Michael Tuohy delves into why there’s no good reason for the recently announced rent hike on campus.
A recent decision by the UCD Management Team to increase the cost of on-campus rent by 4% per year for the next three years has sent students across the university into uproar, and rightfully so. This decision was made with zero consultation with any student representatives and has clearly been made to further propel UCD into a business that exists purely to make massive profits, rather than being an institution that provides students with a higher education.
This rent hike is a massive slap in the face to young people across the country, and will act as a huge barrier from accessing further education for people who weren’t lucky enough to be born into well off families. The average rent on campus is €975 a month, that is €8,778 over nine months. If the rent hikes go ahead, this figure will rise to €1,097 per month. The most expensive accommodation would be €13,038 over nine months.
This is nothing but a blatant cash grab by a bunch of greedy, amoral, overpaid, and over privileged administrators. Let’s not act like this is because the government isn’t funding universities enough. Sure, the funding for universities across Ireland needs to be higher, but it’s not like universities aren’t making enough money to cover things by themselves.
UCD is back to pre-crash levels of funding overall and is ever expanding and pouring concrete. There was an increase of €3.1 million in UCD's annual surplus for the financial year ending in September 2018 - making a total of €35.2 million. Academic fees were up €11.3 million to €230.8 million and State grants were up €6.7 million to €68.7 million. Project Ireland 2040 announced a €25 million funding allocation for the ‘Future Campus’ project last year. In August 2019, UCD announced that they had “received confirmation of a major donation from a private philanthropist for the Centre for Creativity.” Richview is being sold off for between €10 - €15 million. President Deeks himself received a salary of €194,175 for the 12 months to the end of September 2018. President Deeks claimed €92,753.88 in travel related expenses between 2016 – 2018, only €75 of which was spent on public transport, with the rest being spent on taxis, flights, hotels, and food. Last year it was revealed that over €150,000 had been spent since 2017 to date on events held in the President’s private residence, University Lodge.
Last April it was revealed by the Irish Times that UCD president Andrew Deeks’ new office in Ardmore house, which was set to cost €900,000, is actually going to cost €7,500,000. Not only that, but Deeks had approved the cost himself under “delegated authority” between meetings of the finance committee. The newly completed, and not needed, University Club, cost UCD nearly €14 million. The Gateway Project, another ludicrous project, the planning permission notice for which has been posted at the Stillorgan Road entry in the past week, is expected to cost over €64 million. The Irish Times revealed a few days ago that UCD has been buying up €5 million worth of properties on the Clonskeagh Road end of the college for future expansion, despite already having more than enough land to build on currently.
But when it comes to doing literally anything for the students that keep the college going, UCD suddenly has no money. Years of students yelling about the horrendous lack of mental healthcare workers, the Ag building falling apart, mandatory text books being in ridiculously short supply in the library, forcing students to cough up €70 for a book they’ll never need again after 4 or 5 months, and the reply we get every time is “UCD doesn’t have the sufficient funds to solve this issue”. It’s like they think we’re all blind to ignore all of their frivolous spending on projects that only exist so the UCD Management can entertain themselves and their wealthy guests. But really, it just seems like they don’t care. If it doesn’t make the college money, or give Management the chance to push up their salaries, why should they? It all stinks of pure greed, and nobody is likely to do anything about it any time soon.
But maybe we should be light on Deeks and the UCD Management crew. Of course, they needed to spend €14 million on the University Club for our lecturers and the UCD Alumni to access. It’s not like the majority of lecturers campaigned against the building of the Club and the closure of the Common Room Club in Newman. Our lecturers clearly needed it. And of course, they’d need the Club to have another excuse to squeeze every last penny they can out of UCD Alumni. What about Deeks’ €7.5 million private office? Well of course he needs it. Where else do we expect him to entertain important private guests like Denis O’Brien when he decides to throw some more money at the University so he can have his name plastered across campus in solid Gold like he’s the Irish Donald Trump, laying claim to another thing he barely helped to build, which benefits nobody but him and his mates.
Of course, we shouldn’t be light on them. UCD management has been the definition of greedy for years now, and that sadly doesn’t look like it’ll change in the short-term. Students need to do something more radical to get their attention. In Trinity, they camped out in front of the entrance to the Book of Kells. DCU students had a large, very active protest on school grounds, online, and in the media. UCD students deserve better, and the only way Deeks is going to pay attention to us is going to be via more radical means than the SU sending out strongly worded statements. It’s impossible to orchestrate revolution whilst wearing silk gloves.