We’ve made a list this Freshers’ Week of people who we think will shape the news stories in Trinity, this year and a little further into the future. Partly because it’s always worth knowing who makes the decisions that affect your life, but also because we think that the next few years are going to be important for the future of Trinity and higher education. For the last two decades, the old aristocratic Trinity has been in retreat, and there’s been a backroom conflict over the kind of place that it will be instead. Provost Patrick Prendergast’s management consultant-style way of working seemed to be winning outs, but now, with costs going up for students every year and some people deciding that they aren’t going to take it anymore, that conflict has spilled out into the open, and people have had to take sides.
More and more, the provost’s vision is looking rickety. At the end of last year, we saw the largest and most dramatic student protests in Trinity in generations. Now, all those forces that led to the attempted introduction of supplemental exam fees by Trinity, and the occupation of the Dining Hall and formation of #TakeBackTrinity, are getting bigger.
That also means that we’ve arranged the criteria a certain way. We didn’t try to round the list up or down to any particular number. People excluded from it include the heads of the big societies, the JCR President, and student djs. They’re fine, but if you don’t go to their events you’ll never have a reason to care about them. Everyone on this list is roughly either an old-school traditionalist, a monetiser, or a student radical. As far as the strategic direction of Trinity is concerned, those are the groups that matter.
Dr. Patrick Prendergrast, Provost
Lord help us. During his term he’s been able to consolidate far more power than provosts have traditionally held, by siphoning decision making away from Board and into tightly-controlled committees. The big decisions are all his, and this year’s change of Board means he has more support on his side. That said, the next provost election is soon. There are rumours he’s considered running for a second term, but if he doesn’t, he’ll lose relevance as we get closer to 2021. He’ll say that he has modernised Trinity by investing in business and innovation and seen it through the recession. Critics will say that his tenure was characterised by total disregard for the concerns of students and most academics. Arch-monetiser.
Dr. Chris Morash, Vice-Provost
In theory, Chris Morash is second most powerful person in the College. His rise was meteoric, going from Professor to Head of the School of English to Vice-Provost in three years, but meteors fall just as quickly. His image as an advocate for students was shattered by the events of #TakeBackTrinity. He was the chief advocate of supplemental fees when it was introduced, and because the provost was in Massachusetts during the Dining Hall occupation, he was the face of the College management in the time when it most thoroughly disgraced itself. Though publicly he is now seen as little more than the provost’s patsy, in reality he sits on numerous committees including the Equality Committee and Trinity Education Project steering committee.
Veronica Campbell, Bursar & Director of Strategic Innovation
Probably the next provost. One of the few women in the college’s senior management team. Her role includes responsibility for the development of Trinity’s buildings such as the new E3 (Engineering, Energy, and Environment) institute. She’s a close ally of the provost, and handled the second u-turn in graduate and non-EU fees this summer. Definitely a monetiser.
Tim Trimble, Junior Dean
The only member of senior college administration that most students ever meet. Tim Trimble is the primary person responsible for all disciplinary issues in College, ranging from drinking on campus to sexual assault or cheating. His job is to balance doing the right thing with making sure that Trinity’s interests are protected. In an era when university campuses across the world are struggling to avoid getting into national newspapers because of sex and consent issues, he is the one defusing, or accidentally detonating, those PR bombs. Probably something of a traditionalist at heart.
Dr. Eoin O’Dell, Fellow
The Fellows were an important force during the Dining Hall occupation, and Eoin O’Dell along with Sarah Alyn-Stacey and a number of other Fellows who pulled them together. This is particularly valuable because the Fellows are notoriously slow-moving. But they’re also hardcore traditionalists, and have more power than any other body to oppose the provost’s actions. The Fellows recently elected a new Chair, Cliona O’Farrelly, and Secretary, Phillip Coleman, who supposedly will continue to be somewhat vocally challenging of Paddy P. O’Dell himself is a hugely influential figure who sits on many college committees, and also wrote the current Statutes of the College. Maverick. Dreamer.
Simon Evans and Joseph O’Gorman
The College’s employees responsible for behind-the-scenes governing of TCDSU and the CSC respectively. Both have been in their roles for a long time, meaning that they can have a great deal of soft power over any CSC chair or sabbatical officer who wants to change too many things. Both wield a considerable amount of influence, mainly on Trinity’s Capitations Committee which funds the five capitated bodies: CSC, TCDSU, GSU, Publications and DUCAC. Both are definitely traditionalists, with O’Gorman taking the traditional Trinity chap stereotype to an extreme.
Oisín Vince Coulter, GSU President
Professional protester and failed Hist Auditor candidate. On paper, the GSU are insignificant: their election turnouts are tiny and they have only a very small group of active members. But it positioned itself remarkably well during Shane Collins’ two year reign as President. Vince Coulter, who is now in Trinity for his seventh year, is probably the most important student on this list. That’s in part because he’s more experienced and charismatic than Shane de Rís, though to be fair orthopaedic shoes are more charismatic than Shane de Rís. He was effectively the leader of the Dining Hall occupation, and has increasingly aligned himself with the People Before Profit wing of Trinity student politics. It’s hard to know who’s taking who for a ride in the current chummy relationship between PBP and elected student leaders. Arch-hack.
Shane de Rís, SU President
Has the most important title of any student. Like his predecessor, he won the election by default after his biggest opponent became mired in scandal. His challenge will be to avoid giving people the impression that he’s only in it for his CV, and to stand for something genuine. Was involved in the Dining Hall occupation, but it’s still unclear how important his role really was. He was involved with far-left political party Die Linke while on exchange in Germany, which would place him squarely among the radicals.
Conor Reddy and Seán Egan
Devoted communists. The most charismatic and effective of the handful of Trinity People Before Profit students, who have had the single largest influence on Trinity student politics in recent times, including the BDS campaign and Take Back Trinity. PBP are influential because they’re willing to be more aggressive and outspoken than any other student political group. They led the criticism that overshadowed Kevin Keane’s SU presidency after he reversed his position on BDS. Both also regularly write long comments beneath Trinity News articles. Conor is a possible SU Presidential candidate.
Michael McDermott, Trinity Collidge Founder
Michael almost wasn’t on this list, but then we remembered that the engagement numbers for his occasionally satirical Facebook page, Trinity Collidge, are higher than those of both student newspapers combined. He’s an opinion influencer, and has become serious in the past six months or so, with regular posts about the provost and College management. He ran for SU President and UT Editor last year, and won neither, but will be returning to the committee of DU Space Society. Good on you, Michael.