Several recent editorials of this paper have started with something like “We at the University Observer stand with the students and staff who are consistently underserved and overworked by UCD”. As before, we mean it.
The recent mobilisation of students and staff to protest rising rents, inadequate counselling services and the conditions of academic workers highlight how far reaching the mass commercialisation of the university has spread.
The recognition that the key issue is commercialisation of the Higher Education sector is important. Students’ Unions both in UCD and across the country have often put the blame firmly at the feet of management for poor or cruel decision making on each individual failing. While these critiques aren’t wrong, they often can’t see the wood from the trees. A lack of public funds for the university mixed with a dedication to grow and expand means all the logic of a private company is applied, and the model for a public body is not built to serve the public, but to be as financially solvent as possible.
While engagement matters and the Union’s efforts over the past month have to be commended, there needs to be an effort made to ensure momentum is not lost. Any real change can only be expected from UCD and the government when pressure is continually applied to the wound - UCDSU need to capitalise on the student and staff support they have recently garnered and do something with it. The fact that the Union’s protest has the support of IFUT, UNITE and SIPTU is a positive, as the issues affecting students are almost always the same issues affecting staff.
UCDSU have picked up and surpassed the energy they had mobilised in early 2020 when, under the leadership of Joanna Swierska, UCDSU protested outside the UCD club and held a tent demonstration near the N11 entrance. Now, with more bodies mobilised and a sharpened critique of the situation not improved by the pandemic, UCDSU are well placed to make their demands heard. Clichéd as it is, only time can tell if they can capitalise on this energy.