Lack of transparency over student funds highlighted at DUCAC AGM

By Eleni Megoran

A fiery exchange broke out at the DUCAC AGM last week when the Students’ Union raised the issue of where over one million euro of students’ money is allocated.

The money in question is raised by the annual student sports charge of ¤77 paid by each student as part of their registration fee, a stipulation which was introduced by a student referendum in 2007.

The Sports Centre and the Students’ Union started a heated argument on the lack of student representation in the running of the Sports Centre at the AGM. Michelle Tanner, the new head of the Sports Department, has complete control over the allocation of this large sum of student money.

Students’ Union President, Nikolai Trigoub-Rotnem, stated in an interview afterwards that “students give the vast majority of the funding [to the Sports Centre] and [they] have no say at all […] a case of taxation without representation.” He went on to say that the Union has no issue with the sports charge but with the lack of accountability that the Sports Centre has to students. “Students should have a say where their money is going, the sum is massive, and no one has a say.”

Tanner said that the only option for students is the open door policy, through email and the suggestion box in the sports centre. However Trigoub-Rotnem claimed that this informal measure is ineffective, and that it just leads to a talking shop.

With such informal approaches in communicating with the students, Tanner, he argues, is a gatekeeper with the ability to cherry pick suggestions. The lack of student involvement in the Sports Centre, and the ad hoc accountability measures in place, such as reporting to the Finance Committee and Services Committee, further highlights the reasons why the Students’ Union has taken such a firm position on this.

Tanner stated that “We’re the hired professionals that come in, do students go to the health centre and tell the doctor how to treat his patients? Students pay for that service just like they would pay for our services. We are qualified and experienced in our field, likewise the health centre doctor is qualified in his field. There has to be a certain level of trust that we’re doing a good job.” Comments like these suggest an unwillingness to have any formal student involvement in decisions on where the one million euro should go.

In response to these comments, Trigoub-Rotnem said that “students are on the highest committee in College … they trust us to be on that and have our voices heard, and she doesn’t want to have our opinions heard because she feels she is a professional. I think that is offensive that she doesn’t value the voice of the general student.”

Tanner has a certain level of mistrust in the Students’ Union President, stating that “I do not accept that students do not have a say in how sports are run. I think that’s inaccurate, the SU President is looking for something a bit bigger then that. Some power control over our department. I’m not sure about his political motives.”

She went on to say that “I think there is a certain amount coming from last year’s SU President, I don’t know what his agenda is.” Allegations that the Students’ Union planted questions in the audience at the AGM has further unbalanced the relationship between Union and the Sports Department.

However Trigoub-Rotnem denied any allegations of planted questions, saying that such measures were unnecessary, “The question is really should we have a say in where our money is spent or not?”

Trigoub-Rotnem stated that he hopes that Trinity will see the value of involving students in the decision-making process and that it is to the benefit of the community as a whole. The lack of student involvement in the Sports Centre could seriously aggravate the student body. He said that students are “100 percent qualified to make decisions on sports.”