In letters to the College Principal for Engineering and Architecture, and President Andrew Deeks and The University Management Team, outgoing UCDSU College Officer for Engineering and Architecture, Joshua Gorman Climax, explains the need for UCD to act immediately to support students in a time of global political turbulence.
The majority of both letters is dedicated to a brief synopsis of different examples of global anarchy. While many concerns were of an international nature, significant attention was paid to students who were living in Direct Provision. Describing the plan of action which was to be implemented immediately, Gorman Climax demanded the need for UCD to; “Offer a public, formal apology to all UCD students in Direct Provision, including an admission that the university did not recognise the severity of their exploitation and offer them proper support at an earlier date” and “Immediately offer on-campus or other suitable accommodation to every UCD student currently trapped in Direct Provision, where they are currently at great personal risk from COVID-19”
Coupled with action to support students living in Direct Provision, the letter highlights and condemns the relationship between UCD and Aramark. Aramark, a food, facilities, and uniform services company who provide catering in three Direct Provision centres, is frequently condemned for the supply of sub-standard food to those living in Direct Provision, and criticized for their exploitation of the asylum seekers in this system. Repeating the calls of the 2018 “Aramark Off UCD Campus” campaign, Gorman Climax’s letter demands that UCD “immediately end all ties with the company Aramark and any other companies which profit from the exploitation of asylum seekers in Direct Provision”.
Other initiatives outlined in the letter included the convening of groups or committees to investigate “the most important points of knowledge in the current rapidly developing global political situation, with clear understandings of probabilities and uncertainties” and develop the position of UCD as a ‘Global University’. According to Gorman Climax, the “radical” transformation of UCD should be designed to “equip the student body and the university community generally with tools, skills and knowledge which can help them in understanding and confronting the challenges which will emerge over the course of this year”.
When asked for comment, Professor Aoife Ahern, College Principal for Engineering and Architecture, told The University Observer that she had shared the letter with Professor Colin Scott, Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), and that the University Management Team EDI group would meet next week to discuss the issues addressed.
Although the letter is accredited to all the elected representatives of The College of Engineering and Architecture, Gorman Climax admitted that “Due to the urgency of the situation there was no formal co-signing or other means of attaining explicit endorsement from each rep individually”. While one Rep. assured the paper that “Joshua spoke for everyone involved”, many of the Student Representatives contacted by The University Observer did not wish to have their names attached to the letter; “there were over half a dozen complex issues and opinions brought up in the email. I do not agree with all of them… I cannot say I endorse the letter in its entirety and do not want my name associated with it.” Another student rep told the paper that they: “had some issues with the premise and relevance of the letter”, with multiple sources informing the paper that were “busy when he got approval from some of the reps to send the letter” or “hadn’t seen it in detail“ and so were “not able to object”.
When asked for comment, Gorman Climax replied; “I strongly welcome any and all criticism of SU representatives and the culture of the SU at this time. Throughout my five years of working in the SU, I have seen numerous issues both big and pedantically small and taken much of the time of my fellow representatives speaking at length about these in Union Council meetings. I invite the same level of scrutiny and critique from Union members which I have regularly targeted at the SU myself and I look forward to the good which will come from that”.
A second letter was sent to President Andrew Deeks and the University Management Team (UMT) by Gorman Climax on June 12th. In this case, the letter was solely accredited to Gorman Climax. In it he asks “why does university management, which controls accommodation and land and vast financial resources, allow students it has accepted as members of this community – members to whom the university has a pedagogical duty of care – to live in conditions of such abject cruelty and dehumanisation?”.
The letter mirrors that sent to The College of Engineering and Architecture as, rather than focussing on action the university could take, it is also primarily an account of atrocities committed globally that Gorman Climax feels are of-note. However, he does warn that action will be taken should the matters raised not be addressed; “I stand ready to announce my question to the world and rally the members of this community to take all reasonable action to get an answer”.
In the letter, Gorman Climax, expressed that “I am not trying to seek revenge or righteousness. I do not presume to have some great answer which will fix the problems of our world. I simply feel that I must speak up – because I have seen crimes in this world that challenge my faith in humanity – and I seek to restore my faith through action."
When asked why Gorman Climax felt he was the person to write these letters, Gorman Climax replied: “I don't presume that I am the best person to do this. However, I have extremely limited information on the ongoing work of other members of the community, in general and with regard to the matters of political instability, and so I feel in that uncertainty I must act with the capacity available to me”
Amendment: The Office of the President has been in touch with The University Observer since publication, informing us that they received no such communication from Gordon Climax. When questioned on why the letter, which originally had been penned as open letter, never reached President Deeks, Gordon Climax informed the paper that it had also only been sent to Professor Aoife Ahern, College Principal for Engineering and Architecture. While Gordon Climax described it as; “a gross failure in the internal communications of senior management”, he failed to send his letter to President Deeks, having asked Prof. Ahern to forward it for him.