The past 12 months have brought about a momentous change in everyone’s lives and there is no doubt that 2020 will be etched into the history books. In this article, The College Tribune takes a brief look back at the stories from each month that took the headlines in student news. All of these stories are available to read in full across our website!
The beginning of the year saw The College Tribune review Student Union (SU) promises, seeing a mixed bag of results. Then Graduate Officer and current SU President Conor Anderson had fulfilled 100% of his promises, while Welfare and Ents officers fell short at 41% and 29% respectively. The world was also watching as wildfires decimated Australia, and The United States stoked tensions across the world by assassinating Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani.
February began with uproar from students as campus rents were set to increase 4% a year for the next three years. An overall 12% increase from 2020-2023 had the SU and student activist group ‘Fix Our Education’ protesting in Belfield. Despite the outrage, The University Management Team maintained the rent prices were justified. UCD also had a coronavirus scare which was later proven to be false. However, the disease was beginning to spread across the globe at unprecedented rates.
Rent protests continued across campus, as SU representatives met with University Management. UCD students also saw mandatory sexual harassment workshops introduced for incoming students. Unfortunately, The Covid-19 crisis continued to steal the spotlight. UCD closed its doors in mid-March and would not reopen for the remainder of the spring-summer trimester. Ireland was thrown into an intense lockdown that would see the St Patricks day parades cancelled and the country shut down.
Students were first introduced to virtual classes as the semester recommenced, the reaction to online college was largely negative, with students describing their degree as “Going down the drain”. UCD reassured students that academic supports would be put in place, by implementing a ‘No disadvantage policy’. This was put in place due to pressure from students who were having difficulty in coping with the circumstances of the pandemic.
The SU elections were met with a record-low 4% turn out, which saw Conor Anderson voted as SU president. UCD announced the cancellation of Erasmus exchanges for Autumn of 2020, while the university ruled out any compensation of fees, this was despite enormous pressure from students. Exams also took place remotely as the RDS remained shut.
At the half-way point in the year, the United States was rocked by protests due to the murder of George Floyd by police. Much of the U.S broke out in protests and riots, with many movements across the world standing in solidarity with racial injustice.
In University news, the UCD community was shocked to hear Professor Dolores Cahill make numerous false claims about Covid-19. Her comments were described as “Inaccurate and misleading info.” Student exam results were subject to a leak in a “technical error” from the College. Simon Harris was appointed to Minister Of Higher Education, while SU president Conor Anderson revealed he had undetectable HIV.
July saw Ireland in a lull of Covid-19 cases, with one day a record low of 11 cases reported on July 27th. With this, UCD projected that undergraduates would spend around 40-60% of time on campus, the Irish Federation of University Teachers deemed this figure an “overpromise”. Students who recently sat their final exams also saw graduation ceremonies moved online. Students also learned that the aforementioned ‘no disadvantage policy’ was merely advisory and not mandatory. UCD had also gone against government advice and implemented a ‘1 metre distancing rule’ upon returning to campus.
Weeks before Colleges were to return, Covid-19 cases began rising once again, putting a return to on-campus learning on thin ice. Estimations for on campus learning dropped to 30-70% of the time for undergrad students. Montrose accommodation was suspended immediately due to unforeseen circumstances, leaving many students to scramble for a living space.
President Andrew Deeks issued a personal apology to Professor Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin after she was repeatedly harassed by another UCD professor. The story broke to a huge public reaction and concerns over how UCD dealt with sexual assault and harassment. The controversial Aramark catering service also parted ways with UCD in this month.
3 days prior to the Autumn Trimester returning, UCD announced it was to move all learning online. This was extended to a period of three weeks days after the initial announcement. UCD would then delegate the decision to return to in-person teaching on a ‘school by school’ basis.
The Leaving Cert fiasco made headlines this month, as it was reported that 6,500 students had their marks initially downgraded due to computing errors. These marks were later upgraded, and 1,000 extra college spaces were created. UCD announced that all learning would take place online for semester 1. October also saw the entire country move to Level 5 lockdown for the first time.
In the penultimate month of a tough year, UCD pulled the academic supports for Christmas assessments. The College claimed, “students should’ve been prepared for an online semester”. The College Tribune gained an insight into the life of Michael Byrne, otherwise known as ‘Old Man Belfield’. The news of Online teaching to remain for semester 2 was somewhat relieved by the Dept of Higher Educations decision to grant students €250 in December.
Furthermore, Ireland was hit by a leak of up to 500 people sharing nudes on a discord server. The news prompted backlash and questioned how Irish law dealt with Image based sexual assault. Laws on Image based sexual assault would be signed in by President Higgins at the end of December. UCD announced they profited up to €11 million during the year of the pandemic.
Student Nurses & Midwives were in the spotlight, as the government voted against paying them, despite many of these students playing a huge part in how the health service handled the pandemic. Exams once again took place online, as Ireland found itself back in a reduced level 3 of lockdown.
However, the level 3 was upgraded to a partial and full level 5 on Christmas week. Cases in Ireland hit one day record highs three days in a row, as hospitals surged in patients. A full level 5 lockdown was announced on December 30th and is to last for a period of 1 month at least.
We at The College Tribune would like to thank all of our readers and everyone who has supported us throughout such a challenging time. We wish you all a happy, healthy and safe 2021.
Luke Murphy, Co-Editor.