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Thank you to Jody Druce from University Times for taking up the issue of broken promises made by Trinity College Dublin re. in-person lectures, and also to Jack Kennedy from Trinity News. Here are a few more thoughts to expand on our Chair’s quote in the upcoming UT article and a few general observations on how we should approach the core issues facing us students and wider society, illustrated by the example of Trinity’s botched re-opening plan.
Many students are overall disappointed with the low number of in-person lectures, and feel that the University did not communicate clearly and early enough the re-opening plans for the 2021-2022 scholastic year. As of the 12th of September 2021, already 130 signed our petition asking for partial refunds or some sort of compensation for those affected by the continued delivery of learning material solely online for bigger courses. This is exacerbated by the fact that Trinity’s waiting times for counselling services average 40 days, meaning that many stuck at home are left to fend for themselves. These reports of lectures with below 50 people being online-only events come as another blow to students, especially since we were promised the opposite. It is not an administrative error but a conscious policy choice which was changed without much notice, and it is also likely that the seeming ineptitude and the general lack of proper communication originates from Trinity’s efforts to safeguard its profits, as otherwise a sizable number of students would have deferred the year in light of the relative lack of in-person teaching. This issue is representative of a larger problem with how Trinity College Dublin views the provision of education and students – as sources of profit – which in turn is symptomatic of decades of commercialization of third-level institutions against the backdrop of successive governments failing to properly fund our universities. The conception of third-level education being for-profit institutions originates in the ruling mode of production, capitalism, and its intensified state, neoliberal policies.
Note that the profit motive is also the reason for the lack of lecture recording. This opposition comes from trade unions. If lectures are recorded and the copyright goes to Trinity (as it would currently do for certain remediable legal reasons), lecturers fear being let go by the University and their own recordings being used to teach instead, which is cheaper – absolutely dystopian. It is important to take away from this that in-person lectures and recorded lectures (for inclusivity reasons) are not mutually exclusive, but are presented to be contradictory due to the fragmented nature of a society lacking class consciousness, wherein issues are atomized so that their true solution is concealed from the masses. This supposed contradiction makes it difficult to advocate for a solution. The only way to unite the struggle is to realize that the ills associated stem from the profit motive, and the conclusion then can only be to overthrow the profit motive and dissolve the contradiction – as “man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind” (Marx).
This might seem reductionist, but it is a consequence of the momentum of history, not about the individual people in Trinity (or in any other institution) who want to or say they want to provide good education. It is not about the Provost or Management, but about the ruling mode of production which predetermines the victory of capital over individual’s intentions however good they may be in every societal institution. While there are individual variations in the extent of its intensification (spurred on by those in power), the yoke of capital is equally reactionary everywhere and impossible to resist by focusing our efforts *solely* locally. The only way to challenge the system is to challenge capitalism itself, rather than focusing only on fragmented and atomized single-issues and thinking that they are remediable by managerial means, i.e. we need to see the bigger picture. rather than focusing all our energy on this or that individual or policy.
Consequentially, it must also be understood that the way forward is to force the hands of institutions and of the ruling classes – after having exhausted all other means – through direct action (e.g. sit-ins, strikes, occupations, etc.). We need to make some noise and organize, and all organizations need to take part in this united front. For example, for the TCD Students’ Union, this would be an opportunity to provide support for students on the ground organizing, and a chance to prove that the union is not just a passive service provider but an active union which protects its members’ interests. A chance to overthrow the existing cultural and structural DNA of the union… at the moment, we and many other students are disappointed that the union, while negotiating at meetings, is not standing up more strongly for students affected by this issue.
With this in mind, let’s continue the struggle for our Universities and for a better society! We call upon Trinity College Dublin to:
The new government policy‘s implementation in Trinity College Dublin for the re-opening of third-level education is disappointing. It is about time that we demand either a proper University experience or refunds like students in the U.K did (see e.g. UCL, UoM rent strikes, occupations and other direct action in addition to legal action).
In fact, there should have been last year too such demands, but no protest movement or radical union was there to fight for the cause.
We have created a petition outlining these demands on Uplift.ie.
We demand that:
Due to the approach to the Covid-19 regulatory framework for education that Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is taking, many students will not be able to access in-class lectures due to their large class sizes. We, as TCD students, are asking for provisions to refund a part of the student contribution fee for those affected by the continued substitution of in-person learning for digital learning.
Our reasoning is as follows:
The current regulatory framework says that “larger lectures can happen within limits linked to reducing the size or capacity of very large lecture halls” and does not consider larger lectures necessary in-person activities due to public health advice and leaves it up to institutions to “determine how best to do this in their own context”. Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has considered the health advice as it applies to their situation and announced that large lectures above 150 will not be held in-person and some lectures between 50 and 150 are up to the “discretion” of individual Schools.
If TCD has considered the current public health advice and deems that many students will not return to in-class learning, then a partial refund for students makes sense. Students have been milked for money for way too long for education.
More facts and statistics:
The last 18 months have been very hard on third-level students, both academically and mental health-wise. A survey conducted in March 2021 found that more than 90 per cent of students are struggling with loneliness, stress and are feeling disconnected with the system of online learning. This is not to mention the frustrations felt by many students as they were required to pay large sums of money for a University experience which was of much lower quality due to online learning.
To many, the news of this reopening plan comes as a disappointment, and students feel neglected by the government as their hopes of a full return to campus are crushed, especially as UCD is fully re-opening.
The fair alternative is the partial refund: Students have been milked for money for way too long for education that is of worse quality, and have been consistently promised a return to in-person learning, which they look forward to – as such, they deserve it.
In addition, the following are action point(s) which you can take to help the campaign:
Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD) Endowment Fund’s equity portfolio (c.65% of total Endowment Fund portfolio) comprises equity investments via units held in two indexed life assurance Funds which are passively managed by Irish Life Investment Managers (ILIM) as detailed below.
• MSCI World ex-Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund
• TCD High Yield Equity ex-Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund
By way of a FOI request answered on the 30th of July 2021, TCD and ILIM provided a list of “full portfolio listings of the two indexed equity funds at 31 December 2020” to us.
In our research, we looked at the following arms companies to see whether TCD has any investments in them. There may be some which are not on the list and therefore not in the table below. In total, according to this list, Trinity College Dublin has 2,6+ million euros invested in the arms industry, which is increased from 2015 when a journalistic inquiry determined the same figure to be around 850,000 €. For example, it has 721,473 € invested in LockHeed Martin, a company whose handheld weapons and fighter jets have been used by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians. Through the ceaseless self-expansion of capital, capitalism has made us complicit in conflict over resources, imperialist wars and colonial oppression.
Aeroflex Ltd, Airbus Defence, Airbus Group Ltd, Airbus OP Ltd, BAE Marin Ltd, BAE Surface Ships, BMT Defence Ltd, Boeing, General Electric Co, Halliburton Energy, Halliburton Man, Hewlett Packard, Honeywell Ctrl, Leonardo, Lockheed Martin, Qinetiq, Thales UK Ltd, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, GKN, Smiths Group, Cobham, VT Group, General Dynamics, General Electric, Halliburton, L3 Communications, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Motors are the companies involved in the global arms trade that we looked for.
Thank you to UCL’s demilitarization campaign (@demilitariseucl on Instagram) for their support through providing valuable tips on FOIs and the list of companies involved in the arms trade. Their FOI requests can be found here, here and here.
|Fund||Amount Total of Fund||Name of Company||Percentage of Fund||Amount Invested in Company|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||AIRBUS||0.14%||111,030 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||BAE SYSTEMS ORD GBP0.025||0.04%||31,722 €|
|Global High Yield Equity Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||68,895,311 €||BAE SYSTEMS ORD GBP0.025||0.20%||137,790 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||BOEING CO COM USD5||0.24%||190,337 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||HALLIBURTON COM USD2.50||0.03%||23,792 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||HEWLETT PACKARD EN COM USD0.01||0.03%||23,792 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||HONEYWELL INTL INC COM USD1||0.31%||245,852 €|
|Global High Yield Equity Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||68,895,311 €||LOCKHEED MARTIN CO COM USD1||0.84%||578,720 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||LOCKHEED MARTIN CO COM USD1||0.18%||142,753 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||THALES EUR3||0.02%||15,861 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||ROLLS ROYCE ORD GBP1.50||0.03%||23,792 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||SMITHS GROUP ORD GBP0.375||0.02%||15,861 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||GENERAL MOTORS CO COM USD0.01||0.11%||87,238 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||L3 HARRIS TECHNOLO COM USD1.00||0.08%||63,445 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||NORTHROP GRUMMAN COM USD1||0.10%||79,307 €|
|MSCI World Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||79,307,312 €||RAYTHEON TECHNOLOG COM USD1.00||0.22%||174,476 €|
|Global High Yield Equity Ex Fossil Fuels ex Tobacco Fund 31/12/2020||68,895,311 €||RAYTHEON TECHNOLOG COM USD1.00||1.02%||702,732 €|
Following news of the disqualification of renowned academic Dr. Sarah Alyn-Stacey from the Provost elections and its aftermath involving a plethora of reactions critical thereof from students and academics alike (see. Open letter of postgraduates, pro-chancellor Sean Barrett, the recent change.org survey and IFUT), this discussion item is submitted in order to discuss the possibility of abstention on the student-wide survey run by the EC as per the mandate passed at the SU Council in December, the result of which the six student representatives with voting rights are mandated to respect as a block when casting their votes for the next Provost. Speaking as the class representative of Junior Fresh PPES, certain students have voiced dissatisfaction with the reduced pool of candidates, and would want to see an option of abstention to express this dissatisfaction.
Speaking candidate-wise neutrally for myself and also echoing sentiments of certain coursemates, some students fundamentally disagree with the disqualification of Dr. Sarah Alyn-Stacey and the Interview Committee’s shift in role as compared to the election ten years ago. As described by University Times in an editorial article, whereas the IC used to be a ‘mild screening process’, it has in the upcoming election taken a fundamentally bureaucratic role, shifting the whole procedure from election to appointment. Rather than trusting the electorate to decide what is best for the future of the University in a fair and free environment fused with the spirit of academic debate, a vanguard claiming to represent the College’s interests has decided in its place. If there was an option to abstain in the upcoming student survey, students could express their dissatisfaction and rather cast a vote of protest by proxy to uphold democratic values within College in lieu of being either forced to vote in an election which they believe to hold questionable legitimacy or being left without an opportunity to voice their dissatisfaction at all. A vote for democracy is the best vote, one which inherently – in principle of radical democracy – guarantees the fulfillment of the students’ goals, such as curing the imminent risk posed by climate change.
As a result of news of the voting system not being able to support an abstention option because of the STV mechanism, this document can serve as an item to note the dissent of certain students regarding the disqualification of Dr. Sarah Alyn-Stacey.