AS we come to the end of the year, it seems the right time to reflect on the position of this university and its future direction. There has been a prominent theme throughout this year. Various things came to light that highlight a certain priority among university management.
Consent classes, introduced last year, were dropped in January following poor promotion and attendance. The university offered no money to the UCDSU to help run the classes. This was despite claims by Marcus O’Halloran last year that UCD wanted to support moves to promote consent.
The cost of the classes (€1,800) was ultimately covered by the SU alone. A number of the new SU representatives have expressed a desire to see them return, but not all are clear what the problem was that saw them fail previously.
What was ultimately clear was that UCD was not supportive of moves to promote consent at all. It is an issue only discussed by the university when there is significant national media attention.
This year it has also emerged that the building of a private university club is a priority of the university. The initial development is set to cost €300,000, money which will come from the university resources.
It is unclear what material benefit this club will offer students or even why it needs to be built in the first place. There is a similar staff club already in existence in the Newman building.
The Confucius Institute is also running behind schedule and likely to cost the university almost €3 million more than originally projected. The very existence of this institute on campus not only costs the university money, which could be going to other student services but also undervalues each student’s degree. It is unclear what UCD actually receives from this partnership bar a headache and an emptier wallet.
These decisions by the university management show where UCD’s priorities lie. And it’s not with providing their students with an education.
While money is funnelled into these private pet projects such as a private club or into procuring new land, student services are being cut.
Ad Astra, one of the only scholarships the university offers, has been halved over the last few years. Students now on the same stream but who entered at different points receive different money. It also fails to recognise the efforts or talents of those who have worked hard for a number of years and undervalues their efforts. While simultaneously praising those Olympians who had trained in UCD, the university cuts funding to those very programmes.
This is evident not only in scholarship programmes but also in funding for different sports clubs. The Athletic Union Council this year has outlined that it has received no increase in its funds for the last 8 years and as a result cut grants for outdoor sports clubs. These are useful and important outlets for students. It is a travesty that students are now not offered the same supports they were a year ago.
Similarly, the library has been found and acknowledged by the university to be underfunded. UCD Foundation, the charitable organisation, recently sourced €60,000 for new materials. While this work is to be commended, it underlines the wider issue of the lack of investment from the University.
These are just a flavour of the things that have emerged over the past year or so. The ultimate issue is that UCDSU needs to focus on these issues an awful lot more than they currently are doing. Students are coming second to the bottom line, the potential for profit.
It is up to the SU to fight for students; something the union has not been doing. However, on the subject of the union, there has been a number of controversial developments. The election of Katie Ascough raised more than a few eyebrows.
In a year that UCDSU reaffirmed their pro-choice status, students also elected a pro-life advocate as the head of said union. However, this may actually work in everyone’s favour.
As someone with something to prove to the student body, Ascough could deliver something that none of the recent unions have managed to do. If she can actually present a strong voice to university management and really question these issues, then perhaps she will lead the union in actually fighting for students.
Time will tell how the union develops. However it is clear that this is an interesting time. It will be hugely important to students how the union develops in future.