Student Health Service Fees
News this week that discussions on Student Health Service fees have been re-opened, may have come as a surprise to some. Last year’s debate between Vice President for Students, Dr Martin Butler and the Students’ Union (SU) appeared to have come to an end early in the second semester when UCD President, Dr Hugh Brady sent written confirmation that no fees would be introduced to the SU President.
However, now as both Dr Butler and student representatives sit down to discuss funding for the Student Health Service, it seems that promises made to students that they would not have to pay per visit to the doctor have fallen asunder. Adament that he will not accept the introduction of student fees, SU President Aodhán Ó Deá believes that the university intends to push for international students to pay per visit.
To charge international students additional fees for a health service that UCD students do not have to pay for is immensly unfair. While Irish students may have a choice between a family GP and the university service, international students do not have quite the same option. Unfamiliar to a country, and a flight away from the comforts of home, international students need to experience the UCD community that the Vice President for Students so keenly believes in.
Welcoming them into the UCD society is integral to the quality of their time here. Many students only attend UCD for a single semester, and are unable to work to fund their time here. Not only would charging international students fees seperate them more from their Irish counterparts, the practice also raises the question of the registration fee paid to UCD by Irish students as they leave for their year abroad. This fee funds the cost of student services, used by the foreign student who replaces the Irish student as they switch universities. Are the university suggesting that it is fair to ask international students to pay twice?
While the answers have not become any clearer, the problems surrounding the Student Health Service have only worsened. As we enter the third week of the semester, waiting lists are already mirroring last year’s highest periods. Health Centre staff suffered under extreme pressure last year, and this stands to increase with budget cutbacks and a recruitment ban.
The hard work and the resilience of the doctors and nurses of the Student Health Service must be acknowledged at a time when they appear to be lost for answers. As for short term improvements, neither students nor staff appear to be particularly optimistic as both talk about what may happen in 2011 when the new Student Centre opens.
Students may have experienced a premature victory last year upon the receipt of Dr Brady’s letter, as it looks likely that without funding, the university and students will have nothing to do except talk.
Complaints made of an intimidating presence by new security contractor, Pulse Security have sounded a warning with students across the campus. Reports of inappropriate remarks and bullying have tainted what is otherwise an invigorating time of year.
For those students who are unfamiliar with the concrete jungle that is UCD, a visible security team should be a welcome sight and should promote a sense of safety. However, as up to 100 complaints have been made, the university must be asking why following similiar complaints about former contractors, ISS, it appears that lessons may not have been learnt.
Students need to respect those whose jobs it is to protect the student population and security staff need to make their presence felt, yet they cannot be allowed to do so through behaviour which can be perceived as being in any way threatening. As Pulse move into all areas of campus this week, it is hoped that this expansion is met with a change in behaviour and a decrease in complaints, although some students appear to expect the opposite.
UCD has stressed the importance of building a community atmosphere on this campus over the past number of years and this can only be achieved through an active participation of everyone based in Belfield, including security staff. Remarks and intimidation have no role in the university’s vision of community and must be put to a halt immediately if students are to learn in a safe and secure environment.