Leftist students for social progress.

Tag: tcdsu

Statement on Recent Events and the Way Forward for 2021-2022

László Molnárfi

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:

  • Apologize to students for the unclear and late communication concerning the re-opening plan, which conveyed a lack of care for students’ needs and a preoccupation with profit.
  • Provide more in-person lectures through using TCD’s unused/underused real estate properties to hold classes provided the Covid-19 regulations allow, or alternatively, refund or otherwise compensate students for the loss of their in-person tuition and the educational experience that they paid for.
  • Work together with the TCD Students’ Union, trade unions like IFUT and lecturers in addition to lawyers to find a solution for handing over copyright of recorded lectures to lecturers, so as to enact a democratically-approved policy of courses being recorded for inclusivity reasons.
  • Increase mental health spending to fix 40+ days wait times at the counselling services instead of relying on the TCD Students’ Union as an arm of the College to make up for the lacking budget.

Download the PDF version of this statement here.

Example of applying dialectical materialism on a local level, to the TCDSU

Hi friends,

The philosophical aspects of Marxism are often overshadowed by its social, political and economic aspects. However, I’ve recently discovered the joys of dialectical reasoning and I would like to share an example of how we can use it in everyday politics, such as in deciding student union policy.

The below is an excerpt from an email conversation I had which demonstrates dialectics.


My question was whether the Sabbatical team requested a refund at the TCD Finance Committee or in any way followed up on this motion? Motion is titled “Full Refund of Student Contribution Fee” I believe. 

If we did, and our union’s request got rejected, it would still be a good idea to share that on social media for transparency reasons. To let the students know that the TCDSU did try… also especially because this is one of the most important demands by students this year. Not to mention that by sharing updates such as this – that our demands were ignored or rejected, for example –  there would be a certain level of outrage and therefore we might increase engagement from students as this is a very pressing issue. Students have a right to know what the union did on their behalf and a right to be informed of the College’s decisions at every step.  

The latter might seem counterintuitive, as some would say it would discredit and weaken the TCDSU due to people being angry at the TCDSU for failing to deliver on its promises. However, I think such anger would be more directed towards the College (or the Government), especially if TCDSU exhausts all possible ways of working with the system in its attempts to fulfill the mandate, and thus it would radicalize students in the process and increase “class consciousness”. In fact, I believe this is a prime example of applying dialectical materialism as dialectical reasoning – the form of the message that is shared is at odds with the content of the message. I.e. whereas the expression is one of failure (“form”), its potentialities (“content”) is one of increasing the respectability of the union by being transparent and radicalizing students due to the inaction/”greed” of College (or Government). 

After all, It seems to me the motion itself (apart from its symbolism), being a maximum or transitional demand destined to not be realized via simply asking College, was designed this way. Therefore, its ultimate aim is to show the limits of the current system and the limits of the way the union interacts with the University decision-making structure, in the end showing the necessity for radical and mass action as opposed to the more moderate union we have now. In short, a way to shake ourselves, students, out of our own apathy.  

László molnárfi

Town Hall: USI and TCDSU Joint Student Accommodation Bill

László Molnárfi

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.

In his short reply at the end, I perceived smokescreening, deflection and avoidance of answering the question. This was aptly picked up on by Deputy President of the TU Dublin Students’ Union Luke Daly, who Tweeted about how Malcolm Byrne “proceeded to scold people for ‘Anti-FF’ comments in his closing speech.”

“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!

TCDSU Discussion Item on the Disqualification of Dr. Sarah Alyn-Stacey from the Provost Elections

László Molnárfi

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.

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