Radical student group Students4Change (S4C) today held a sit-in of the Buttery, while calling on students to boycott the canteen’s catering services between 1pm-2pm.
The group are aiming to pressure College to reverse the Buttery’s policy of kicking out students who bring their own food to the restaurant space by “highlighting how damaging this is to us as a college community”.
Though a number of groups crossed the picket line by ordering from the counter, short queues indicated that the boycott, announced last Friday, had gained some level of support among the student population.
A group of around a dozen students participated by gathering in the Buttery, eating food brought from home or bought elsewhere.
S4C chairperson László Molnárfi highlighted that the policy of kicking students out is a new one, which contrasts with previous policies which allowed food to be brought in from outside.
“The fact that this policy wasn’t in place for years shows that it is possible to be financially viable [while also allowing students] to bring in their own food.”
Speaking to Trinity News, Molnárfi said he was “not at all” disappointed with the turnout, also highlighting the short queue and empty seats around the canteen area.
Molnárfi, who is also president-elect of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) added that the protestors were “making friends and chatting and having a good craic”, noting that he was “very happy” with the turnout.
“The Buttery should be an inclusive place for students and staff and that is what we want to achieve.”
Outlining how he will continue to push for the reversal of the policy as TCDSU President, Molnárfi indicated plans to push the issue in College committee meetings, indicating that he intends to balance “grassroots” student protest with constructive committee work.
“I will highlight how damaging this is to our community also within different committees and worked with the Director of Student Services and with other key stakeholders within committees to push this issue.”
TCDSU Gender Equality Jenny Maguire, who attended the sit-in, said: “Students should be able to actually be in their College, they should be able to eat in their college, they should be able to use student spaces without having to spend an extortionate amount of money.”
She added that with the cost-of-living crisis, “students don’t have a choice but to make their lunch at home”.
“They should be able to sit inside and not worry about getting attacked by seagulls.”
Senior Fresh student Buster Whaley said that as an international student who pays significant tuition fees, it’s “pretty ridiculous, I can’t come in, I can’t enjoy a ham and cheese sandwich of my own making in the school cafeteria, the designated space.”
Junior Sophister Jared Reilly criticised College for separating “who’s able to occupy certain student spaces”.
He added that with “so many other kinds of pressures on the student experience”, such as the housing crisis and fee increases, “it seems really unreasonable to keep with this kind of policy of segregation”.
Reilly said that while he has not been kicked out himself before, the policy has made friends who have been kicked out before uncomfortable to “go into that environment again, which is kind of really upsetting in a way because it’s supposed to be a common students base, and it’s not great for certain students to feel excluded”.
TDCSU yesterday announced their support for the S4C protest saying: “It seems obvious that students should be allowed to eat their own food in all college spaces.”
Contains reporting by Ellen Kenny.