University Times issue withdrawn as Phil members remove distributed papers

Society members removed copies of the paper from campus locations after it printed details of confidential correspondences.

news1The University Times (UT) withdrew its latest issue on Tuesday after reporting on the content of documents that had been provided to the paper on the condition that they not be referred to in an article.

Trinity News has learned that several senior members of the University Philosophical Society (Phil) removed copies of the paper from campus locations after it printed details of confidential correspondences that had been supplied to the paper as context for an investigative article on the difficulties faced by societies organising events on campus.

The Central Societies Committee (CSC) had provided the documents in question to Samuel Riggs, the editor of the University Times, as part of a dossier of correspondences between societies and both the Enquiries and Examinations Offices for deep background on the article.

Trinity News understands that the two parties made a verbal agreement that the documents would not be cited in the article.

It is understood that this condition had not been communicated to the two authors of the article, UT deputy editor, Edmund Heaphy, and news editor, Jack Leahy.

The editor also agreed to send a copy of the article to the CSC for reviewing before the issue went to print. This never happened, however, and the CSC only learned that its agreement had been breached on Tuesday, after a photo of the paper’s front page was shared on the UT Facebook page.

Members of the Phil were asked by the society’s president that afternoon to remove papers that had been distributed across campus and bring them back to the society’s rooms in the Graduates Memorial Building, a Phil council member, who asked to remain anonymous, has confirmed.

The council member said Riggs only became aware that the papers were being collected when he met the Phil president and CSC representatives in the GMB. “The decision was definitely done before they had met him,” the member said.

Riggs decided shortly after that meeting to recall the issue, bringing remaining bundles of the paper back up to the SU communications office on the second floor of House 6.

In a statement, he said, “The decision as to whether or not to distribute our newspaper was taken out of our hands by collective action taken by the Phil. We subsequently met with members of the CSC and the Phil, who made their objections and intentions clear, and following discussion, we made the decision as an editorial team to cease distribution of the paper.”

The council member told Trinity News that several Phil council members have since discussed calling a motion to impeach the president.

“I am one of many members of the society who do not appreciate being asked to collect newspapers, en masse, and hoard them in our keeping to prevent their circulation,” the member said. “It goes against pretty much everything the society has stood for for a long long time.”

The member added, “There would appear to be relatively broad support [for the president’s impeachment] given the severity of the matter at hand, and I expect moves to discuss her position would be made quite quickly.”

The dossier provided to UT by the CSC contained a report drafted by the Phil, as well as correspondences between the president of the Phil and Sandra Fox, Trinity’s facilities manager.

The emails in question relate to the Phil being prevented from using the GMB to host the visit of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill on May 23rd as its chamber would be still set up for exams, even though the annual examination period was due to conclude that day and no examinations were scheduled to take place.

The dossier also included correspondences relating to Trinity Orchestra’s forced postponement of a concert after the Enquiries Office cancelled its booking of the Exam Hall in order to facilitate the launch of the 2014–19 strategic plan on October 22nd.

The CSC further provided UT with a copy of a 2008 agreement between College, the Phil and the University Historical Society (Hist) that said every effort would be made to “reduce the College’s dependency on the use of the [Graduates Memorial Building] Debating Chamber as an examination venue, specifically outside of peak examination periods, and only in exceptional circumstances for small groups.”

A statement provided to UT by the CSC said that College offices’ “proactive facilitation” of society events has “largely ended in the past 12 months” and that their  “lack of cooperation” has left “many societies struggling to fulfill their aims”.

The UT article based on the information contained in the CSC dossier was a front page story of the paper’s print issue published on Tuesday. It was also published on its website on Tuesday afternoon shortly before being taken down.

Catherine Healy

Editor of Trinity News. Interested in politics, history and all forms of media.