly Take Back Trinity’s impact on College reversing its decision to implement supplemental fees and the repeal of the eighth amendment.

The workshop commenced at 11am with an introductory session for attendees. Participants then heard from different groups on a range of activist issues, such as anti-racism; housing; workplace and community; the environment; and education and fees.

Speaking to Trinity News, Take Back Trinity spokesperson Conor Reddy explained that the group sees the forum as the “first step” towards a nationwide network of grassroots student activists.

“After the surprising re-emergence of popular student radicalism in Trinity, DCU and Galway this year, we see a very real potential for a mass movement for change on campuses and in wider society. There’s a vibrancy and energy in the air at the minute, among young people especially; driven by victories they helped create, for campus movements and as campaigners in the repeal campaign,” said Reddy.

Speakers at the Take Back Education event today include Joe Caslin, a street-artist who has produced powerful political work, including an image of two men embracing in the lead up to the marriage equality referendum in 2015.

Reddy explained that “the experience of the last few years has rebuilt a sense of agency and potentiality, we’re beginning to realise our collective power,” noting that the housing crisis, climate change, and other influencing factors have breathed new life into student activism.

Speaking of an “absolutely urgent need for social transformation,” Reddy outlined that by forming a network of student activists, “we can channel this resurgent energy and build a force capable of more than just campus level victories”.

“We want to fight together as students on the national level but also go beyond that, to fight with workers, communities and social movements who share our goal of taking back the future and creating a truly democratic society,” Reddy continued.

University College Dublin (UCD) students from campaign group UCD Fair and Free joined Take Back Trinity to co-host today’s event. UCD Fair and Free is currently campaigning for UCD to abolish fees for repeat exams, to remove the student centre levy paid by students, and to promise fee certainty for all students.

Announcing the event, Take Back Trinity and UCD Fair and Free outlined their belief that “with the partial victories of Take Back Trinity against penal fee hikes and the progress made by both DCU and Galway students against mismanagement of student accommodations, a venue is needed to collect ourselves and discuss the respective futures of these movements, where they align, and whether a broader movement is needed going forward”.

This week, Take Back Trinity have been involved in an ongoing housing occupation of 35 Summerhill Parade to protest evictions on the street. Trinity students are among housing activists protesting houses being left vacant while homelessness rises, while concerns over a lack of affordable houses in Dublin recently led Dublin City Council to review its housing strategy.

Take Back Trinity is a grassroots movement which was established following College’s decision to introduce a €450 flat-fee for supplemental exams. College reversed the decision following substantial backlash from students, including protests outside the Book of Kells and a sit-in at the Dining Hall. College also agreed to the Fee Certainty agreement, which would stabilise fees for postgraduate and continuing international undergraduate students, following the success of the Take Back Trinity movement in March.

Discord emerged between students and College last week as College appeared to breach the fee certainty agreement when international and postgraduate students saw fees rise by up to 5%. College decided to reverse the fee increases after outcry from students and a meeting with Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) and the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU). The initial increase reportedly occurred due to a difference in interpretation of the agreement which was reached in March.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland is the current News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Junior Sophister English Literature and Sociology student, and a former Assistant News Editor.