News: In Brief

College football players granted right to unionise

Catherine Healy

A US federal agency has ruled in favour of college football players at Northwestern University, Illinois, who are seeking to unionise. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agreed last Wednesday that student athletes funded by the university qualify as employees and should have the right to collective bargaining with their employer.

The campaign to unionise football players was led by the College Athlete Players’ Association (CAPA), which brought the case to the NLRB along with Kain Colter, a former Northwestern quarterback. The group wants colleges to guarantee that they will cover sports-related medical expenses for current and former players, ensure better procedures to reduce head injuries, and potentially allow players to pursue profitable commercial sponsorships.

Testifying during last month’s hearing, Colter said, “It’s a job, there is no way around it. You fulfil the football requirement and, if you can, you fit in academics.” Attorneys for CAPA argued that college football is a commercial enterprise relying on the labour of players to generate huge profits. One said that players for the Northwestern Wildcats earn “their compensation with blood, sweat and tears”. Northwestern countered that the college is “not a football factory” and that their players’ academic work comes first. However, Peter Sung Ohr, the NLRB’s regional director, ruled in favour of the players, citing their commitment to their sport and the fact that scholarships were tied directly to their performance on the field as reasons for granting them the right to unionise. “Players receiving scholarships to perform football-related services for the employer under a contract for hire in return for compensation are subject to the employer’s control and are therefore employees,” he stated.

Northwestern issued a statement shortly after the ruling saying that it would appeal the decision. The ruling comes as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the leading university sport organisation in the US, continues to fight a class-action federal lawsuit from former college players seeking to profit from the billions of dollars earned from live television broadcasts, memorabilia sales, and video games.


Academics unhappy with new Trinity title

James Wilson

Disgruntled academics have spoken out against College’s official title being changed to “Trinity College, the University of Dublin”.  The move was initiated by the controversial “Trinity Identity and Initiative” launched last year by Provost Patrick Prendergast, at a reported cost of €100,000 to students and taxpayers. In a divisive move that has led to complaints from students and staff members over a lack of consultation, the initiative concluded that the absence of the word “University” from the College’s official title is a hindrance to the recruitment of overseas students, particularly those from Asia, and recommended that from now on the institution should be known as “Trinity College, the University of Dublin” in official communication.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Dr Eoin O’Dell, chair of the Trinity Fellows and a professor in the Law Department, said that many academics believed that it was crucial that they still be allowed to use the internationally recognised term “Trinity College Dublin” or “TCD” for research publications as, “The computer is stupid and it can’t deal with variations. The geometric argument is, given we have coalesced around a standard of ‘Trinity College Dublin’ in the last 10 years, anything to change that would be wasteful and dangerous.” He cautioned that there would be “some ambiguity as to which will be the default name and which will be the exception”, before conceding that “until we get the official minutes or a communication from the provost we are a little in the dark”.

O’Dell’s concerns were echoed by Brian Lucey, a finance professor in the Department of Business, who, writing on his blog, gave short thrift to any attempt to change the College’s name. “TCD, Trinity College Dublin, is a brand,” he wrote. “It’s one that has stood the test of time for literal centuries. It is, along with a very few others, one of the few global brands we have for Ireland. We are told that we have to change the name to Trinity College, The University of Dublin, as people in [China and India] get confused. Hmmm. Do they get confused as to what MIT is? Or Caltech? I doubt it.”

A final announcement about a change of name is expected to be made sometime in September following additional consultation, although it is understand that the new name will be used in all recruitment, marketing, press releases and fundraising henceforth.

Report highlights increase in youth deprivation due to recession

Aonghus Ó Cochláin

18% of Irish youth are reportedly suffering deprivation, being unable to afford items considered essential, according to a recent European study. The report, which charts the changing social situation of young people aged between 18 and 29 across the EU, shows this number is more than double the number of the previous report in 2007.

The Social Situation of Young People in Europe study was compiled by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) in collaboration with the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI). Its findings are based off of data collected in 2011, showing an increase of youth deprivation from 7% of the previous report in 2007. According to NYCI senior researcher and policy officer, Marie-Claire McAleer, this means that 18% of young people in Ireland “cannot afford keeping their house warm, buying meat or fish at least every second day (if they wanted to) and/or buying new, rather than second-hand clothes”. Young people in large households, such as those living with their parents, partner and children, were found to be the most likely to be in this category.

While down from 45% in 2007, 42% of Irish youth are also reported to be living with their parents. Commenting on this figure, Ms McAleer remarked that “an increase in youth unemployment and cuts in social welfare for young people in successive budgets has made it more difficult for young people to afford to leave home and live independently.” She went on to add that there is a need to address the “serious housing shortage here in Ireland,” calling for the development of an integrated housing strategy by the government.

Another of the survey’s findings was that 51% of young people in Ireland find cost to be a significant barrier to healthcare. This figure places Ireland the fourth highest in the EU. Ms McAleer attributed this to a limited availability of free healthcare compared to other parts of the EU and the rising cost of health insurance. “Obviously, the current system is not working and needs to be replaced by a system that provides greater equity and access to health care for all,” she said, adding that “we acknowledge that this is an issue that the Government is currently examining and we await with interest the publication of the white paper on the proposed universal health insurance model.”

More positive findings of the report show that 39% of Irish youth are involved in a club or society and 71% playing a sport or excising at least once a week, with 38% of young people involved in some form of political activity. Across the whole of the EU, more than two thirds of young people are generally optimistic about the future according to the report. However, the report also found that young people are less likely to trust institutions. Overall, the EU members that have seen the greatest increase in deprivation among youth have been Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, and Greece.


Lenihan rules out running for Fianna Fáil in by-election

James Prendergast

SU President Tom Lenihan has ruled out running in the upcoming by-election in Dublin West. “If Fianna Fáil was to approach me I would absolutely rule it out,” he told Trinity News last week. “I don’t agree with the policies they’ve brought forward, I don’t think they should be put back into government this time.”

When asked if he might run as an independent candidate, Lenihan said he would “be concerned that I would just be considered to be Fianna Fáil.” He also ruled out running for another political party, saying that he was “not sure if I could offer much to politics at this point in my life.”

Lenihan’s father, the former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, held a seat in the constituency until his death in 2011, and the past three generations of the Lenihan family have had a member in the Oireachtas.

Last month, Lenihan withdrew from the election for Vice-President of Campaigns of the Union of Student in Ireland (USI). In his manifesto, he had said, “I have no ambition to run for national politics”, and “I am not a member of a political party and have never been active in one”.

The vacancy in Dublin West occurs after the resignation of Independent TD Patrick Nulty who admitted to sending a number of inappropriate social media messages, including one to a 17 year-old girl, allegedly under the influence of alcohol.