Students occupy Dining Hall in latest protest against supplemental exam fees

Kevin Keane and Damien McClean are among the occupiers

Photo by Emma McCarthy

 Students have occupied the Dining Hall in the latest direct action protest against the introduction of a supplemental exam fee.

A spokesperson from the campaign has stated that approximately 50 students are currently in the foyer and the main Hall. The students will occupy the building all day and will encourage other students to join. Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President and Welfare Officers Kevin Keane and Damien McClean are among the occupiers, according to the spokesperson.

In a statement, the #TakeBack Trinity campaign said: “The occupation is to show College that we will no longer stand for the commercialisation of students and to protest any increase to accommodation fees, postgraduate or international fees and for the provision of full academic year rental.”

A Take Back Trinity rally is expected to occur at around 1pm. A Facebook event was created by TCDSU in advance of the gathering, which asked for students to gather in Front Square.

TCDSU called on “every student that doesn’t want supplemental fees on top of graduation fees, higher accommodation fees, increases in postgrad or international fees” to take part in the Facebook event for the gathering.

The occupation follows the blockage of Front Arch and the entrance to the Book of Kells and the Long Room on Friday, which received coverage in the national media, as well as a protest outside a Finance Committee meeting and online protest in the form of negatively reviewing official Trinity social media.

The last time a Trinity building was occupied in protest was in 2009, which approximately 70 students gathered in the Berkeley library to express their anger at the reduction of library opening times.

The #TakeBack Trinity campaign launched a petition last night, calling on the provost to “scrap the unfair €450 fee for Supplemental Exams”. It states that “Trinity’s decision to introduce supplemental exam fees is evidence of their continuing disregard for students, their opinions, and their welfare” and “our university should put the welfare of students at the center of everything that it does”.

The petition is advertised on takeback, the official website for the campaign against Trinity supplemental exam fees.

Vice Provost Chris Morash defended the fees in an email to students, saying: “It is worth noting that the decision was taken to make the system fairer rather than to generate money. In fact, this set of measures will cost the university around €200,000 every year.”

“This decision was made as part of a set of measures which will be of great benefit to students; the ability to pay per-module for repeating the year,” he said in the email.

Trinity Access Programme (TAP) students and Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) students will be exempt from the new charge, and Board will make funding available to the Senior Tutor to deal with cases of financial hardship which might arise as a result of the decision.

Students were also told, however, that those forced to miss exams due to illness or a family bereavement will not be charged for repeating the modules, but will presumably be charged for the supplemental exams.

Meanwhile, all three Trinity Senator condemned the introduction of the 450 fee in email statements to Trinity News. Senators David Norris said Trinity is “considerably overcharging,” while Senator Ivana Bacik intend to raise the issue in the Seanad and with Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton. Senator Lynn Ruane said that she has contacted College Board to “express her concern” and she hopes that College will “review and reverse the decision,” as the proposed supplemental fees are “wholly disproportionate to the financial means of the average student”.

On February 22, 82% of a valid poll of 3,504 students voted against the introduction of supplemental fees in a preferendum held by TCDSU. Prior to the vote, Morash told TCDSU Council that College were considering the introduction of supplemental exam fees at a rate of €200 per exam with a cap at €1000.

Aisling Grace

Aisling Grace was the Editor-in-Chief of the 66th Volume of Trinity News. She was also formerly Online Editor and Deputy News Editor.