Simon Harris – Fine Gael – Wicklow – voted AGAINST.
Alan Farrell – Fine Gael – Dublin Finglas – voted AGAINST.
Paul Kehoe – Fine Gael – Wexford – voted AGAINST.
Jim O’Callaghan – Fianna Fáil – Dublin Bay South – voted AGAINST.
Pádraig O’Sullivan – Fianna Fáil – Cork North-Central – voted AGAINST.
Marc Ó Cathasaigh – Greens – Waterford – voted AGAINST.
Rose Conway-Walsh – Sinn Féin – Mayo – voted FOR.
Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire – Sinn Féin – Cork – voted FOR.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin – Labour – Dublin Bay North – voted FOR.
We will not forget their actions come election time.
This is our “student partnership”. After the recent defeat of the same proposal through the work of TCDSU, GSU and S4C, they kept re-running the vote at Board until they knew opposition would die, or those who dissent would be absent, and their agenda would be pushed through. Disgraceful.
A non-EU international student in Dublin can already be expected to pay around 30,000 to 40,000 euros just for the tuition fee and rented accommodation. That is insane. To have the audacity to further increase this is beyond comprehension. No wonder many leave after they get their degrees.
We know students who are being evicted, who are struggling to pay for groceries, and who are at risk of not getting their degrees due to the tuition fee arrears.
According to an FOI request we filed, the number of students in rent or fee arrears shot up to 250 or so during the pandemic. In the face of this, our College has decided to further push us into precarity. The government’s complicity cannot be understated either, as they transformed our universities into for-profit businesses through decades of underfunding.
As a response, we need to boycott the Student Partnership Agreement, which is nothing but a piece of paper that offers students no protections, but is a great PR booster for College. To this end, we have launched a petition.
We invite the TCDSU to boycott the SPA, not just because of the fees, but because due to the HEA Bill 2022, we will lose the Education Officer and Welfare Officer from the Board in the time of the aftershock of a pandemic. Decisions like this will meet even less opposition. As such, we need decisive action.
We also invite the TCDSU to reconsider their political strategy. They should have organised a pre-emptive protest if they knew the 2.3% fee increase was imminent. However, they didn’t tell the union members, S4C, the GSU (who were ill at the time), or the press.
We need to revisit our political strategy because what we are doing isn’t working.
The fee increase is a 2.3% over a 4-year period, with a fee freeze in 2022-2023 but starting in 2023-2024.
The plan of the government for third-level education is abysmal. Firstly, there is no commitment to reducing the student fees. Secondly, the funding is less than half of what our universities need. Thirdly, the plan comes with strings attached through the HEA Bill 2022, which is essentially a government takeover to control academia.
Not only does the plan not include a reduction in the student fees, the state is taking over academia. In the over 300-page bill, the “Minister” is mentioned 321 times. He holds sway over universities’ equality policy. The same cabinet that is gifting away the National Maternity Hospital to the church will now hold this power. He approves the budget of universities. The same neoliberal government that has decimated funding for our universities will now be able to control its finances. He will handpick people on governing bodies of universities. The same academic voices who are now dissenting will be finally muzzled.
It is a crisis that the government themselves have created, and are now stepping in as saviours to fix it. They will not. They will further push their disastrous neoliberal agenda down our throats.
Students and staff on the ground will be the most affected. The government promised no student loan system, but they cannot be trusted. They are playing the long game. Now that they will control academia, their policies cannot be stopped. We will be pushed to precarity.
In line with government policy, there is not a single mention of mental health funding within the plan. Who controls the money will control the policy. Small courses will be cut. Programmes will be merged. Academics will lose their jobs.
We would like to ask you to support the ongoing petition campaign by Students4Change and the Graduate Students’ Union of Trinity which demands to save the future of higher education in Ireland. Please see our detailed briefing on the issue here. Finally, please see our statement here, an email we sent to Trinity College Dublin here, and our email to TD template here. We are continuing this campaign that we first started in January 2022, see original statement here.
We would like to ask you to support the abolition of student fees, adequate funding for higher-education and protection of our universities’ autonomy. We need to stand up and make our voices heard and warn people of the impending catastrophe that will affect third-level education in Ireland for decades to come if this bill passes.
19th of January 2022
Dear undergraduates and postgraduates,
The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has published a new bill detailing amendments to the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971 in January 2021. The GSU and Students4Change are extremely concerned with the contents of this bill and what it entails for the future of third-level education in Ireland. The HEA Bill 2022 aims to alter the relationship between the state and third-level educational institutions. It amounts essentially to a government takeover of academia, and will result in a loss of student representation during a time when the country is in a difficult financial situation and in the midst of a mental health crisis.
One of the more prominent tenets of the bill is more state control over third level education. One of the specific proposals would result in a reduction in the number of TCDSU representatives on Trinity College Board, both in actual numbers and proportional to the size of the board. Currently both Students’ Union and Graduate Students’ Union presidents and the SU Education Officer and SU Welfare Officer sit on the Trinity College Dublin Board. The bill would lead to a reduction to 2 student representatives down from 4, with the loss of the Education Officer and Welfare Officer of the SU on the Board. This is a change both the SU and the GSU are set to oppose.
Additionally, the proposals in the bill constitute a significant overreach of the Government in the administration of third-level education. Changes will enable the government to intervene in our institutions and further push their neoliberal agenda, resulting in even-more corporatization. The bill essentially amounts to state ownership of academia.
If the bill becomes law, colleges will have to adhere to designated “frameworks” in order to secure their funding, and the composition of their decision-making bodies will have more state-appointed members.
The punishment for Universities not following the instructions of the government is dire. Some of them involve withholding of funding, some of them involve giving instructions to the higher education institution which if they do not follow they will lose funding. It is very hard to see how any real realistic autonomy will be maintained if the bill passes. Already dependent on the state for scant funding, universities will further be tied to the government.
There is an appeals Board but it is not independent, as the minister appoints it. There is as such no sign that an appeals Board would act independently of the minister.
Furthermore, the powers of Universities to appeal certain measures which are taken against them is relatively limited as to what can be appealed. Furthermore, it seems that the fact that an appeal has been taken does not operate as a stay on what it has been instructed to do. A university may have to proceed to do what it is being told to do even when it is appealing the decision which was the basis for it being told to do it.
In addition, the HEA Bill will give extended powers to the Chief Executive Officers of the HEA as opposed to the Board of Colleges. Specifically, they and not the Board may co-decide the conditions that go along with funding and may seek information from the government in relation to compliance with those conditions. They may also order a review from the Board or appoint an external review to make sure those conditions are being followed.
At the Board meeting of Trinity College Dublin held on the 19th of January 2022 it was discussed what is to be expected from the government’s new HEA bill relating to changes in College governance. The student representation in attendance are extremely concerned of the loss of autonomy and the loss of the student voice proposed in the bill.
The College’s Statues and Schedule Working Group will have to rewrite the the College Statutes, which is an affront to the autonomy of third-level educational institutions, so as to make it match with the bill’s requirements. Most Colleges will have to have a 17-member governing body, as follows.
3 of the 8 external members will be appointed by Minister Harris’ Office and the other 5 by the governing body itself.
Our College, however, will be the only university permitted to retain a majority of internal board members due to the “distinct role played by Fellows within the Trinity community”, according to the Department of Further and Higher Education. To accommodate this, Trinity may have up to 22 members on its governing body while other universities will have a maximum of 17. This is, however, not enough to stop the loss of student representation, both absolute (2 less) and proportional (2/22 is 9% which is less than 4/27 which is 15%).
The College has proposed that in order to mitigate the diluting effects of student representation, the Welfare and Education Officers would be retained as observers. The College has further said it will want to put former student union sabbatical officers as 2 external representatives of the 5 governing-body-appointed representatives.
All of these proposals are unacceptable. It will dilute the student voice during a pandemic and its aftershock and a financially turbulent time for many of us , not to mention will dilute one of the most important student representatives, the Welfare Officer. The Welfare Officer is on-the-ground dealing with casework and needs to be represented on Board. A student can never have enough representation. Furthermore, hand-picked former student union sabbatical officers are no substitute for student representatives who are actually there and know the issues of the student body, not to mention that hand-picking by College’s senior management will lead to those getting appointed to Board who are not keen on upsetting the apple cart.
Furthermore, government funding of our College amounts to 39% and students contribute around 42% of the College’s annual budget. Even from a consumerist perspective, it is not justified that more external members will come on the Board when we have student representatives who can ensure “value for money” in financial terms. No matter which way one looks at it, this Bill must be resisted by everyone in our community.
“It is the failure of successive Irish governments to fund adequately the third-level sector (and to eschew its own accountability for this) which has led, quite logically, to the imposition of the Bill. In this regard the passivity of university presidents and their failure to challenge the move robustly is nothing short of breath-taking. The argument that we must “tow the line” as more funding will otherwise be cut is naive, lacking in courage and strategy, and a grave dereliction of duty.”
– Professor Sarah Alyn-Stacey, Trinity College Dublin.
“The proposed legislation on university governance will shrink, not only the size of governing authorities, but will also serve to muzzle the voices of academic and administrative staff. As outlined, membership will be weighted in favour of external (including ministerially appointed) members. Far from guaranteeing more robust governance, the more likely outcome will be a further constraining of critical voices.”
– Professor Eoin Devereux, University of Limerick.
The state is asserting itself and Colleges are agreeing with its par to decide on university matters, such as the composition of the Board.
Students4Change and the GSU calls on Trinity College Dublin to immediately and publicly voice its opposition to the new HEA Bill. If the College does not call upon the government to prevent the passing of this bill, with its full strength thrown behind its opposition, then the GSU will refuse to sign the upcoming Student Partnership Agreement (SPA). The SPA is essentially a document describing College’s commitment and respect of the student voice through cooperation. We call upon the TCDSU to follow in our footsteps and refuse to sign the Student Partnership Agreement (SPA) until College comes out in complete opposition to the new bill. In addition, we will also be challenging the bill in the Oireachtas by making a submission to the relevant committee, and would welcome your contributions.
Colleges’ governance disregards students and staff, and has for a long time, not to mention how increasingly corporatized it has become. However, the answer isn’t government intervention, it is massive student-staff pressure from below. We need to resist the encroachment of academia with our full might. There comes a time when strongly-worded letters are not enough; when circumstances call us to action, and when nothing must be off the table – strikes, marches and occupations to make our will known.
We call upon the College, the Board, students, Visitors, Fellows and Scholars; staff and workers; trade- and student unions; societies; political groups on-campus and outside to oppose the government takeover of academia and the weakening of democracy with the utmost urgency.
Gisèle Scanlon, President, Graduate Students’ Union +353864120444
László Molnárfi, Chairperson, Students4Change +32 470583174
Students4Change supports USI’s F*ck the Fees Protest.
USI’s protest takes place Molesworth Street in Dublin at 2pm on the 23rd. Other regions have protests too, check out USI’s social media.
Tuition fees for third-level were abolished in the mid-1990s, however, this has resulted in the Government being tempted to slowly cut funding.
While student numbers increased, so did taxpayer’s investments into Universities, but the overall money available per-student has been decreasing. For example, spending per student at third-level decreased from €10,806 in 2007 to €7,089 in 2016, a drop of 34.4%.
This is despite the fact that between 2007 and 2016, public spending on education increased by 5.1%. It is simply not enough, and this has resulted in the corporatization of Universities, where they have to make up for the loss of state funding by operating like for-profit businesses, cutting courses and downsizing services like counselling.
The process of corporatization has also seen the loss of democracy within Universities, with once-lively student and academic committees making decisions being replaced by closed, managerial and elite decision-making bodies.
The so-called “Free Fees Initative” that was put in place in the mid-90s soon came to be a myth. Already in 2009/2010, students had to pay a “Registration Fee” of €1,500 to access education. By 2020-2021, this fee, now called the “Student Contribution” stands at €3,000.
On the picture, the 2010 student protests are shown, at which participants were brutally beaten by the Gardaí.
Austerity post-2008 was when bankers got away with gambling away people’s lives and the universities were essentially privatised. In Ireland, banks got a €64 billion bailout, funded by taxpayer money.
Today, only 5% of students are from a disadvantaged background in Trinity College Dublin as per the HEA report of 2020. Socioeconomic diversity is at an all time low accross all Universities, as students must pay up to 14,000 € per year for tuition and overpriced student accommodation.
At the same time, student nurses midwifes and dental practicioners are being exploited. “Before their final year internship, most student nurses and midwives get either nothing or an allowance of just €50.79 per week,” says INMO, their union.
Students are emigrating under this immense financial pressure. However, if we combine our forces, we can still change our situation.
In the UK, grassroots groups organized in 2020-2021, engaging in rent strikes and eventually winning refunds of up to 30% for the academic year.
In the Netherlands, tuition fees were halved following the 2020-2021 academic year for 2021-2022, due to the loss of student experience during Covid-19.
All this shows that another system is possible. We need to organize ourselves in radical, mass organizations and keep pushing for change at every corner.
Dear undergraduates, dear postgraduates, dear students,
As we approach exams, Students4Change (S4C) and the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) would like to share their utmost concern relating to the sudden return to in-person exams in the RDS for some students, and the overall plan for assessment in Semester 1.
Our position has been consistent since September. We have always advocated for a proper return to in-person classes, with strong hybrid learning supports in place for those who, due to Covid-19 or otherwise, are anxious about returning to College campus. In addition, we’ve taken onboard students’ worries about a sudden return to in-person exams in the RDS and advocated for holistic, open-book alternatives to traditional exams, which worked so well last year. Finally, central to our requests was that if the student experience is compromised, refunds should be given.
Chairperson of Students4Change László Molnárfi says, “there is an opportunity to build back better as a community, but College is squandering it with its short-term thinking and preoccupation with revenues. Instead of investing in re-timetabling software, proper ventilation and hybrid learning systems, they are trying to save face by refusing to acknowledge the deep-rooted governance problem that originates from the Provosts’ Office. There is a lack of democracy, transparency and accountability.”
This means that instead of progressing as an academic community, initiative is stifled by bureaucratic means, and decisions which are detrimental to students and staff are pushed through, with little to no consideration of their effects.
Students4Change and the GSU are calling on the IUA (Irish Universities Association) to reconsider the decision for Universities to hold in-person exams in light of current high COVID-19 numbers.“
We would like to express through this press release our concerns about College’s current lack of mitigation measures and contingency plans for in-person RDS and online exams in Semester 1 of 2021-2022. Last year, the counselling services at peak time – build-up to exams – averaged ‘100 on the waitlist and several weeks to see a 1-1 counsellor’. It is with this figure in mind that the exam season should be considered, as if it is done in an unthoughtful way, it will have catastrophic consequences for students’ wellbeing.
In general, our requests have been the following, which Students4Change has communicated to the Provosts’ Office via an email on the 30th of September 2021, and which the GSU has raised at College committees:
However, with the upcoming in-person RDS exams and online exams, our requests need to be more specific, in the form of proposals. As such, we would like to ask for mitigation measures, and a contingency plan, which should include the following, and keep in mind the following:
“I have engaged with classes and there are many practical issues which surround in-person exams which we are deeply concerned about at the Graduate Students’ Union. As a quality and equality issue, handwritten scripts are much poorer in general and disadvantage certain members of our community (students can’t return to write a sentence without messing up a handwritten exam for example) and therefore we are calling for keyboard mediated exams with the assurance that there will be enough postgraduate research students as invigilators set up to take the anxiety out of exams this year.”
“Having typed text to mark is the number one thing that will help the postgraduate community as it will improve quality for both students and teaching staff. A student can have an essay/answer and may wish to return to make improvements after handwriting pages, but handwritten scripts are too rigid and make improvement by addition and correction impossible and messy. Typed text creates a higher quality piece of work overall which is nicer to produce for our postgraduate taught students and less problematic to mark for our postgraduate research students.”
The GSU President explained that “I tried to get an ambulance for a student last week onto the Trinity College campus and I was told there was a six hour wait by the ambulance services. Although there are nurses present in the RDS, what if a student needs an ambulance with the HSE being so stretched at the moment it’s a valid concern? I had to book a taxi to take the student to St. James’s Hospital. What if a student runs into difficulty in the RDS? I have worked at the RDS helping the postgraduate community during their exams, there are many variables and unknowns which we deal with as a Union and it’s a valid concern.”
These mitigation measures are necessary to ensure the wellbeing of students and staff alike.
László Molnárfi, Chairperson, Students4Change +32 470583174
Gisèle Scanlon, President, Graduate Students’ Union +353864120444
Abhisweta Bhattacharjee, Vice-president, Graduate Students’ Union +918583981336
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.