As we return to UCD in the new year, there are two things at the forefront of my mind to write here, so apologies if this seems a little disjointed. The first is a local issue; the fact that Dr Hugh Brady has been replaced by Prof. Andrew Deeks as the President of UCD.
For all the good that happened during Brady’s tenure, there are a lot of areas in which Prof. Deeks could look to improve. I was a student at UCD for three years, and the only time I ever spoke directly to Hugh Brady was at my graduation. Even then, the only words I got out were “thank you” as he handed me a piece of paper.
Don’t get me wrong, being the president of the largest university in the country is definitely a time-consuming job. It’s not a role in which leaves much free time to interact with students, but it never felt like there was ever much effort from Brady to engage the students who are the reason UCD exists in the first place.
Based on his comments to the Irish Independent in December, while he was still technically the UCD President, it seems that Brady had lost touch with UCD students by the end of his tenure.
By calling for third-level fees to be reintroduced, Brady betrayed the people he was supposed to be looking out for most: the students. While it’s true that some people would be able to afford full fees, the reality of the situation is that most people cannot afford such an expense, especially considering the current financial standing of the country.
People are already struggling to find the money to pay their registration fees, which is itself set to rise by €250 per year until it reaches €3,000 in September 2015. While there are grants in place to help those who can’t afford this, we all know that the grant system is terribly flawed and are usually paid out well into the academic year.
It is rich (all the puns intended) of Dr Hugh Brady to call for full fees to be introduced, seeing as he has been earning six figures for the past few years and is probably earning a healthy enough pension to be able to pay the fees.
Do we really want to go down the road of the US? Back in August, Forbes estimated that Americans owed $1.2trillion in student debts. That’s right, American students owe around $1,200,000,000,000 for the privilege of going to university. On average, Forbes estimated that students graduated with $26,600 of debt.
That’s just shy of €20,000. Per person. It’s just something to consider when the topic of fees comes up.
Apologies now for completely changing course, but there were two things with regards to the LGBT community that caught my eye in the last week. Funnily enough, both involved RTÉ. The first incident was the removal of part of an interview with Irish drag queen Panti Bliss from their website in which she criticised certain writers who she felt had made a career out of perpetuating homophobia.
The second incident was when the official Twitter account of the radio program The God Slot posed the question “Can gays be cured?” and then asked us to tune in and find out. When people responded with a resounding no, The God Slot replied with accusations of fascism, before removing the tweet and publishing an apology that had the sincerity of a six-year-old who had been forced to apologise after being scolded by a parent.
These two incidents brought to the surface an uncomfortable fact about Irish society, and particularly about our views towards members of the LGBT community, that we’re not “there” yet when it comes to LGBT rights.
As liberal as we like to think we are as a nation, and we certainly have made huge strides considering the fact that the act of homosexuality was a criminal offence until 1993, the fight for equality is not yet over.
Part of the problem is that people don’t actually understand what equality is. When you say you want equal rights for yourself and your fellow LGBT folk, most people will jump straight to the marriage thing. While that is a good example of a clear oppression of LGBT people, it is by no means the only oppression we face.
The fact that a show that appears on the state broadcaster feels it is acceptable to even pose the question of “Can gays be cured?” means that there is something seriously wrong. Even if the show goes onto explain why you can’t turn someone straight, the fact that it is entertaining the other side of the debate is ridiculous.
We need to stop accepting bigotry and homophobia under the pretence of “balancing the debate”. Sometimes debates are one-sided, and that’s a good thing. Sometimes there is a right and wrong answer, especially when it comes to the oppression of a group of people.