The University Club has run €1.3 million under budget. UCD’s University Club, the construction of which was marred by vocal staff and student opposition, was originally budgeted at €13.7m. The College Tribune can now confirm that the total cost landed at just under €12.4m.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information act to the College Tribune have detailed the original budget and the total expenditure to date. UCD’s Governing Authority (GA) approved the construction in December 2017, with doors eventually opening in May 2019. According to GA minutes obtained by the Tribune, the projected cost of the UCD building was estimated at €13.7m, with funding expected to be sourced “from future cash flows from the consolidated operation of the University Club and O’Reilly Hall, and is expected to achieve payback within 22 years.”
The building’s breakdown of costs to date settles at €9,681,902 for constructions costs, €1,153,618 for fees and consultancy and €1,549,061 on VAT.
An Ordinary Meeting of the UCD Governing Authority was held on Wednesday, 13 December 2017, in which the controversial capital development was approved. In a 2018 Irish Times article, former Tribune Editor Jack Power reported on the Club’s narrow approval: “In a rare occurrence, the board took a vote on the issue, which approved the development by 21 votes to 10.”
The University Club has become the target of the recently formed student group “Fix our Education UCD.” The organisation, formed through an alliance of political groups in UCD, questions the spending decisions of the university. Ruairí Power, Co-Chair of Fix Our Education UCD, wrote in an Opinion article for the Tribune, saying “…the university has clearly demonstrated through irresponsible spending practises that student welfare will not be prioritised over elitist infrastructure.” The group has also expressed frustration at UCD President Andrew Deeks’ decision to spend €7.5m on his offices at Ardmore House. In January, the University Observer revealed President Deeks’ travel expenses. It was reported that he claimed €92,753.88 in travel related expenses between 2016-18.
In July 2018, during the ongoing construction of the University Club, staff were informed they must vacate the existing staff ‘Common Room’ months before the expected opening of its replacement. Despite overwhelming opposition, UCD staff were asked by the Director of Estate Services to vacate the existing Common Room by the December 21st 2018 “due to pressure of space requirements for teaching and working facilities…” The former Common Room, located in the Newman Building, eventually closed after decades of staff enjoyment.
President Deeks stated in his President’s Bulletin on 16 April 2019: “The UCD University Club is a much-requested and long-awaited addition to our facilities, and presents many opportunities for building our community and engaging externally.” The members only University Club, which is not open for use by the general student body, has been publicly tainted by UCD Staff boycotts and vocal student opposition. Amongst consistent opposition and controversy within staff and student ranks, it comes into question just how “much-requested” Deeks’ University Club actually is.
Conor Capplis – Editor