Editorial: February 10th, 2009 – Transparency in Dark Times


The snow that has covered Belfield for the past week has brought a welcome change to university life. Buildings were closed early ensuring that the many tired and drained students were forced to take a study break – either to relax at home or join friends and strangers in snowball fights. Lecturers smiled at windows as the next unfortunate passerby fell victim to an ambush from students sheltering behind bushes. And anyone was game – the campus naturally slipped into the community atmosphere that has been preached about for so long.

To see such a volume of people, ranging from all ages, so relaxed and comforable in their surroundings was deeply refreshing. Perhaps it was momentary but everyone forgot about their impending assignments, financial worries and time constraints, even if it was just to pause and brush the snow off their jackets after being hit by a particularly well-concealed student. The snow fall reinvigorated all of those on campus and this was well overdue.

Lately it seems that the world is full of only bad news and unfortunately, it can seem like our UCD community is no different. Following Dr Brady’s open ‘town meeting’, it transpired that staff members learnt nothing new about the financial state of their university and heard only what they have grown to expect.

This week’s revelations of the Please Talk awareness campaign have met criticism as a very-deserving initiative has received a vast sum of funding and, subsequently, appears to have almost disappeared from sight. And on a smaller scale, this newspaper was met with refusal when it requested the profits which are to go to charity from student-run event, Seachtain na Gaeilge.

We are taught to question that around us and think for ourselves in university. However, on many occasions in UCD questioning and independently thinking is not what is preferred. Dr Brady spoke at length but said little of what his staff members wanted to hear, yet what is more concerning is the hesitant nature of those involved in the Please Talk campaign when questioned about their funding from a public body.

For a student-run campaign, in particular one that focuses on the message that talking is a sign of strength, it was interesting to see how unwilling one of those involved was when asked to speak about the means of the campaign and its many achievements. There is a need for transparency in this university, more so now than before, and most importantly from the members of its younger generation.

Students and staff have called upon Dr Brady to run UCD in an open, accessible and tranparent manner. It’s essential that we do likewise. Please Talk, Seachtain na Gaeilge and all other student-run events must be held accountable to the students that they serve. If mistakes are made publically, we might suffer momentary embarrassment but these slip-ups will be retified without any of the anger or disillusionment that accompanies those blunders that become much bigger problems when they finally become common knowledge.

It may have only been a small start, but there have been increased efforts made at open communication and transparency in recent weeks and those who have opened those channels should be rewarded with recriprocated acts. Last week’s snow may have provided a welcome opportunity to forget our concerns and enjoy a few carefree moments and there’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps it could even signal a slight turning point in a move towards the honesty that the UCD community have long been asking for.