— UCDSU claims licence to reside breaches constitutional right to privacy
— UCD Residences retained almost €200,000 worth of deposits over two years
UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) has launched a campaign that seeks to improve the rights of students living in UCD Residences. Under the current licence to reside, the terms and conditions that all those living on campus must agree to, students have fewer rights than private tenants.
At present, Residential Assistants (RAs) can enter students’ apartments without prior notice and begin filming, so long as they “clearly alert everyone in the vicinity of the student apartment when their recording equipment is in use.” In comparison, private tenants are allowed to refuse entry to their landlord if they have not received 24-hour’s notice.
UCDSU General Manager, Philip Mudge, said that the campaign was based on the fact that, “in simple terms, rights that were long-fought and hard-won in terms of private tenancies are not respected within tenancy agreements on campus.”
The #RESRIGHTSNOW campaign will include a march from the SU Offices in the old Student Centre to the Merville Residence Offices on Thursday, November 21st at 1pm.
According to UCDSU President, Mícheál Gallagher, the campaign focuses on four specific points: “reduced fines, a fair system of appealing the fines, ending the use of inspection cameras in apartments and finally, ultimately renegotiating the licence to reside.”
During the 2010/11 and the 2011/12 academic years, the combined amount of deposits retained by UCD Residences almost totaled €200,000. According to a spokesperson for the University, these retained deposits “are reinvested into fixtures and fittings, appliances, and the physical structure.”
For UCD residents, any fines that are imposed can only be appealed to the same body that has passed down the original fine, and it is possible that an unsuccessful appeal will lead to an increased fine. UCDSU has described the cost of these fines as “extortionate”.
The University also defended the use of cameras “in the interests of safety and security,” saying that RAs “have recording devices as part of their equipment which may be used when attending to an incident in student residences. This is in line with the Universities Safety and Security Policies.”
In response to this, Gallagher said “UCDSU cares deeply about the safety and security of students of UCD. However we feel that cameras are a breach of students fundamental right to privacy as guaranteed in the constitution. Moreover this is not something that occurs in private tenancy agreements.
“Simply stating that this is in line with University policies does not make the situation acceptable. There have been incidents where students have been in towels going between their rooms and the communal showering units, and regardless of alerting students that cameras are being used this is not acceptable.”
RAs have only been formally allowed to film inside of students’ apartments since Clause 23 was introduced to the licence to reside before the previous academic year.
Clause 23 states that “In the event of an actual or potential risk of injury to people or of damage to property, enforcement may include the use of CCTV or other recording devices which may record the activity of the occupier and any other persons attending at the premises.”