A GROUP of school children from disadvantaged backgrounds were denied access to the veterinary hospital while on a visit to the university last week as a part of the Students’ Union (SU) Access Week. The children had come to UCD to participate in tours of the university that are aimed at encouraging them to enter into third-level education. It is believed that children will not be allowed to visit the veterinary hospital in future years, despite being common practice in the past.
Problems arose when the size of the groups was revealed to those in charge of the veterinary hospital, who deemed them too large. Despite reducing the number in each group from two groups of 20 children to four groups of ten, the groups were eventually denied access.
SU Education Officer, Paul Lynam, expressed regret at this decision stating “I think the vet hospital is the highlight of the tour.” Mr Lynam believes that use of the veterinary hospital for future Access Weeks will also be prevented, adding that “I’m getting that impression from the vet hospital but I certainly hope not… I would hope that an accommodation would be made in the future because personally I don’t think a group of ten children is too big.”
Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Professor Grace Mulcahy, explained that “the hospital does always try to facilitate visitors”, however she stated that “in order to ensure everyone’s health and safety and the well-being of our patients we do ask that visiting groups give us adequate notice and consult with us on numbers, group size and time of the tour”. She further acknowledged that if the staff at the hospital do not receive adequate notice, it may not be possible “to facilitate requests on the spur of the moment”.
While the veterinary hospital was not available for the tour groups, Mr Lynam felt that other facilities on campus were excellent in providing interesting entertainment to the visiting children. He stated “the Audio Visual centre, which is a lot more of a tight space and a lot more expensive equipment, accommodated us every single day and were brilliant,” adding that experiments performed by those in the chemistry labs were “brilliant.”
While the future of the veterinary hospital’s place in the Access Week programme is uncertain, Mr Lynam was adamant that the event was a success. Access Week, which took place from 9th to 13th March, is organised and administered by the SU, where children from disadvantaged backgrounds are invited to UCD in order to encourage them to participate in third-level education.