Editorial: 13th October 2009


The posters debate has reared its head again this week, with the fining of two of UCD’s societies for what has been described as an event that was “in breach of the basic standards of propriety and consideration.”

Is it really inconsiderate to promote ‘The Virgin Ball’, is it insensitive? We are the South Park, Family Guy and Perez Hilton generation, and yet that doesn’t seem to translate to this campus. Why are our morals and our horses so much higher on campus than at home? The argument of course, is that we have the choice of what we watch at home – we can’t choose what we see on the way from the science building to the restaurant.

But have we really become that sensitive, that moral indignation and outrage pervade at the sight of a provacative poster, or indeed a childish event name? How have we come to the point that something called ‘The Virgin Ball’ is seen as an offensive and derogatory event? Crass perhaps. Juvenile undoubtedly. Funny – not particularly, but worthy of a €5000 fine?

Arts Soc and B&L have been made examples of. If that was the intention of Recognition Committee, they have likely succeeded, but not only at a cost to the two societies involved. If our society auditors are constantly worried about fines, punishments and reprimands; the diversity, imagination and creativity of the events they hold will wane. ‘Playing it safe’ can only lead to stagnation. Yes they have a responsibility to the students of this university, they should uphold the basic standards, but why does the line seem several hundred yards further back in Belfield than in the rest of society?

And yet this indignation appears to be reserved for posters alone. In our last issue, we interviewed a former pornography actress, and included a semi-nude photo from her days in the industry. There were no complaints. Was that image not as provacative, as offensive as the recent ‘Intercourse’ posters that appeared around Belfield?

Of course the debate over offensive posters will rage on, probably well past the time when everyone reading this has graduated. The issue with this incident is not that, or indeed if, Arts Soc and B&L caused offence, but that they were unable to properly defend their actions to Recognition Committee.

It would seem that societies’ only means of successfully defending themselves is by grovelling to a committee. It’s widely known that anything other than profuse apologies will result in harsh reprimands for the society in question. Presenting your case in a way other than to fully admit fault and plead forgiveness seems to have no effect.

How have we handed so much power over to one body, a body that this time has gone too far – as our societies are so often accused of doing?

There is something fundamentally wrong with this system. Perpetuating a culture of fear among auditors is not the objective of Recognition Committee nor of Societies Council, and yet that is what they have instilled.

It’s time to change this system, to publicise it and hand it over fully to the students. We can govern ourselves and our societies responsibly in an open forum, if we’d only take back the power we’ve given away.