The Staff Common Room is located on the first floor of the Newman Building (Photo: Billy Vaughan for The University Observer)

Members of the UCD Common Room Club held an EGM last night, Tuesday 11th September, to discuss the proposed closure of the Newman-based members-only club. The Common Room, which has 900 members made up of academic and administrative staff and has been operating since 1975, was served with notice to quit on 21st December 2018.

Lecturer in the School of History Conor Mulvagh posted on twitter last night the image of a countdown clock on a computer monitor, along with the caption “President Deeks is evicting us on 21 December”.

The notice to quit the Common Room comes as construction continues on the new ‘University Club’, which will adjoin the O’Reilly Hall. Staff and members of the Common Room have expressed their disappointment at the planned closure, with UCD Professor of Archaeology Aidan O’Sullivan posting on twitter that it was a “terrible shame.” UCD Career consultant Mark Comiskey asked: “A collaborative, congenial cross-discipline space at UCD, of the university community, by the university community, for the university community to be lost?”

The club occupies the first two spaces on the First Floor of Block A in the Newman Building on the Belfield campus and consists of the “Common Room”, in which the bar is located overlooking the lake and O’Reilly Hall, and a “Coffee Dock” on the other side of the corridor. The Common Room contains a number of newspapers and periodicals for members’ use.

Writing in the Irish Times in March of this year, Associate Professor of Sociology Andreas Hess stated that the “UCD Common Room Club has facilitated inter- and cross-disciplinary encounters and served, and continues to serve, as a space where academic and non-academic conversations can be had, and where frank and free, and occasionally passionate, arguments can be exchanged – independent of status, rank, academic title or dress.”

In his article, Hess stated that: “Numerous are the books and journal articles either first conceived there, or whose arguments were first tried and tested out there in discussion (that applies perhaps primarily, but by no means exclusively, to humanities scholars and social scientists).”

Hess also alludes to a survey completed by the 900-strong members’ club which indicated that the “overwhelming majority cherish the common room and want it to continue in its present form.”

The UCD Common Room is owned by its members and run on their behalf by a Committee, elected at each Annual General Meeting. The Common Room Committee is chaired by Dr Wolfgang Marx and its secretary is Mr John Dunnion. Dr Thomas Unger is the club’s treasurer and its membership secretary is Ms Caroline Barrett. Among its committee members are: Dr Joe Brady, Dr Alun Carr, Dr Rita Collins, Dr Russell Higgs, Mr Hugo O’Donnell, Mr John O’Dowd. The committee were elected at its meeting on 12 October 2017. Declan Hyland is the Common Room’s steward.

The College Tribune reported in 2017 that UCD President Andrew Deeks had prioritised the construction of the University Club as he “was concerned there was nowhere appropriate to bring guest speakers, visiting dignitaries, or distinguished alumni to eat on campus.”