As the economic climate causes UCD’s bigger societies to scale back their operations, Quinton O’Reilly wonders if they are serving students as best they can
If academia is the backbone of a university, then societies could be regarded as the heart. Nobody can deny their contribution and the positive effect they have to university life, but the current year seems to have brought about a lull in their activities compared to previous sessions.
The profile of guest speakers who have visited the university at the societies’ behest could be taken as an example of this trend. In the previous two years, the names that have graced the campus with their presence are many and varied: international stars such as Will Ferrell, and J.K. Rowling, have touched down in UCD because of the efforts of these societies such as the L&H Society and the Law Society.
Set your sights to the current year and the contrast couldn’t be greater. The L&H are currently showing films most weeks, while the Law Society are bringing in Jeremy Kyle, a man famous for his aggressive approach to the dysfunctional guests on his ITV daytime chat show. The most high profile guest for students this term, Bill Bailey, was brought in due to a joint collaboration between the two societies.
The obvious reduction of funding in societies has caused this shift to occur. The money that societies once received from annual sponsorship had decreased due to businesses not having the same financial means as before.
With or without these financial issues, it could be argued that many societies had fallen into a comfortable routine of churning out the same events each year and now seem to be experiencing difficulty in coping with the changes the year has brought. Although new students come into the university, the majority of students are already familiar with these events meaning that there’s no obvious incentive for them in attending the same event or debate twice.
Further, students don’t have the same funds to spend as they once had and attending events like society balls or nights out on a regular basis is no longer a viable option. Societies relying on these events as a means of funding will have to be become more selective as to what events they hold or at least improve on what they already do to gets students to part with their cash.
Society balls have taken a hit over the previous year although events this term like the Arts Ball, which sold out within hours, appear to be coping with this problem better than expected.
But perhaps the financial restrictions will be a blessing in disguise for these societies. While it has forced them to balance the books more efficiently and exercise a degree of caution as to how they utilize these funds, they will have to use more creative and intuitive methods to try and capture the imaginations of students.
Meanwhile, the decrease in profile for them could mean that smaller societies in the university could get the chance to shine with events that could have been overshadowed by the arrival of a high profile guest. Such a change could entice students to explore or get involved with other smaller societies and aid their growth and scope for activities.
Despite this, it must be noted that the societies in UCD do a fantastic job in making university life more vibrant and the students running them should be commended for the effort they put in each year. It’s up to them now to also show the imagination they once had, if they want to keep engaging the minds of student