The second Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Council of the year saw students vote to allocate funds to wheelchair fencing, while a motion to lobby for the new national maternity hospital to be publicly owned was halted as a result of a loss of quorum. There was also a discussion on the recently published TCDSU accounts and pharmacy student fees.
A motion to introduce wheelchair fencing in Trinity passed at Council, which would establish Trinity as Ireland’s only centre for wheelchair fencing. The initiative requires a total of €17,497.79 in funding, which is to come from the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
A motion to “lobby and campaign for the public ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital and for it to be governed by a secular character” was not voted on due to a failure to meet quorum. The issue was realised subsequent to the vote on wheelchair fencing.
TCDSU President Shane De Rís presented the union’s 2017/18 accounts, which saw the union run up a deficit of €70,622, over four times the deficit of the previous year. De Rís attributes the “extraordinary deficit” to spending on the Repeal referendum and the Take Back Trinity protests, which cost the union €20,125 and €10,615 respectively. The University Times ran a loss of €16,569 last year, which does not include the costs of the editor’s salary and accomodation.
TCDSU Education Officer Aimee Connolly presented the second annual class rep elections report, which identified several recurring issues in the elections. Problems raised this year included lack of engagement, ballots arriving late on the first morning of polling, an out-of-date management system and errors on ballot papers. The report gives recommendations for how these areas may be improved in future years.
Connolly outlined the union’s intent to look at an expansion of polling times and building an online voting system. Social Work class rep Maria Cullen raised the issue of some students not being aware that class rep elections are taking place, to which Connolly detailed how the information is made available on the union’s social media, through lecture addresses, and during Freshers’ Week.
Connolly presented new adjustments to the Student Partnership Policy, an agreement between College, TCDSU and the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) in working jointly to support students’ experience in college. The updated document reflects the new role of
Academic Senators as student representatives on academic affairs. It also introduces a commitment to “widen understanding” on how College is governed and how College and the students’ unions collaborate, noting that in the last academic year “students showed a desire to participate in high-level decision making and quality enhancement across the University”.
Outlining the role of TCDSU, the latest version of the Student Partnership Policy adds that TCDSU is to “run all of the SU’s social media” and removes the stipulation that it will “liaise with the University Times Editor to produce the University Times”.
Connolly explained to Council that the “idea [of the policy] is that students are seen as equal stakeholders in their education” and that “the theme for this year is transforming student engagement and enhancing participation in governance”.
Pharmacy Convenor Lara Moehle brought forward a discussion item on TCDSU supporting pharmacy students regarding unpaid work placements and increases in Masters’ fees, a year which is integrated with the undergraduate degree and mandatory to practice as a pharmacist.
Speaking to Trinity News, Moehle outlined that pharmacy students cannot accept payment for work placement and that students who who do so may be sanctioned “Each of us is facing a net deficit of €25,000, due to the increase of masters fees from €3,000 to €8,500,” said Moehle. International Students’ Officer Molly McCrory raised that the issue is compounded for international students. De Rís proposed a motion to mandate TCDSU to support pharmacy students in lobbying for paid work placement and fee stabilisation.
TCDSU Communications and Marketing Officer Paraic McLean raised the idea of eliminating the Irish language translation of the union’s weekly email. He explained that the Irish language version is rarely read, noting move from 40 people reading it in Week One to very few clicking it on a weekly basis. He noted that “formatting is a very tedious job” and the resulting costs which ensue from translation warranted it being cut.
Class rep for Political Science and Geography Jack Dolan responded that eliminating the translation would lead to “Irish speaking students [feeling] ostracised”, while De Rís presented the idea of setting up a separate mailing list for students who wished to read the email through Irish. A suggestion was made by an attendee at Council that the Oifigeach na Gaeilge Cúnla Morris be asked whether they would consider accepting a pay cut or no pay for the translation work.
Oifigeach na Gaeilge Cúnla Morris stressed the importance of the Irish language translation, stating that “Trinity is known as being a Protestant and English college and it is important to respect Irish and maintain it as an Irish university”. They noted that Irish is a minority language that that students are “trying to reclaim [their] Irishness”. McLean acknowledged the mass support shown for the translation and determined that it would not be cut.
Access Officer Daire Hennessy raised a discussion item on College Awareness Week. Speaking to Trinity News, Hennessy outlined that the week aims to “encourage people from under-represented groups to consider going to college” and to show that “college is for everyone that wants to go”.
Presenting the item to Council, Hennessy explained that “lots of primary and secondary school students don’t have family members who have attended college and it isn’t within their prospects”. Hennessy continued to note the various routes through which people access college, saying that “it’s not just through the leaving cert that people make it to Trinity”.
Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) Vice-President for the Dublin Region Colm O’Halloran was voted in as an external member to Council. He announced that USI is looking to organise a campaign on reducing fees for pharmacy students.
Council took place this evening in the Stanley Quek theatre of the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI).
Additional reporting by Debra Daly, Finn Purdy, Peter Kelly, Ciaran Sunderland, and Niamh Lynch.