The UCD Students’ Union, in conjunction with the Fix Our Education Campaign, organised a tent action at the N11 entrance to protest the proposed 12% rent hikes for on-campus accommodation.
Starting at 8:30 am, the action lasted until 2 pm in the afternoon. Although the number of participants remained low during the early hours of the protest, it had gained momentum by 1pm. Speaking to The University Observer, UCD Students’ Union President Joanna Siewierska stated that the purpose of the action was “raising awareness between staff, students and the local community, and talking about the rally action scheduled for the 4th of March.” Echoing the same sentiment, Ruairi Power, Co-Chair of the Fix Our Education Campaign, described the action as “largely symbolic”, with the aim of drawing attention towards more decisive action in the coming weeks.
Among the participants at the protest were representatives from the UCD Anti-Casualisation Campaign and members of faculty. Pointing out that measures like the rent hikes go against UCD’s Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity Policy, some members of staff called on the management to reevaluate their priorities.
When questioned about why the action was not scheduled to last over a longer duration or continue overnight, Siewierska cited a short timeline and the cold weather, in addition to logistical and health and safety concerns as the main barriers. While he expressed solidarity with students staging the indefinite campout in University College Cork, Power said that it was important to consider “what is sustainable...what [we think] will drive the maximum possible reaction” when organising student action.
The event was marked by the presence of Ruth Coppinger and Richard Boyd Barrett from the Solidarity-People Before Profit Alliance. Describing the actions of UCD management as an “utter disgrace”, Barrett was also quick to draw attention to chronic underinvestment in higher education as the main driver of excessive commercialisation. He added that Solidarity-People Before Profit will work to “support and assist in the mobilisation of students because I think it will be people power and student power that will be the most effective weapon in forcing a change in government policy.”
The tent action mirrors protests on university and college campuses across the country, where indefinite campouts are taking place in UCC and NUIG. There is a larger rally to take place on March 4th, which Siewierska told the crowd would be “the biggest yet.”