Already, we have reached Week 5 of this semester, and as the countdown to the closure of the UCD Common Room sits at 10 weeks, it seems that time is running short for more than those cramming for midterms.
While the pleas of over 400 staff members who signed the petition, in-person and online, to boycott the University Club have seemingly fallen on unsympathetic ears, those at the helm of the plan will soon realise, if they have not done so already, that their ability to carry out such drastic changes on campus will be hindered in future.
Any presumption that plans for the strategic development of UCD are inherently beneficial for students and staff, has been shattered by the conduct of University Management, and in particular, by the reaction of UCD President Andrew Deeks to the Committee’s campaign. So too is the illusion that student and staff experience is valued in strategic decision-making.
UCD has accelerated its near-constant programme of on-campus construction, fumbling to refurbish almost 140,000sq.m, add 3,000 additional beds in on-campus accommodation and provide 335,000sq.m for its entrance precinct. These projects will rely on the cooperation of students and staff, who must first have faith that University Management have listened. This will be a hard pill to swallow, considering the quality of engagement and understanding that Management have extended to staff and members of the Common Room over the last year.
Staff and students alike are awake to the strong trend of commercialisation in higher education and will need to be convinced of Management’s intent. Campaigns such as Take Back Trinity and the Raise the Roof march for housing, only confirm that students are reaching the end of their tether. On-campus accommodation is a necessity – but of little reassurance to students if the cost continues to rise. Additional teaching and research facilities are to be welcomed, but it has already come to pass that staff will oppose developments when they come at the expense of collegiate amenities. Such a large programme of development and construction remains to unfold over the next decade in UCD, that it would clearly pay dividends to avoid imbuing the student and staff population with cynicism – other staff-led campaigns are likely to gain traction throughout the year, such as that in favour of a more attractive offer for University staff using the sports centre.
News that UCD has failed to move up in world university rankings this year only reaffirms arguments for increased capital and services investment. Management would do well to avoid shooting itself, and UCD’s reputation, in the foot, and to work alongside the UCD community – not against it.