A collaboration of UCD groups, including Fix Our Education and the Student’s Union, organised a tent action at the main entrance of the Belfield campus today. The action, which lasted from 8:30 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon, had a large number of students and a number of local politicians in attendance. Ruth Coppinger and Richard Boyd-Barrett of People Before Profit paid a visit to the students.
This is not the first time that UCD Students have pitched tents to protest an increase in campus rents. In April 2010, UCD students held an eight-day tent action and successfully lobbied the University Management Team not to increase the on-campus rents. Then UCD Student Union President Gary Redmond explained to the Tribune that the students were “sending a message to the university authorities that we will not tolerate their ludicrous policy of increasing campus rents annually”.
Speaking to the Tribune at the protest, People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd-Barrett, explained how he felt it was “utterly disgraceful to increase already extortionate rents on a public university campus without any consultation or consideration of the stress or financial hardship that it will cause students and their families.”
“It is beyond belief,” Barrett continued, “that rents on a public university campus would be more expensive than private off-campus accommodation. So the University is acting as rack-renting landlords rather than acting in the interests of students.”
Speaking to what the government could do to alleviate the crisis, Barrett explained “I think the government should abandon what is obviously a deliberate agenda of corporatising our universities. We should have the same levels of investment in third level education and the students as the rest of Europe, which we are chronically below in this country.”
In University College Cork, UCC, students have been running a tent action day and night since Monday 25th of February. In their “day 3” update on their Twitter page the UCC SU explained that “Winds are high but hopes are higher.” The Union reported that more than 50 students had slept on the campus’ Quad in tents thus far and pledged not to leave the campus quad until the university’s management scrap the proposed 3% increase of on-campus accommodation. Similar protests began in NUIG, where students also pitched tents to protest proposed increases in on-campus accommodation costs.
Students’ Union President Joanna Siewierska explained the aims behind the UCD tent action: “Two things which we discussed with the University were that we need to get the Student Union a lot more involved in budget discussions for the year ahead.” Siewierska cited the need for the Union to have greater inputs on student supports and to be able to negotiate in the budgetary process. “What we need is a student partnership agreement between the university and the union to set out exactly what committees we sit on and our ambitions are going forward.”
Explaining the use of tents, Co-chairperson of Fix Our Education UCD, Ruarí Power said “Students are going to be pushed into more and more precarious living conditions as a direct result of the rent increase. It’s unnecessary.” Power explained that the increases in on-campus rent would stop anyone but the “most wealthy” international and first years students “from accessing education in UCD”.
Hugh Dooley – Reporter