Student engagement, union messaging and the future of the rent freeze campaign were among the issues discussed at the town hall held today by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU).
Housing was the main focus at the town hall, where TCDSU President László Molnárfi gave an update on last week’s Book of Kells protest. He said that the union had met with Provost Linda Doyle following the demonstration however no commitment to the proposed rent freeze was made. According to Molnárfi, the union was told to stick to the “bureaucratic process”, which Molnárfi described as “biased”.
Several proposals for further action were discussed, including the occupation of vacant and administrative buildings on campus, a co-ordinated banner drop, and a rent strike. A survey, inspired by one carried out by University College Dublin (UCD), aimed at getting more accurate information on students’ struggles with accommodation, was also proposed and discussed.
On the topic of a rent strike, Molnárfi said: “If they did it in the North and in the UK we can do it too.”
However, he noted the challenges that would be involved with organising the strike which would be the first of its kind in Irish universities.
Concerns regarding the proposed rent strike and building occupations were raised. One town hall attendee questioned whether students would be “too scared” about getting kicked out of their accommodation to participate in the strike.
Former TCDSU Gender Equality Officer, Jenny Maguire said that a “strong presence” from the student union on campus would help such a strike succeed. She added that the union should be “trying to build momentum towards a big thing”.
Other attendees noted the potential public backlash and legal issues regarding building occupations. Molnárfi conceded that he doesn’t believe plans for an occupation would be supported by the union: “Council is never going to vote for the occupying of vacant buildings, that would need to be done by students”.
Several of those in attendance supported the idea of repeating the Book of Kells protest, pointing to the positive reaction from the overall student population.
Other issues discussed at the meeting included the messaging of the TCDSU, particularly the use of the term “neoliberalism”, with several attendees questioning the effectiveness of the term.
One student said: “On campus when you talk about neoliberalism, that scares people because the status quo may be hurting them, but they have no time to think of changing the status quo”.
“Even if we’re using more practical language to explain the terminology, at the end of the day the bottom line is the same, so maybe we should focus more on that”, she added.
In response, Molnárfi said the union could focus on creating some flyers and social media posts that offer “explanations of factors that are affecting students in a way that doesn’t use a lot of lefty terminology”.