The week of the 20th is Christmas week at Halls. Christmas week is not a week to be discussing events – vendors, organize gazeebos, catering, etc. and for College to be giving permission. If the JCR are interested in planning Christmas event, a plan would have to be tabled this week on Tuesday at the Covid-19 Management Team meeting. The time for the JCR to bring events for approval is next week, but if this review takes place next week within the next couple of days (and presented on Thursday at the Trinity Living with Covid meeting) then the JCR will not be able to hold events because they will not have time to discuss and propose events. With respect, the JCR needs time to prepare events and not get distracted by such reviews. What it is is a perfectly timed review to halt the operations of the JCR, to act as an impediment for their operations, which will ultimately end up punishing students who stay over for Christmas.
In addition, the exam season might impede the review, and who knows when it will be complete because of that.
In past years, the JCR has organized multiple events per month. However, as demonstrated, this year’s JCR is being pressured and banned by College from organizing events.This is unacceptable.
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).
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.
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,
Following my discussion today with Leah I am writing to ask for an official, written commitment from the TCDSU that they will lobby the College to change 8.9 in College’s accommodation policy so as to make it more inclusive. The proposal concerns expanding the definition of what kind of animals are allowed from a service dog to service animals and emotional support animals.
The need for this is demonstrated by the case of a postgraduate student with an emotional support dog, who is getting evicted by College. See attached document.
I would also like to note that the policy should also cover animal welfare, as flagged by students involved in Students4Change’s United Front. The needs of students’ must be balanced with concerns over animal welfare, as keeping pets in the small, enclosed spaces that Trinity-owned accommodation is could be very detrimental to their health. As such, TCDSU should lobby College to build/modify student accommodation with special accommodations which have animals in mind.
Recently, the USI held a Town Hall event with students and representatives of Sinn Fein, People Before Profit, Labour and Fianna Fail. The Greens and Fianna Gail did not show. The #EducationForAll campaign demands an end to tuition fees, publicly-funded student accommodation coupled with a tenant’s bill of rights and better working conditions for academic staff.
At this Town Hall, many students and student representatives spoke about the myriad of ways the Government has failed us. This included personal stories about how the government’s lacking Covid-19 response affected students’ lives, international students paying exorbitant fees and being told they need to be on campus for this year (then not getting any refunds), students not being able to access SUSI – and even if they do, the payments barely covering the high cost of living and fees, etc.. The USI will have a recording of the event up.
As for me, I questioned Fianna Fail’s Malcolm Bryne on his support of the bill. Copied below is my speech which roughly matches what I said at the meeting.
“I am here to speak in favor of the The Residential Tenancies (Student Rents and Other Protections) (Covid-19) Act 2021 bill. I want to thank the USI, Sinn Fein, PBP and Labour for their work in bringing this forward. My contribution is targeted to Fianna Fail, as the representative present didn’t really say anything in relation to the bill.
My experience with student accommodation is as follows. As someone involved in the Trinity College Dublin Student Union (TCDSU) as a class representative, if there is one issue that is facing all students this year it is accommodation. Everyone has been complaining about accommodation. We are being exploited by Big Money multinational companies such as Hines and GSA – the latter, for example, being registered in the Cayman Islands. This has further worsened the housing crisis, and not to mention the financial backing of foreign vulture funds. The accommodation I am at, for example, has successfully lobbied the Irish government against fire safety regulations! Coming from an international background as a first-year student, I pay up to 5000 euros per semester for student accommodation which I am practically forced into, due to not knowing how to navigate the local rental market. On my very first day in Dublin, I met a homeless student… the very people that my 5000 euros per semester should go towards in support, if these big multinationals actually paid taxes. Instead, they use offshore companies in tax-haven Luxembourg and the likes to funnel money and avoid taxes. The situation is entirely unacceptable.
I believe that this bill represents a step forward.
However, seeing that Fianna Fáil was accused of “absolute hypocrisy” after eight councillors in party leader Micheál Martin’s constituency voted against social housing in January 2020 – this was the Lyonshall development – makes me worried that FF represent the interests of landlords and not of the students and people.
So, Will Fianna Fail come out in support of the bill? I urge government parties to support this much needed bill. Thank you.”
Many more students spoke of being ‘cash cows’ too.
“Malcolm, please don’t gaslight students. Fianna Fail along with FG have been one of the biggest offenders of anti-student rhetoric. It’s downright disrespectful to dismiss students’ well-deserved rage and scold them for dismissing your party. FF need to adapt their programmes, policies and lead by example. Listen to these contributions. Students are living in a nightmare and your party has direct power to end that right now,” he commented in the Zoom chat.
See how you can help the #EducationForAll campaign at the USI’s website!
Welcome to Students4Change!
We are an independent, open-forum, democratic alliance of students from Trinity College Dublin and elsewhere focused on the housing crisis in relation to student accommodation, Irish neutrality, SU reform and other matters of student politics. We encompass a broad church of Marxists and Anarchists, but we also work together with left-leaning students, organizations and movements.