“The Students’ Union are done playing around.” Anger at sit-in rents protest

Image Credit: Elly Dzhungurova

This morning roughly fifty students protested the recent rent-hikes by staging a sit-in outside the Red Room prior to the University Management’s Governing Authority (GA) meeting.

The protest was organised by the Students’ Union, the recently formed group Fix Our Education, and Anti-Casualisation UCD. It was prompted by the university’s decision to increase prices for on campus accommodation by 12% over the next three years, however many students view this decision as yet another heavy financial burden on the student body. 

Joanna Siewierska, SU President, was optimistic about the protest, saying that the SU were “really happy with the turnout”. She said that the SU has had good receptions from the governors so far, stating that “they have engaged with us, they’re asking us about what’s going on, about why this decision upsets students.” 

GA is the highest decision making body in UCD and is a governance reviewing structure. Siewierska claims that the SU wishes to argue that this is an operational decision to increase rents and therefore falls within GA’s purview. 

Despite this optimism, the SU still thinks it is likely that the protests will need to escalate. Siewierska stated that that “so far management have given us a very clear answer, and their answer is that they disagree with us.” 

Many students view the rent strikes as a symptom of a larger problem in UCD management. Co-chair of Fix Our Education, Ruairí Power, referenced the university’s luxury flight budget being larger than its mental health budget. 

The protest began at ten as students gathered outside the Red Room before the meeting which began at eleven. Members of GA were forced to step over protesters to enter the meeting. President Andrew Deeks was seen interacting with several members of the SU sabbatical team. 

SU Graduate Officer, Conor Anderson described his conversation with Deeks. “He (Deeks) basically condescended to me about what a good little student organisation we are, and my response was in the affirmative, so he said what a great job we had done organising things and I said yes, and he smiled and said it’s good to see the engagement”. Deeks also said “we may disagree on the best course forward but we are happy to have that discussion with you inside”. 

Anderson also said that “early on he (Deeks) made a statement to the effect of we both have the students welfare at heart and that’s frankly a lie...the university has money when it wants high value real estate on the Clonskeagh Road”. Anderson stated he was “tired of this kind of response from the university, I’m sick of being told there’s no money when the university is so extravagant” and that “the students’ union are done playing around.”