Hundreds gather in Front Square to protest College’s handling of reopening

Hundreds of students gathered today to protest College’s handling of the return to campus.

The protest was organised by the recently-established student campaign groups Trinity College Dublin Campaign for F2F Teaching (TCD F2F) and Students4Change (S4C), as well as Trinity College Dublin Renters’ Union (TCDRU).

Members of these campaign groups and other students gave speeches to the congregated crowd in Front Square.

Approximately two to three hundred students were in attendance, with one student telling Trinity News that they were “fed up” with Trinity’s miscommunication about a return prior to the speeches given.

Echoing this in his speech, Laszlo Molnárfi, chairperson of S4C, started by stating: “We are here to demand we be treated as students, and not cash-cows.”

“All throughout last year, we paid extortionate amounts of money for Halls, where we were and still are treated like criminals,” he continued.

He continued to explain that while students were promised “all classes below 50 people” would be in-person, yet “classes of six” are still online.

Molnárfi continued: “They have broken their promise.”

“We have had enough – enough is enough of Trinity’s broken promises,” Molnárfi added. “You have given us a return to campus for tourists, not for students.”

Molnárfi also explained that the protest was addressed to “Linda Doyle and the rest of Trinity leadership”. He added: “We pay your wages, we pay your €200,000 salary.”

“It is sad that this is the only way to make our problems heard.”

Molnárfi listed the demands of the protestors, including the immediate reinstatement of face to face learning or refunds of the student contribution, the opening of the library, and overnight guests being allowed in on-campus accommodation.

Additionally, organisers want “apology [from Trinity] for the way they have treated us”, an increase in funding for College mental health services, and free supplemental exams for those who failed last academic year.

Mick Barry, TD for the Socialist Party, spoke and said he was “here to show solidarity with your just protest”.

Barry said that Trinity had taken students’ money but failed to deliver face-to-face teaching.

“That’s a con. If they are going to keep your money, they have to deliver the classes that they promised to you.”

He also spoke about accommodation costs, and said that education “should not be for profit”. Barry added that he hoped the protest “won’t be a flash in the pan” and that the campaign would continue.

Several other students addressed the crowd, describing their disappointment at the level of in-person teaching delivered by Trinity and how it affected their university experience.

Several speakers expressed that they felt College did not respect students.

One shouted to the crowd that they “can’t take it anymore”, while another made the demand that College “open the damn library past four o’clock in the evening”.

Another student that gave a speech stated that “we deserve an education”.

“We are all equals and we will get everything we paid for.”

One speaker took an optimistic stance, telling the crowd that he “was hopeful for the future”.

Attendees chanted “let us in” frequently throughout the protest, which could be heard in the street outside Trinity.

Several Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) sabbatical officers were also seen amongst the crowd at the protest, as well as representatives of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Gisele Scanlon.

Provost Linda Doyle was also present, listening to speeches.

A petition criticising College’s approach to reopening, which was launched earlier this month, was then delivered to the provost.

Earlier this afternoon, Doyle sent an email to students and staff, recognising their concerns and issues with the reopening of campus.

In the email, Doyle stated: “I know that many of you have questions and suggestions about our approach to our return to campus. I have been listening to the questions and suggestions raised at the students’ union town hall meeting on Friday, as well as those raised through directly engaging with many students.”

Doyle then confirmed she would be answering these questions on an FAQs forum over the coming day.

Doyle’s email continued: “Our approach for returning to campus necessitates a great deal of specific local details worked out at the school level.”

“I would encourage you to reach out to your schools with any queries you may have.”

Doyle then acknowledged that this is a “difficult time for many students” and to “please also know that our student services are here to support you”.

Throughout his speech at the beginning of the protest, Molnárfi said that instead of giving students “proper in-person classes”, they spent the start of term “writing meaningless emails”.

At the end of the event, a large petition was attached to the door of the Dining Hall, which attending students then queued up to add their signatures to.

The groups first announced the planned protest at a town hall meeting held by TCDSU last week to discuss issues students have had with returning to in-person teaching. Organizers invited TCDSU and the other students present to get involved in the event.

This was the first protest to take place in Trinity since the beginning of the pandemic, with many students disgruntled by College’s handling of the return to campus.

Jack Kennedy

Jack Kennedy is the Editor-in-chief of the 68th edition of Trinity News. He is a Computer & Electronic Engineering graduate, and a former Assistant Editor, Online Editor, and Deputy Online Editor.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as News Editor and Assistant News Editor.

Jamie Cox

Jamie Cox is current News Analysis Editor for Trinity News and previously served as Higher Education Correspondent. He is a Junior Sophister Ancient and Medieval History and Culture student.