Three students who protested at the opening of the new Student Centre in November are facing a disciplinary hearing with the Registrar, Professor Mark Rogers, which is due to take place on February 13th.
The incident involved eggs being thrown at the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, who was present to officially open the building, in protest of the rising registration fees. The eggs missed the Taoiseach, however UCD Vice-President for Students Martin Butler was struck. The issue has resurfaced recently due to an email received by three students identified as being involved in the incident, Suzanne Lee, Aidan Roe and Ben McCormack, formally calling them before Professor Rogers. Butler would normally deal with such an issue but due to his personal involvement in the incident, Professor Rogers must take his place.
The email was received just before UCD Students’ Union Council took place last Thursday, leading to International Students Co-ordinator Karl Gill putting forward an emergency motion to ask UCDSU to revoke their earlier condemnation of the incident and to support the students in question. An overwhelming majority defeated this motion.
Gill says that he is “extremely disappointed” in the lack of support the students involved have received from the Union. He claimed that there is general support for them from outside Council and that most students see the incident as “no big deal”. He believes that the Union’s purpose is to be there to represent and support students “when they need it most” and cited another disciplinary action earlier this year in which he said the Union did get involved.
Suzanne Lee, one of those allegedly involved in the incident is of the same belief. She has received letters of support from a number of UCD Faculty members and from International Students’ Unions but does feel that the Union has “made their mind up” about how they are going to deal with the situation.
UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin however has responded to the issue by saying that she doesn’t see a situation where the condemnation could be revoked. Though she emphasised that “students are always welcome and entitled to protest”, she felt that there was no choice but to condemn the actions when “it crossed into a purposefully violent act and this was intentionally violent. It was an unnecessary and unwelcome thing to bring a violent act into an event that students had put so much work into.” She maintains: “The student response after has been overwhelmingly in support of the condemnation.”
Breslin recognises that the Union has an obligation under the Constitution to represent all students but that they also must “endeavour to maintain a positive relationship with staff”.
There have been a number of letters written to the Union asking that Breslin request leniency for these students or that she come out in support of them. However, while she aims to respond to all enquiries on this matter, she says she “must listen to the people [she] works for” after Council approved the Union’s condemnation of the incident.