Editorial: Accountability is lacking in the Capitations Committee

Students deserve transparent access to the accounts of capitated bodies

The capitated bodies’ accounts came before the Capitations Committee last Thursday, with full coverage and analysis published in the News section of this issue of Trinity News. Those bodies include Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), the Central Societies’ Committee (CSC),  Dublin University Central Athletics Club (DUCAC), the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) and Trinity Publications. What it shows is four of the five bodies recording a deficit, the GSU being the outlier – the attitude to which, by the Committee itself, has been blasé – almost like a banal occurrence. Indeed, this is DUCAC’s eighth year of recording a deficit, and the SU’s third.

The procedure for presenting the accounts, and indeed the running of the Capitations committee as a whole is old-fashioned and lacks transparency. No capitated body dares hold another to account, for fear of retribution, despite the Capitations Committee being the only body that can do so. No set of accounts, apart from the SU’s, are publicly available for students to access. The accounts themselves are sparse and unforthcoming and any further inquiry into what the accounts entail is shunned. There is a major power imbalance in the voting system between the bodies. Those who have been heads of their respective organisations for ten or twenty years can intimidate those student representatives who breeze through their respective roles for a year. There are only two to three meetings per year. These are hardly the features of a democratic, open committee that handles millions worth of students’ money in a fair and transparent way.

The Capitations Committee should operate on a one vote, one body basis. Its accounts should be publicly available. The bodies themselves should be run predominantly by student representatives.

However, the manner in which the accounts are presented, and how the Capitations Committee operates, is indicative of Trinity’s obsession with slow-moving, bureaucratic committees, that lack efficiency and competency. Indeed, Trinity has mastered the art of quiet committees that make quiet decisions, that benefit those that care enough about Trinity’s power politics, without students or staff paying any heed to the decisions they make. Another successful tactic in that brand of Trinity bureaucracy is waiting a few years after an unpopular decision to attempt to introduce it again, as most students who protested it originally will long have left campus. It’s vital that students attempt to understand the myriad of committees, and be aware of their procedures and how they can influence them as, before you know it, the academic year structure may change, or the Finance Committee will introduce a charge of €450 for a single supplemental exam.