Students call for direct action against supplemental exam fees at emergency meeting

Students discussed a number of options to resist the fees at a meeting held by TCDSU this evening

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) held an “emergency meeting” this evening to discuss plans to resist the introduction of supplemental exam fees.

College recently announced its decision to introduce a flat €450 fee for supplemental exams beginning in the 2018/19 academic year, despite the results of the recent TCDSU preferendum in which over 80% of students out of a total valid poll of 3,504 voted to oppose supplemental exam fees, either voting for opposing fees alone, or opposing fees alongside a campaign in favour of modular billing.

TCDSU President Kevin Keane stated that the €450 figure was not mentioned at any meetings of College Board. A week after the preferendum result, Keane met with College Board, who he stated were “extraordinarily unreceptive”.

Following short addresses by Keane and former TCDSU President Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne, students spoke individually on possible forms of protest and action.  A number of possible strategies were raised, including strike action, sit ins, boycotting services and protests. Keane stated that “the Union will have everyone’s back” when it comes to any such action.

Students called for significant and impactful action at the meeting, with many students expressing anger at the college and, in some cases, the SU itself. Keane was criticised at the meeting for allegedly failing to oppose the fees at a meeting of the College’s Finance Committee in December. He rejected the claims, stating that “that is simply not the case” and that the minutes of the meeting do not accurately reflect the SU’s dissent.

Several students expressed their displeasure with the SU’s supposed inaction on the issue and their anger at the meeting’s emphasis on the student body organising action. In response, Aisling Cusack, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Vice President for the Dublin Region stated: “You are the movement,” calling for impassioned action by the student body.

At the meeting, Keane stated that “probably the first step is a sit-in on one of their commercial units,” reiterating the sentiments expressed by several students. Although a specific plan was not decided on at the meeting, students pledged to support a direct action in opposition to the fees.

“There’s one thing Trinity cares about more than money,” current TCDSU Alice MacPherson stated, “and that’s it’s reputation”. Several students, including MacPherson, called for a flooding of Trinity’s official social media to raise awareness in addition to any direct action, and a targeting of alumni in order to raise awareness and outrage among former students and donors.

Many students highlighted the importance of gaining coverage in the national media, proposing to inform national papers and media figures such as former SU President and radio host Joe Duffy. A mailing list of students interested in the campaign was compiled, and students were offered a template email to send to their lectures to ask their stance on the issue.

At the commencement of the meeting, Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) Presidential candidate Oisín Vince Coulter called for “quite a militant campaign”. He stated that a fight against supplemental exam fees could “possibly be quite a long campaign” and may need to continue next year.

Additional reporting by Aisling Grace.

Rory O'Neill

Rory O'Neill is a former Managing Editor of Trinity News, and a History graduate.