Students4Change analysis finds lack of transparency from 73% of College committees

A report by the group showed that 11 out of College’s 15 Board Committees have not made up-to-date records of meetings publicly available

A report by Students4Change (S4C) has highlighted the poor maintenance of College’s Board Committees website where committee meeting records are made publicly available, which the group has said is indicative of a lack of transparency from College governance.

The group’s investigation showed that 11 out of College’s 15 Board Committees have not made up-to-date minutes available online, with some not having uploaded minutes in over seven years, while one has never once uploaded minutes or agendas.

Only four committees – the Research Committee, Finance Commitee, University Council, and the Board itself – are entirely up to date in making minutes publicly available. Four others have uploaded minutes at least once in the past academic year, but are not up to date.

For four other committees, the most recently uploaded minutes are from the two years prior to the current academic year, while the Student Life Committee last uploaded minutes in 2016, and the Safety Committee in 2012, over ten years ago.

The Gaeilge Committee has never uploaded its agendas or minutes to the committee papers site.

As a body which is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2014, College is obliged to routinely publish relevant material such as committee meeting minutes in an open and accessible manner, a requirement which it appears to be failing on.

Chairperson of S4C László Molnárfi said that the carelessness with minutes shows that “there is no accountability” within College, and that decision-making is being obfuscated.

Molnárfi, who is also president-elect of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), said: “We, as a community, have a right to know who is deciding on our behalf and why, and in fact, have a right to have our say in how things are being run.”

He added that the lack of transparency, which is “just one issue in a web of a failing governance system”, indicates that student input in decision-making at a College-level “is not welcome”.

“We need our College to be run in a transparent, democratic and accountable way with student-staff joint control over key decisions,” Molnárfi said.

In 2021, a motion proposed by Molnárfi was passed by TCDSU Council for the union to push for the publication of minutes of meetings at which sabbatical officers were present, in order to increase transparency.

Speaking at the time, then TCDSU President Leah Keogh, who seconded the motion said: “Many committees we sit on, and there are plenty – more than 20 hours a week – minutes aren’t even taken.”

College has previously been found to be “wholly unsatisfactory” and “disingenuous” in its compliance with the FOI Act 2014.

An investigation Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) in November determined that College failed to engage properly with an FOI request, as well as a subsequent review of its decision to deny the request. On other occasions, it has been ordered to release documents to which it previously unjustifiably denied access.

College did not respond to request for comment.

David Wolfe

David Wolfe is a Junior Sophister student of History and Political Science. He is the current Social Media and Managing Editor of Trinity News, having previously served as News Editor, Assistant News Editor and copyeditor.