We believe that College should amend its policy on animals in Trinity-owned accommodation to be more accessible and inclusive to students with psychological disabilities requiring emotional support animals as companions to support their mental health.
College policy currently states that no animal or pet may be housed in residences without permission (see below).
With the exception of guide dogs, no animal or pet may be introduced or housed in residences without the permission of the relevant College Officer. (https://www.tcd.ie/accommodation/assets/pdf/conditions-of-occupancy-2021-22-students.pdf)
Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an international term and is not legally classified under Irish Law. Currently most Irish third level colleges including Trinity do not allow Emotional Support Animals on campus. (https://www.tcd.ie/disability/services/service-dog.php)
This policy phrasing allows service dogs, but excludes Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). This rule is devastating for students who need emotional support and is unacceptable especially during a youth mental health crisis which looks set to worsen post-Covid-19.
We have recently been made aware of a case in which a postgraduate student is being pressured to leave on-campus emergency accommodation.
This postgraduate receives an email asking whether they have found alternative accommodation and whether they are ready to leave on a weekly basis from College, constituting a form of indirect eviction. The emergency accommodation is being extended on a week by week basis, but with looming eviction this student is put under immense pressure weekly by College to leave.
College is claiming that the student and the student’s emotional support dog are occupying an undergraduate room as a postgraduate (there are 70 postgraduate rooms allocated on campus) and that they have to leave even though there are other spare units in the building. The student has full documentation that stipulates that the service dog is an essential aid for mental health reasons and the dog is registered internationally as a support animal but current policy prevents emotional support animals from residing on campus. The student has lived on campus for over a month despite this College policy. Asking the student to leave now mid-term, makes no sense and is untenable in the current accommodation crisis.
Currently, the student has nowhere else to go, due to the ongoing housing crisis and along with many other students faces the financial stresses of high rents and inflexible landlords who will not accommodate animals. The student just wants to find a place to stay, as the situation is “starting to get in the way of my classes, and I really just want to find a decent and quiet space for me to work in peace, without compromising a positive experience here [at Trinity] altogether”.
Press quotes as follows.
“I believe that it’s really important to open a new conversation around this and youth mental health at Trinity College now. Bringing an animal as a means of support for mental health – these conversations are important to us as students and to the Graduate Students’ Union. Our generation expects our learning institution to be more aware of the new developments internationally – emotional support animals provide comfort to students with depression, students susceptible to anxiety disorders, including panic disorders (which can often be no fault of a sufferer and can be clinical) and other mental health issues. Currently the policy at Trinity College focuses on service dogs. Students with disabilities may require the assistance of a Service Dog as a Reasonable Accommodation in Trinity, including areas where animals would not typically be permitted, such as Trinity-provided residential accommodation). In my research on this as a mental health and accessibility issue for students, I’ll be challenging Trinity College to make special accommodations for this student and the emotional support animal. I will be turning to the government to review this national policy alongside several new measures for anyone with anxiety disorders, mental health and sensory issues who need support post COVID-19.” (Giséle Scanlon – GSU)
“Cases like this exemplify the problem with Trinity’s approach to student accommodation: it is callous, impersonal, and inconsiderate. Unfortunately, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg of exploitation and apathy.” (Roman Cabay – TCDRU)
“Trinity College Dublin, as an institution, cares little about the wellbeing of its community. We are confronted by a bureaucracy which disregards the human and a model which strives to maximize revenue instead of the happiness of people. We believe that mental health shouldn’t merely be regarded as secondary to education, but it should be one of its primary learning outcomes. In this light, and especially during these troubling times when mental health is of paramount importance, College’s accommodation policy to not allow emotional support animals to be with students who need them is appalling. It is absurd how someone in a position of power can even think about essentially threatening to evict a student who has nowhere else to go, and use their emotional support dog as an excuse to do so, and not see that the system is rotten to its core. The only reason this was even brought to light is because the student in question reached out to the Graduate Students’ Union President, after the College showed unwillingness to accommodate their needs. This comes to show that we need to collectively organize to defeat unjust systems and establish grassroots community-support groups to form mutual aid networks. ” (László Molnárfi – Students4Change).
We request that the place of the student in question on-campus is restored in full with their emotional support dog at least until the end of this Semester and the next one if needed, a rent reduction for the weekly impact of this discriminatory experience, and that the student receives full and immediate access to the mental health care that they require. Finally, we demand that 8.9 in the policy be amended to include emotional support animals alongside service animals as we believe that our institution should be a leader in accessibility and mental health reform.
Gisèle Scanlon, President, Graduate Students’ Union, +353 86 412 04 44
László Molnárfi, Chairperson, Students4Change, +32 470 58 31 74
Tom Comer, Chair, TCD Renter’s Union, +44 7724 618869
Dear SU Welfare Officer, dear SU President,
Dear undergraduates, dear postgraduates, dear students,
As we approach reading week, Trinity College Dublin’s constant disregard for our needs continues to decimate our community. Our mental health and the impact of an uncertain and compromised educational experience again this year sees many of our community struggle. The time has come for action, the time has come for us to demand a partial refund.
Students 4 Change (S4C) alongside the Trinity college Dublin Graduate Students’ Union (TCDGSU) are organizing a joint Undergraduate-Postgraduate protest on the 16th of October to show our support for anyone who is feeling forgotten and anxious in these times.
We will be marching from TCD’s Front Square starting at 4pm to the Dáil, where we will join other groups in Ireland to protest against our institutions in public. You are invited to join as we challenge our College publicly and demand our contractual rights, make our voices heard for in-person lectures or refunds and call out Trinity’s disregard for our mental health.
We demand that Management:
This list is to be understood as a reiteration and an expansion on the earlier one, not as a replacement.
With no significant changes made in the Budget 2022 to publicly fund the third-level sector or accommodation, we are faced with a continuing academic year which will bring continued uncertainty and anxiety. Our mental health is severely impacted; we are living in hostels in groups, unable to afford better accommodation, we are struggling to keep up again this year and we’re aggrieved that we were lured to Dublin, when we could have stayed with our families and learnt online for the first semester at home? If we have no face-to-face learning currently on campus why are we here?
We have been cheated again like last year’s students (2020/21) who had the worst student experience in history and are currently being refused refunds. The GSU has pressed College hard for six months for percentage refunds for the students of 2020/21 working on real data from a Survey conducted by the GSU.
The decision to call this protest has not been taken lightly, but was made due to our institution’s neglect of students’ needs and specifically in light of no real progress being made with regards to the issue of #ReturnOrRefund and lacking mental health support.
Firstly, both undergraduate and postgraduate students have expressed in clear, democratic and justified terms a demand for a refund of the student contribution fee from 2020-2021.
For undergraduates, this is evidenced by TCDSU Council’s motion in April where the union adopted a position in support of refunds for the academic year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. For postgraduate students, the GSU “Postgraduate Student Experience Survey” of last year, in which 1,246 students took part, expressed that 78% support refunds as compensation for the reduced value for money, e.g. lack of access to services (e.g. paying the sports centre contribution fee throughout the whole pandemic and not getting access), during the pandemic. At the April 14th GSU EGM, postgraduate students voted for a motion demanding refunds.
Across the three faculties of AHSS, EMS, and HS, postgraduate students expressed above 90%+ disapproval of the overall student experience across the aspects of learning, social life and financial matters.
Similarly, students all the way from Freshers to PhD candidates are dissatisfied with the chaotic and essentially non-existent re-opening plan of our College for the Semester 1 of the 2021-2022 academic year. Just recently, 200-300 protested on Front Square, while thousands more interacted with the social media posts of the organizers as a general outpouring of discontent swept across campus that the experience of last year looks set to be repeated for Semester 1, again without any compensation.
This is also evidenced by an independent survey, in which 866 students took part in as of September 17th 2021. Out of those 866, 83% said that they were dissatisfied with our College’s reopening and 42% said that this affected them financially, as for example they had to take up expensive accommodation in expectation – and eventual disappointment – of an in-person learning experience. Despite the first independently-organized protest, College still looks to not have their ducks in a row, as evidenced by TCDSU’s open-letter on the necessity of re-timetabling and the lack of a plan from the Provosts’ Office.
Secondly, and closely tied with the the issue of #ReturnOrRefund, is the mental health of students, staff and of our community.
In 2020-2021, the counselling services of our College averaged, at peak times – build up to exams – over 100 on the waitlist and several weeks to see a 1-1 counsellor. For the 11.4% or so of the total student population who relied on this service during the trying times of the pandemic, this could have, and probably has led to long-term negative consequences. Not only were students used as cash cows and had no educational experience, there were no robust support systems in place to make last year manageable for many students stuck at home. Many reported increased feelings of anxiety, but not just students, staff reported work intensification (65%), loneliness (43%) and emotional exhaustion (51%).
Recently, it has come to light that our College’s re-opening plan will leave many students doing their exams in-person, in the RDS, as they continue to have online lectures. The Senior Lecturer also said on the 12th of October 2021 in an email that exams and Schols will be in-person. This proposal is an affront to students. After one-and-a-half years of online learning and digital note taking, many students will suddenly be told to sit in the RDS as if nothing happened. Outrageously, this plan has no regard for the immense stress that our 17,000 or so students faced last year, and with the same disregard to student wellbeing has absolutely no support structures in place. Similarly, postgraduate students who are employed as TAs, and professors in general, have recently reported that they are under ‘unprecedented pressure’ with the continuation of online learning due to the technological complexities associated with lecture delivery – our College could easily invest in automatic lecture recording software in situ, which would ease stress for the whole community, but this would require investment.
Regarding recent developments, Budget 2022 provides a 5 million € investment for mental health, but this is not enough. According to the USI’s pre-budget submission for 2022, they asked for 28 million €, and according to them, “a third of students at 33.94% feel that their mental health has worsened as a result of COVID-19”. This is to ensure that student to counsellor and student to mental health nurse ratio is 1 per 1000 at 17.5 and 11 million € respectively. There are also non-budgetary asks in USI’s document, such as adopting the holistic Lancet Model, which are also very important.
Our College has 8 counsellors at the moment, which is roughly 1 per 2000. Out of the 5 million €300,000 was given to our College, but this is not anywhere near enough to fix the ratio. This is the government’s fault, but College should be speaking up more loudly and not pretending that our counselling services are in good shape. They could equally re-prioritize their budget away from capital projects (i.e. fancy buildings, which, in this time of crisis, are a luxury) to the community’s needs.
Recently, an article in the University Times claimed that our College has cleared the waitlist on their counselling services. According to the Provost’s email to us on September 22nd 2021, the waitlist was clear a couple weeks back too. It has 40+ days during the build up to exams, which is the issue. “We have no one on the waiting list” does not mean a lot if support systems fail when they are actually needed.
In essence, our College has consistently put increased revenues in front of our community’s well-being. It is time to make our voices heard and demand that we be treated as humans, not as cash cows.
We thus invite you to march with us on the 16th of October at 4pm, starting from TCD’s Front Square, as we demand that the College provide us a proper educational experience, refunds for last year and Semester 1, and that they take into consider students’ wellbeing and immediately invest in better mental health supports.
László Molnárfi, Chairperson, Students4Change +32 470583174
Gisèle Scanlon, President, Graduate Students’ Union +353864120444
Abhisweta Bhattacharjee, Vice-president, Graduate Students’ Union +918583981336
And press release GSU:
The TCDGSU will be protesting with Students4Change and other groups on October 16th to seek justice for the lack of consideration visited on our members in 2020/2021/2022. We are protesting to highlight student mental health and the impact of an uncertain and compromised educational experience again this year which sees many of our community struggle. The Budget 2022 has spread resources too broadly and too widely. The government is out of touch with the student struggle and mental health reforms although welcome are well short of what we need. The allocation of mental health funds to Trinity College as part of budget 2022; how much is NEW investment or is most of the figure funding which is already allocated? Taking all of this into account…. The time has come for action, the time has come for us to protest and demand a partial refund.
Please see releases attached to this email:Please see the GSU PG Student Experience Feedback Survey 2020/21 Please see release in conjunction with Student4Change attached.
Mandate Motion 5 Partial Fee refund which has earned 623 votes; 23 votes not supporting (4%) and 600 votes supporting (96%), and the motion is deemed to have passed 14th April, 2021.
a. It is the position of the Graduate Students’ Union that Postgraduate students of Trinity College Dublin have been affected more than any contingent of Students within the College community.
b. There had been a promise of a blended approach to teaching throughout the year with at least some face-to-face tuition. In the vast majority of cases, the College has failed to provide what they promised in relation to this and offered full online programs instead of regular ones. As such Postgraduate students who elected to attend Trinity were sold one product and were in fact delivered an entirely different and gravely inferior one.
c. There were many periods throughout the Academic year in which it would have been feasible for College Students to attend small face-to-face classes, yet the College remained teaching online. Even now Primary and Secondary school students are attending classes while College students are being confined to home, many of them paying huge amounts for rented residence abroad, which has had a quantifiable impact on many individuals’ academic performance, academic motivation, personal health, and mental health.
d. The Irish Government itself acknowledges this quantifiable impact. This is why as part of Ireland’s Budget 2022, the Ministry for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science granted on December 2020 a €250 payment to all full-time EU students in publicly-funded higher education institutions, to acknowledge the impact this pandemic has had on third-level students.
e. Also, various College services that were paid by the students’ tuition fees, were not provided during this academic year, such as access to academic materials in libraries (manuscript rooms), access to the sports facilities, dining spaces, etc.
f. As such it is submitted that the College has a contractual obligation and a moral duty to reimburse students and partially return fees garnered from false advertising and failed contractual obligations of delivery of services and the agreed quality of services, or else shall no doubt be seen to be acting in bad faith with little or no regard for their students who paid an exorbitant amount to be effectively attending weekly webinars.
Students 4 Change, is an independent, open-forum, democratic alliance of students from Ireland. We are Marxists and Anarchists, but we operate on the principles of the United Front, which means that a wide variety of left-leaning students and organizations take part in our actions.
The reason we are organizing is because we are a group of students discontent with our Universities, with this government and with this system. We aim to set up an Alliance of students, staff, auxiliary staff and different groups, societies and organizations to challenge the corporatization of our Universities, which has led to a loss of democracy, disregard for the community and a ceaseless strive for profit within our institutions.
Until now, most advocacy groups have framed issues in Universities as apolitical, isolated, single-issue problems specific to the University which are redeemable through managerial means. We, on the other hand, aim to have a big-picture leftist analysis of these trends – the way that capital has encroached on academia – and propose an alternative in a way that ties within the larger worldwide struggle against capitalism. This is the way forward if we want to make change within our institutions, society and the world.