Freshers’ Tent walkout for Climate Strike sparks anger with Societies Council

A large majority of UCD societies have staged a mass walkout from the UCD Freshers’ Tent today in order to attend the Global Climate Strike. This move has caused anger among high ranking members of the UCD Societies Council, who attempted to drown out the protesters chants by turning the volume up on their music speakers, and engaging in heated discussions with a member of the UCD Students’ Union staff.

The walkout occurred at 10:30 this morning, with a number of societies completely abandoning their stands. A few societies left members behind to supervise, while a select number were operating as normal, with Young Fine Gael stating that while they did not have an official delegation at the strike, some members of their society had attended as part of other societies. 

The Freshers’ Tent was noticeably emptier this morning, with about half of the tables having one or two members supervising, the other half completely empty, with signs stating that they were attending the strike and would be back in the afternoon. However, many of these signs were removed during the day.  The University Observer attended the Freshers’ Tent to ask societies who had members at their stand if they had delegations at the strike, which nearly all societies had. Reporters from The University Observer were noticeably followed by event staff whenever they entered the tent, sometimes by more than one member of staff. 

The Climate Strike and walkout has been the source of much confusion during the week, with mixed messages coming from the Societies Council as to whether or not the walkout would affect the budgets of the societies involved. Speaking to The University Observer anonymously, one auditor said “I told my committee they were more than welcome to attend on the society’s behalf, but given the need for us to keep the stand active I would stay behind. If the Societies Council was more lenient given the significance of the strike, I am certain the whole society committee would be there, and I imagine it is the same for many other societies too.”

Many auditors were unwilling to go on the record, as they were unsure of repercussions they may face in doing so. One auditor told the Observer “I want to maintain a good standing between the society and the societies council as criticising the councils approach to this event could damage the relationship.” 

Event staff began dismantling tables at about 2pm in stands that had left for the march, but according to many members of societies who were still in the tent at the time, this resulted in fewer event staff patrolling the tent. Several societies told the University Observer that they had items stolen from their stands as a result of this lack of coverage.