UCD has a proud history of student activism. Helen Carroll looks at how this tradition is continuing with new generations.
STUDENTS are known for being loud and making a stand. We are not known for keeping quiet on any topics that we are passionate about. Its colourful history, particularly in regards to sexual liberation/orientation, student fees and the right to choose is something to be proud of. A legacy has been left which should be continued.
For instance, a condom-dispensing machine was installed in the men’s bathrooms in Newman at a time when condoms could only be medically prescribed to married couples. Years later, UCD Students’ Union was brought to court for giving students the names and addresses of abortion clinics in England in the event that the information was needed.
“Student activism and protests are part and parcel of student life.”
In 1969, women protested the rule that female students could not wear trousers in the college with everyone wearing them and “storming the corridors”, thus ending the archaic rule. In more recent times, the student body were vocal in the lead up to the Marriage Equality referendum with campaigns to get students to sign up to register and to get out on the day.
This momentum of student activism has not slowed down, in fact it has gained even more traction. Student activism and protests are part and parcel of student life for many. UCD has a great history of getting students involved with campaigns for political and social change, shaping legislation and shifting the opinions of politicians and the public.
So far this year, the major focus has been the Repeal the 8th Campaign. With a set of staged protests under their belts, including one on the UCD flyover and one at the LawSoc “Abortion debate”, this is one campaign that gets the masses active and involved.
The group UCD for Choice was set up earlier this year and its Facebook page currently stands at 928 members. The page posts multiple times daily, linking articles and discussions globally about abortion rights, thus keeping the conversation current and relevant. A vocal and candid group, they attend protests in solidarity with others all the while increasing awareness of their campaigns to other students.
At the moment, the UCD for Choice campaign is the largest and most prominent on campus with students organising hundreds of vocal supporters to attend marches, public meetings and discussions. While only created this year, the group has gained a significant amount of support in recent weeks partly due to the flow of media coverage relating to the issue.
“The Repeal the 8th is one campaign that gets the masses active and involved.”
UCDSU is also not silent on the issue. They committed in 2014 to support a position on abortion “upon request of the woman”, setting them firmly into the “pro-choice” side of the debate. They have indicated their support further and agreed to be seen as actively participating to Repeal the 8th Amendment. This clarification came some time after students voiced their concern that the SU was seemingly refusing to participate and declare a stance on the issue.
While this is only one example of students using their voices for change in their immediate community, it was certainly one that made a large impact. The SU are now some of the most vocal supporters of the campaign on campus. They have also voiced their views on matters such as contraception, marriage equality and abortion in the past.
But it doesn’t stop there. Several societies hold strong, contrasting stances on political and social topics, such as the Catholic Society’s “Pro-Life” stance on abortion, or the Feminist Book Club’s stance on gender parity. All stances can be discussed freely and openly. An environment as such this is necessary for student activism to thrive.
Students tend to veer politically towards centre to left-leaning ideologies. This is reflected in the campaigns they choose to support. In recent years a light has been shone on topics such as sex, gender and contraception. Last year, UCD had a large campaign on sexual consent. A highlight was the hugely successful “slut walk” that involved men and women walking across campus wearing revealing clothing, proving that clothing does not equal consent.
Student activism does not die down once off campus. Students are getting involved with the wider national community in numerous protests, such as those against austerity, water charges, abortion and student fees. After all, students want to get their voices heard, and they are willing to be loud to get their point across.
Student activism is something every student should consider at some point during their time in UCD. Getting up and getting your voice heard shows the power of both the individual and the collective, united under a common banner. We the student body are helping to sway public opinion. We could lead the way in changing how people vote. And ultimately, we could make a difference in the lives of students across the country.