Almost one third of Students’ Union Class Rep positions are unfilled and four out of twenty four School Convenor positions are lying vacant.
According to the Union’s own figures, there are a nominal 428 Class Rep positions available, spread through Trinity’s undergraduate courses. Each year within a degree programme is entitled to elect at least one representative, with up to four allocated to large courses such as Science or BESS.
The Union provides training (in the four-star Carlton Hotel, as reported in our last issue) and asks these reps to act as a link between students and their Union, and between their class and the College.
Class Reps are expected to attend SU Council, although anecdotal evidence suggests that many do not go to these meetings. They are also encouraged to attend meetings of their School to represent student interests, and have access to their class’s mailing list.
Of these 428 positions, approximately 130, or 30%, are currently unfilled. There is a wide discrepancy across different faculties and year groups; very few Junior Freshman classes lack a Class Rep, whereas only 52 out of 110 Senior Sophister classes have one. Not one Greek or Latin class is represented. For Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, by contrast, there is a Class Rep for every year group.
Jilly Fleming, the Class Rep for SS Mathematics, is one of those who takes their role seriously, attending SU Council and faculty meetings regularly.
She says that those classes without a rep sometimes have somebody who takes it upon themselves to carry out most of a rep’s functions “without being officially elected.” As a rep for her JS class in 2008/09 as well, she finds that “a lot comes up at the start of the year with timetable issues and stuff like that,” but in general the job is not overly taxing.
Caroline Crowley was a rep for JS Law in the last academic year, but did not run again this year; SS Law is now one of those classes without a rep. She says that “there’s not a lot required of you as a Class Rep, but to be honest I wouldn’t bother doing it again.” She thinks that while reps have an important role to play for JF classes to encourage class bonding, in Sophister years “people are getting lazier.” She cites poor take-up on a class trip to Edinburgh she helped organise as a key reason for her disappointment with the Class Rep experience. “I didn’t consider the job very rewarding.”
According to SU Education Officer Ashley Cooke, “being a Class Rep is a very rewarding experience.” He claims that the number of reps this year is a new record for the Union, pointing out that “to suggest interest is low is to ignore the huge numbers of students [around 500] that ran.”
He echoes the comments of Ms. Fleming as regards “unofficial” reps, saying that some Schools organise reps purely to attend School meetings.
Some SS classes are not represented for logistical reasons: “If you take JS and SS CMM you will find that there are only 2 students in each year.” Noting that an increase in academic workload is a key factor in a lack of SS representation, he also feels frustrated that “involvement in the capitated bodies is not encouraged or rewarded by the College.
“Nevertheless, final year can see a lot of challenges for students and it is important that every class is represented.”