Open Letter from Students denounces the precarious conditions of Richview campus

Image Credit: UCD School of Architecture

An Open letter was sent on September 11th by students attending the UCD School of Architecture, where they denounce the rapidly decaying state of the Richview campus - and the uncertain future that lies ahead of them.

A letter penned by a group of students in the UCD School of Architecture circulated amongst the student population on 11th September, denouncing the precarious conditions of Richview campus - the home of the School of Architecture. Initially addressed to the Head of the School, the letter outlined a series of problems faced by the students whose academic path unfolds in Richview that are severely impacting their university experience. Lack of communication with students is an additional point that the signatories of the letter highlighted and condemned. 

The letter denounces “the decline of UCD Architecture in recent years”, made evident, for instance, by the perceived decline of the quality of lectures and the lack of credit given to the work students produce during their tenure on the programme. Notably, “the end of year show wasn't even promoted. [...] Compared to other exhibitions and shows we visited across the country, we were taken aback by the sheer denigration and indifference shown to student work by the faculty.” Inadequate tutoring was also called out, with the letter claiming that “some students did not receive any tutoring for up to three weeks before their final review, as assigned tutors 'had fulfilled their hours for the semester', meaning they would not be paid for further teaching.” Architecture students who pursued exchange programmes abroad also sensed the declining of the academic offer in their department in UCD, emphasising that upon returning they were unable “to pursue individual interests in studio and failure to engage with the climate crisis here compared to institutions abroad.”

Alongside academic-related issues, structural issues affecting the buildings comprising Richview campus are further affecting the school negatively. A third-year student who prefers to remain anonymous told the University Observer that Richview campus “is completely inaccessible.” The source mentions the lack of an elevator as the biggest accessibility issue within Richview Building, preventing students with accessibility needs from accessing studios and classrooms on top floors. The student also highlighted the precarious conditions of the building’s kitchen area: “the fridge is freezing everybody’s food, the microwaves are on the floor, our coffee machine is on the floor because all of our outlets are... countertop level, but... don’t power even one thing at the time anymore.” According to the source, certain buildings within Richview lack drinking water, with students needing to go to another building to simply fill their water bottles. 

Alongside academic-related issues, structural issues affecting the buildings comprising Richview campus are further affecting the school negatively.

As for the Memorial Hall, the student mentions its insulation issues, making it “frigid cold” come wintertime. Bathrooms, too, are in appalling conditions, and it appears students are still waiting for these issues to be solved. A recent occurrence was the theft of computer mice from the lab in Richview Building. A final issue raised by the source concerns the displacing of second-year students to a building where “the carbon dioxide metre keeps going off (...) and it’s not adequately ventilated or heated.”

Richview has been a contentious issue in recent UCD history. Initially intended to be sold to make space for a new building, these plans fell through in early 2023, as reported by the University Observer. This event is another occurrence lamented by the signatories of the letter, who revealed that “[S]tudents of this school were not privy to any updates regarding the school's future; instead this revelation had to be leaked by the newspaper to inform us.” This lack of communication adds to the perceived isolation of Richview students from the rest of Belfield campus - and the aforementioned structural problems exacerbate this feeling. During our conversation, our source stressed a perceived sense of “being left behind” by UCDSU, culminating in the closure of Richview’s Students’ shop at the end of last year because “it wasn’t making a profit.” Whilst recognising Richview’s historical significance within Belfield campus, the source acknowledges the benefits of being transferred within the main area of campus, especially to foster a greater sense of community for students within the School of Architecture. 

This lack of communication adds to the perceived isolation of Richview students from the rest of Belfield campus.

In terms of the next steps for students registered in the School of Architecture, our sources main priorities would be fixing the aforementioned structural problems, whilst the students undersigning the letter outlined three objectives that would ensure UCD meets the standards of Architecture programmes globally - namely, the creation of a dedicated website and newsletter for Architecture students with information on the programmes; “A semester-long lecture series that invites practitioners and critics to speak about their work and views on the built environment”; and “the introduction of option studio projects in two semesters between 3rd and 4th year.”