On Wednesday 16th March, an open meeting was held by the Students Against Fees group. The meeting was centred on the campaign’s structure, ways to expand it, and future action that should be taken.
Regarding structure, there was a feeling that there needs to be a move from a rather ad hoc form to something more concrete as, until recently, the group has very much been based around a small group of people. It is hoped that restructuring will enable better visibility.
There were also questions raised as to whether the group should operate within the SU, or as a separate body working alongside the SU. There was a desire from many to maintain the grass roots ethos, but also to reach out and empathise with all sectors of the student body, a feeling echoed by both Lynn Ruane, president of Trinity College Dublin’s Students’ Union (TCDSU), and Kieran McNulty, president-elect.
Ruane put forward that instead of existing as a fringe group, the group should interact with the SU. It was ultimately agreed that the group should maintain enough independence so that it is not constrained in making decisions as it might be under the SU, and that this aspect of independence is vital to the movement.
Others felt that the movement needs greater visibility, with more regular meetings in a specific place, so that people will know where and when the group is meeting. It was underlined that the group is open to everyone, that it exists to represent students, and ensure that individual students can voice their opinions, as opposed to having to go through any sort of class representative process, as usually is the case with the SU.
SU Welfare Officer Conor Clancy said that the group needs to explore different avenues and resources, stating that a small room of people does not do the group justice and that, if it seeks to be a national movement, more needs to be done.
The group has been in contact with UK based National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts, an organisation geared towards similar goals, and have gained support from this group, who, if they have the resources, may send over a representative to a future meeting here. Ruane has made moves also to engage with and try and gain support from academics on the issue.
It was proposed that a steering group be set up to deal with social media and research so as to delegate tasks and ensure greater efficiency and a smoother day-to-day running of the group.
Students Against Fees stand against fees and cuts to education, and in support of the equal right of all individuals to an education. The movement came into being in November 2015, in the wake of the defeat by the SU Council of a motion made by Ruane which sought to oppose student loans and fee hikes.
Believing this defeat to not fully reflect student opinion, as it focused solely on loans without taking fee increases into consideration, the group submitted their own motion before the council in December, which was passed with a majority.