College hits students’ union with €214k fine for disruptive protests

The junior dean also summoned several students to disciplinary meetings including László Molnárfi and Jenny Maguire

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) have been issued a €214k fine by College for financial losses incurred by disruptive protests by the union throughout the year.

The invoice for €214,285 was sent to TCDSU administrative officer Simon Evans, who has called an urgent meeting with the union’s sabbatical officers.

TCDSU has been given until May 30 to pay this invoice. Five dates in which they protested have been cited for the “partial losses” of College’s income.

Cited instances for the loss of income include this week’s silent protest outside the Book of Kells, and a Trinity Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation (PWO TCD) blockade of the Book of Kells earlier this month.

Two instances of Trinity Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (TCD BDS) blocking the Book of Kells and the Old Library entrance in February were cited, as well as TCDSU’s first major blockade of the Book of Kells last September.

The fine of €214k represented around 20% of the union’s total annual income, based on its financial reports, a majority of which is made up of grants directly from College.

In a statement to Trinity News, College said “it cannot survive solely on Government funding” and that “income generated from the Book of Kells is vital to keep the university going”.

“It supports initiatives such as student services, the student hardship fund, etc. Any loss of income at the Book of Kells directly affects our ability to deliver services for our students, not to mention our legal obligation to financially balance the books”.

They added that Trinity “has an obligation to protect the Book of Kells” and “supports students’ right to protest within the rules of the university”.

The Junior Dean has also summoned four individuals – President László Molnárfi, Comms Officer Aiesha Wong, President-elect Jenny Maguire and head of PWO TCD Jeffrey Sardina – into disciplinary meetings regarding various actions throughout the year.

In an email to Wong seen by Trinity News, the Junior Dean specified that TCDSU sabbatical officers fall under the definition of a Trinity student and therefore are subject to the same disciplinary procedures as all other students. It also stated that the protests involved “actions that disrupt the normal operation of activities within the college”.

The disciplinary is in relation to “a blockade of the Book of Kells Pavillion and the Long Room on Tuesday, 30 April 2024”.

On Monday April 29, the Junior Dean emailed Wong warning that engaging in “such actions may represent disciplinary offences that would lead to the institution of disciplinary proceedings against persons involved”.

He noted in the email that “a student found guilty of an offence may also be required to pay compensation or make reparation or restitution to the university.  This could include compensation for the full extent of any financial damage suffered by the university or college on foot of reputational loss or its normal business being disrupted by the student.”

The fine “becomes a debt to the university that must be paid as a prerequisite to graduation” for all persons involved.

This blockade was in protest of a proposed 2.3% fee increase in single-year masters’ degrees and 10% increase for non-EU courses and certain programmes.

TCDSU had sent a “formal notice of escalation” to Provost Linda Doyle demanding she replace the proposed fee increase with a fee freeze proposal from the agenda of the Finance Committee taking place on April 30.

This prompted the Provost to publish a college-wide email warning against causing “serious financial and reputational damage” to College.