The Business and Legal Society (B&L) and Arts Society have been fined €5,000, to be split equally between the two societies, for a poster advertising their joint event ‘The Virgin Ball’.
The posters were placed on campus on Thursday 3rd September, but were removed later that day on the advice of UCD Societies Officer Richard Butler.
The punishment was decided by the Recognition Committee of Societies Council and Academic Council, to which Butler acts as secretary. The committee found that not only were the posters offensive, but that the event itself was “in breach of the basic standards of propriety and consideration.”
ArtsSoc auditor Niamh Kiely and B&L auditor Aoife McGuinness were asked to submit a joint defence of their societies’ actions, which was emailed to Butler in advance of the meeting. Neither Kiely nor McGuinness were permitted to attend the meeting, which took place last Thursday. The societies were informed of the penalty the following Tuesday, again via email from Butler.
Kiely and McGuinness maintain that they did not deserve a fine of such severity. While Kiely acknowledged that “we may have gone a bit close to the line” in deciding on the event’s title, McGuinness voiced their distress with the fine, stating that “we’d completely accept a fine, but not €5,000. It’s a lot. I don’t understand how they’re justifying it.”
In a statement sent to The University Observer, Butler elaborated on the reasons for the size of the fine imposed “The Committee considered that the message conveyed by the poster was insidious and dangerous, and that it constituted a deliberate act of emotional manipulation designed to prey on the fears and worries of students.”
However, Kiely explained that “they said that we maliciously set out to try and harm the wellbeing of the student body, which isn’t the case at all. We’ve given our time to the Welfare Crew to help out with various student campaigns.”
Kiely felt that the “decisive and rapid action” to change the posters taken by the two societies on Butler’s orders, and the fact that they “took on board exactly what [Butler] was saying,” should have lessened their punishment. They also took the decision to rename the event ‘Slave to the Rave’. However, Butler’s statement went on to describe the defence offered by the societies as “mendacious” and that “there was a very real danger of the poster triggering significant harm to members of the university community.”
Kiely and McGuinness said that big societal events such as the Arts Ball, the B&L Ball and Arts Day will most likely suffer due to the severity of the fine. Kiely conceded that she “wouldn’t be entirely sure if Arts Day could go ahead” in light of ArtsSoc’s resulting financial state.
The societies have not yet been given a deadline for payment of the fine. The fine in its entirety will be donated to the Student Welfare Fund.