Following last week’s defeat of a motion calling for Trinity College Dublin’s Students’ Union (TCDSU) to oppose student loans a group of students who are not part of the SU council are considering bringing a second similar motion or referendum on the issue forward, Trinity News has learned.
The motion, brought to SU council by SU president Lynn Ruane, was narrowly defeated at last week’s council.
Paul Molloy, a member of the group who are considering bringing the motion to council again, told Trinity News that they were “extremely disappointed with the result and felt that some in the students union were not representing the best interests of the students.”
“Student loans are a major issue for many from poorer backgrounds, who would be discouraged from entering or continuing college” if loans were introduced, “and we felt like this fact wasn’t being recognised,” Molloy claimed.
The group have also spoken about the possibility of campaigning for a referendum if the second motion is defeated. Regarding this, Molloy said: “Currently, we’re still only looking into triggering a referendum, however if this issue isn’t addressed we will go ahead with it.”
Ruane also showed dissatisfaction over the last week’s council result and promised in a Facebook comment on a Trinity News article about the motion’s defeat, to bring forward another motion: “It’s too important to shelf. I’ll be back with a better a motion. Loans are bad end of.”
Ruane told Trinity News that, since last week’s council, she has had “a lot of contact from students not involved in the SU,” who were not present at council, but are upset over the motion’s defeat. “There’s quite a lot of angry students about how the vote went,” she said.
When asked about bringing a second motion forward, she said she would prefer if it came from “the wider student body.” She is aware of Molloy’s group and is waiting to see “how that develops, and whether they bring forward a motion themselves.” However, she added that if their plans do not materialise, she will introduce a second motion.
On the possibility of a referendum, Ruane responded: “If the students ask for a referendum, I would completely support it. I think it’s an important discussion and it should be had by the whole college community and not just within the council setting.” Trinity News has also learned that Ruane will be meeting this week with a number of students to discuss possible routes forward, including members of successful campaign team for president last year.
Peter Cassells was appointed chairman by the government of an expert group “to examine the future funding policy for higher education.” There is widespread media speculation that the report, due by the 31st of December at the latest, will propose the introduction of some form of student loans to replace the current system.
Currently higher education is financed through a ‘free-fee’s system where the government covers university fees. However, students are still required to pay a ‘Student Contribution Charge’ which has risen over the past four years to €3,000 per annum. The Cassells committee was set up due to the ongoing funding crisis across third level education in Ireland, with John Hennessy of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) repeatedly warning that the current situation is unsustainable.
Alice MacPherson, Deputy Convenor for arts, humanities and social sciences in the SU, who was one of the speakers against Ruane’s motion last week, told Trinity News that “the issue of student fees and loans is one that the SU must have further discussion on”.
According to MacPherson, one of the reasons that she argued against the motion was because she felt that it was based on media speculation the Cassells group has yet to issue its report. She said that “it’s vital we know what the recommendations of the Cassells Working Group report are”.
Agreeing to oppose student loans without knowing what form they will take leaves little room for the SU to negotiate to ensure the “best deal for students,” MacPherson claimed, saying that “outright opposition, at this stage, would leave no room for negotiation in the future”.
She said of the prospect of another motion or a referendum that “Whether it is at next council or not, I foresee and welcome another motion on the subject…I think any issue that divides the student body and has substantial interest justifies a referendum, and if one is called for then I welcome it. ”