As we enter a new academic year, the international landscape we live in has changed even further since our last issue of the University Observer. The past few months have seen an increasing number of terrorist attacks taking place closer to home, suspect genocides overseas, the threat of missiles (and indeed actual missiles) from North Korea. Brexit looms closer and as we’re all still questioning what that will mean for our island as a whole, our new Taoiseach polishes his international image as a progressive leader in the mirror each day all the while manoeuvring his right-wing agenda into place. Meanwhile in the USA, racial tensions are increasing and there’s a president whose reign of madness is confusing the masses.
The world is becoming a scarier place, and even closer to home in UCD, people continue to struggle. The accommodation crisis continues to hit students hard. Discussions of re-introducing bedsits are ignoring a huge part of the problem that people simply cannot afford the insane rents being charged in the Dublin area. With so many people clamouring for so few available places, landlords can continue to charge extremely high rents (even for a bedsit) and poorer students will continue to be locked out of attending colleges in the Dublin area.
Third-level education continues to be a privilege and not a right in Ireland. While rising rents don’t assist this, neither does the current “free fees scheme.” In case you’re confused about the labelling of the scheme as “free fees” let me explain it for you: they are lying to us by calling it such. To attend third-level institutions a voluntary student contribution charge is required, at the moment this is €3,000 (the contribution charge is actually not voluntary, it is compulsory).
Should we say it’s mandatory but not compulsory? Like the public services card you don’t have to pay it but if you don’t you won’t be able to get the services you need. Also like the public services card it has been posed as one thing when it is in fact another. “Free fees” are a way for the government to make it look like this nation has free education. Exactly what the public services card is remains unclear. Is it a form of data collection, an identity card, or a completely necessary item for accessing public services?
Debates continue around how best to proceed with paying for third-level education in Ireland, suggestions have been bandied about such as increasing government spending on third-level education (apparently a radical notion) and introducing an income-contingent loan system. UCD’s SU are mandated following a referendum last year to campaign against a loan system. It will be interesting to see how the Union proceeds with this campaign. Another issue the Union is mandated to campaign for is a United Ireland, a slightly trickier issue to campaign on, and they currently do not seem to have a plan for how to go forward, but time will tell.
The big campaign the SU is currently working on is the campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment, but the latest drama within the SU has people worrying about how much of a threat the SU President (Katie Ascough) is to this campaign. Luckily for proponents of the campaign, the president is not required to be directly involved in running campaigns, that is the job of the Campaigns and Communications Officer (C&C), Barry Murphy.
The issues facing the student population of UCD may seem daunting to us all at times, and the issues facing the wider world may make us want to retreat into blanket forts, but it is worth noting that life is made of little victories. True, it seems unlikely any one of us will solve climate change any time soon, but there is a lot that one individual can do to make a change in the world. If something makes you angry, attend a march or a protest, March for Choice is on Saturday September 30th and there will be a March for Education happening in early October.
There will be days for all of us when we are unable to face the big bad wolf (whatever that wolf may be) but if we all do our bit when we can, and if we try to be decent human beings to other human beings, then we stand a chance of making the world a better place.