“It is clear to see how UCD is fast becoming a place less welcoming to a certain cohort of students”
UCD is Ireland’s biggest university, with over 32,000 students. Given the size of the student populous, it is fair to assert that of these tens of thousands of students, their ethnic and economic backgrounds will vary considerably. This discrepancy in circumstances and opportunity should undoubtedly be at the forefront of the college’s mind, with the aim of removing as many barriers to education as possible.
Unfortunately, in recent times it appears campus administrators have turned a blind eye to cultivating this diverse student body. On the official UCD website, the college is quoted as saying it seeks to ‘create an inclusive educational experience for all’. However, numerous recent decisions would suggest that bulking up the college finances is of greater importance to the powers that be.
Perhaps the most galling of these decisions are those surrounding student accommodation on campus. The topic of the housing market in the capital is a well-beaten drum but tends to be an issue that students bear the brunt of. Given the scarcity of affordable accommodation in the immediate vicinity of Belfield, one might have hoped the college would seek to lighten the economic strain on students by offering more affordable alternatives on campus.
Any such notions were dashed immediately at the outset of the autumn term, with the college announcing that on-campus accommodation such as Roebuck would increase by 13.5% from €930 to €1055 per month. There is an understanding and acknowledgement from students that accommodation is costly for UCD to provide, however, there can be little justification for such an egregious price increase and this form of profiteering from an essential service certainly leaves a sour taste.
Another source of grievance for many students was the issue of the student centre levy during the pandemic. Despite the closure of campus itself through numerous periods of lockdown, which sometimes stretched for a number of months, students were expected to still fork over the €254 fee. It doesn’t seem like a reasonable policy to have students paying for the entitlement of utilising gym and swimming facilities when they aren’t available.
On-campus parking permits were another source of ire for students this academic year. Permits rose to the lofty heights of €50 per semester, almost a 25% jump in years gone by. Something which is made all the more irritating by the fact the permit doesn’t even guarantee you a space, with those arriving after 9 am likely to be left high and dry. Some may argue the college is trying to encourage students to embrace public transport, my rebuttal to these people would be to try and get a seat on the 17 on a rainy January morning.
A lighter example of UCD’s covert process of gentrification is the notorious chicken fillet roll debacle. Now costing €4, it is quite simply another attempt to gouge students of their already limited funds. Whilst the college themselves aren’t setting the price of the rolls, it does serve to further the growing sentiment around campus that UCD and its environs are becoming a place that’s less accepting of those of a certain financial footing.
Overall, it is clear to see how UCD is fast becoming a place less welcoming to a certain cohort of students. This process of gentrification must be rectified immediately if UCD is to remain a centre of academia available to all. A multi-faceted student community is vital to maintaining and further cultivating the exuberant campus experience which we all so enjoy.
Rory Fleming – Politics Writer