UCD students and staff have long been encouraged to call their campus a ‘community’. Given that the campus is extraordinarily big, and the people that study and work here are in their thousands, this name seems fair.
We are constantly bombarded with references to the UCD community, but should UCD be doing more to encourage the augmentation of facilities to rival that of a small town? Can a place that effectively shuts down at the weekend really be called a community?
Last year, the inaugural ‘UCD Community Musical’, West Side Story, was staged. People opposed to this use of university funds and felt that the money should have been pumped into encouraging those who felt isolated to join in the UCD community, by funding projects such as the Students’ Union’s (SU) Please Talk campaign, or Niteline. Those involved, however, said that the musical did wonders for bringing the group together and encouraging a sense of collegiate spirit.
American colleges have been famed for their 24-hour campuses. Libraries are open to students any time they feel they need to study, shops are open, and general activities occur on campus all the time. Students, especially those on exchange programmes, feel that UCD pales in comparison.
Third year Arts student, Natalie Greenberg, who is currently on a Junior Year Abroad (JYA) programme, attends Oberlin College in Ohio, a small, private liberal arts college with a student body of about 2,000. Greenberg said that her “college closes at two in the morning.” It seems quite bizarre that a college with a tenth of the student body of UCD has longer opening hours.
Deputy Librarian of the James Joyce Library, Marie Burke feels that 24-hour opening hours may not be quite right for UCD stating that “there is some question as to whether the usage justifies it, because certainly in the very early hours of the morning there doesn’t seem to be the pickup that you would think there might be.”
Students however seem to be in disagreement. Second year Arts student, Mairead Feeley said that the current Library opening hours were “not up to scratch” and that a 24-hour library service would “make studying a lot more accessible.” While Burke admitted that “there well may be some demand for services outside those hours”, she stressed that “at the moment the library is not funded to do that.”
The Student Health Service is something that students may believe could benefit from being changed into a 24-hour service. Currently, the Health Service runs a 24-hour service with St Vincent’s Hospital, but is there a demand for a 24-hour GP on campus? Director of Student Health, Dr Sandra Tighe feels instead of making the medical centre 24 hours, it would be more productive to “increase the services at the time of most demand.” Reasons for this include the fact that “in an ideal situation, the student would have an ongoing relationship with the doctor they see and if you’re trying to have a service that is available 24-hours, you’re not going to have a particular individual.” The SU entertainment on campus (Ents) at the weekends has proved contentious among students. No one can dispute the fact that the Ents’ office has proved itself aptly at providing entertainment for UCD’s community, but why is it limited to the weekdays? Students living on campus have yet to feel the benefits of the “residENTS” scheme. This plan promised students living on-campus events to take them through weekends and familiarise themselves with both UCD and their neighbours in the on-campus residential areas.
First year Business and Law student, Grainne McCarthy is from Galway and currently lives on-campus in Belgrove. She that she and her friends usually have parties in their houses on-campus as opposed to attending residENTS events. Of entertainment on-campus at the weekends, McCarthy simply said “you have to organise it yourself.” She prefers the parties on-campus at the weekends because “there’s not as much security or stupid rules.”
SU Entertainments Officer, Gary Redmond has defended the lack of Ents at the weekend, saying that “campus is completely dead on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.” Despite the fact that UCD had “Vitalic on the 26th September (a Friday) and Vitalic was sold out with a couple of days to go. We probably could have sold it out twice in the end and it worked really well with the late bar.”
Redmond has no further plans to extend Ents into the weekend for students who live on campus. He stated that “with the big name acts, we’re really restricted to when they are available so if a gig falls on the Friday, we’ll obviously do it on the Friday,” and this seems to be the only reason that an event would be extended into the weekend to provide some sort of entertainment for those living on campus.
The lack of Ents on campus at the weekends is not solely down to Redmond of course. The fact that many of the shops and restaurants on campus reduce their opening hours, or simply close at the weekends is hardly conducive to a community spirit.
Greenberg feels that there are not the facilities she needs on campus, saying that “on the weekends I just go into town and go grocery shopping.” Redmond feels that Ents alone cannot make UCD a better place at the weekends, and that “its something that everyone needs to decide if we want to do this, and if we do, we go for it all together and all support each other.” He also feels that “there’s no point in me organising Ents events if the other support services aren’t going to follow at the same time.”
The fact of the matter remains that UCD is not really in a place to call itself a “community” until more adequate services are provided for those who have no option but to remain here at the weekends. While some may feel that the idea of a 24-hour campus is financially unattainable, Redmond seems to be correct when he says “whether it’d work or not, I’m not sure, but it has worked internationally so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work here.”