At student council on Monday evening, Dominic O’Keefe, Director of Student Services delivered a powerpoint presentation on plans for new pitches and a student centre extension. It has been proposed that the student centre expansion be paid by introduction of a new Student Centre Levy.
O’Keefe began the presentation by highlighting the poor quality of the current pitches on campus and spoke about the need for balance between facilities for sports and societies. The proposed plan for the student centre expansion includes a large sports hall which could also be used for exams, a revamping of Astra Hall, new hockey pitches, and an outdoor pitch with a dome-shaped covering.
Melissa Plunkett, who was recently elected Welfare Officer, asked if there was any space in the plans for counselling services. O’Keefe responded that the money for counselling services does not come from the Student Centre Levy and the levy only pays for “the bricks and mortar,” and so there would not be funding available for more counsellors. He suggested that there was no point in creating a space for counselling services if they could not afford the counsellors to use the spaces, although he appeared open to the idea of a quiet space on campus to practice mindfulness.
O’Keefe told council that the counselling space had been able to take on more students this year than before. However, the counselling service is currently heavily over-subscribed, and there is not sufficient space in the Old Student Centre at present to expand the counselling service.
Multiple students raised the issue of car parking spaces, as the proposed running track will be situated where there is currently a car park. O’Keefe responded by saying that Dun Laoighaire – Rathdown County Council restricts the number of parking spaces that can be built on the UCD campus. He said that to replace the current car park, spaces could be put in “pockets” around campus but that they could not increase the total number of parking spaces.
It is likely that a referendum will take place in the next academic year to decide if students will fund this expansion through a new Student Centre Levy. O’Keefe says that he would “hope” that the new levy would be no higher than the current one. He also said that there should be an easy transition from the old levy to the new one. Since 2006 UCD students have paid an estimated €43 million via the Student Centre Levy, almost paying off the cost of the New Student Centre.
At student council it was also announced that two microwaves are to appear in Science by the Pi restaurant, and a motion was passed for the Welfare Officer to give out drug testing kits.