Financial debt, loss of corporate sponsors, an attempt to remove the Auditor, legal troubles, the resignation of over one third of the committee, large drop in membership; these are just some of the incidents that have plagued UCD’s Literary and Historical Society (L&H) this year. As one of the oldest societies in UCD, the L&H has suffered a disastrous year. Known for its debates and notable guest speakers, the student society has a rich history in UCD. One quote that could summarise their recent struggles is a message sent from the L&H Executive to the Committee Members on January 30th 2020: “the Observer, Tribune WILL write about this, and this will NOT be forgotten for a good few years.” They’re not wrong.
Over the past number of weeks, the Tribune has conducted an investigation into the activities of UCD’s L&H Society. Once considered the largest and most prestigious society in UCD, the debating society has suffered a number of incidents in its current Session 165. Through a series of interviews with committee members and students connected to the incidents, the Tribune has learned of these concerning activities. One Committee Member has described the events over the past few months as “catastrophic” for the society. The sources will remain anonymous at the request of the individuals.
The L&H Session 163 (Academic Year 2017/18) is said to have ended in a poor financial situation. The following year’s Session 164 (Academic Year 2018/19) reportedly left the society in a large amount of debt reaching into the thousands. With this year’s Session 165 beginning the year with no money, Auditor Anthony Treacy was left with a society that owed allegedly thousands to a former Executive member. Numerous reports also suggest a low signup in membership this year for the society.
The UCD society has been in financial trouble since the loss of core sponsors such as Deloitte and Arthur Cox. The departure of these corporate sponsors is understood to have happened by Autumn 2017.
The L&H also had an incident with one of their key sponsors. Following Freshers Week 2019, due to a disagreement with the sponsorship company over the nature of the society documenting the dispersal of their merchandise, the company allegedly threatened legal action towards the L&H. Vice Auditor Mairéad O’Leary is said to have liaised with the company, preventing further escalation of the incident.
A meeting was held on Tuesday January 28th 2020, in which a motion was put on notice to hold an Extraordinary Meeting to remove Auditor Anthony Treacy from office. The vote overwhelmingly passed in favour of the motion. The Tribune obtained the minutes of this meeting, detailing the anonymous voting records as 8 in favour, 1 abstention and 2 against. This vote was subsequently deemed invalid due to the unconstitutionality of the motion carried.
On Thursday January 30th, the Committee received a message from a Committee Member instructing them to not talk to the press: “The College Tribune and University Observer are sniffing around for a story, don’t say anything to them.” Subsequently, members of the committee were also invited to individually contact the society executive, with the executive directly instructing members not to talk to the press about L&H affairs.
A meeting was scheduled for Wednesday February 5th, in which the motion to remove the Auditor was proposed. This meeting was cancelled due to the apparent high likelihood of failing to meet quorum. This meeting fell on the same evening as UCD Lawsoc’s: ‘A&L Goodbody Law Ball 2020.’
There have been at least 11 confirmed committee resignations on the L&H since the election of Session 165, totalling over a third of the team. Auditor Anthony Treacy is also said to have “stepped back” from the society for approximately two weeks during Trimester 1. This action allegedly came by the request of other members of the L&H Executive team.
An unverified incident reported to the Tribune by multiple sources, suggests that the ‘L&H presents: 80s Night!’ event which occurred on 18th September 2019, allegedly saw a large number of students consuming illegal drugs.
The L&H constitution requires a team of “Legal Assessors,” who are three ex-auditors (charged with reviewing the constitutionality of the running of the L&H when called upon). During Trimester 2 of 2019, as many as 12 incoming Committee members signed a letter addressed to the L&H Legal Assessors, detailing their concerns and vocal opposition against Treacy as the likely outgoing Auditor for Session 165. During this time period, the letter was not sent to the Legal Assessors.
A committee meeting occurred in Trimester 1, where members were asked to submit any issues they had with this year’s session. The anonymous notes which were read aloud by members of the Society Executive, details criticisms which focused a large amount on the current Society Executive.
University Societies Officer Richard Butler has submitted a statement in response to the L&H activities. “It is not uncommon for some creditors and debtors to carry over in the accounts of certain societies; such an occurrence would not in and of itself always be a cause for concern. Likewise, societies regularly gain and lose sponsors from time to time.” Butler went on to say: “It is also not unusual for multiple resignations to occur on committees, of societies large and small. It would be an unusual session of any society where all of the Committee are always happy with every aspect of the Society, there are usually things that can be improved on.” The Societies Officer also suggested that the Tribune “received a ‘perfect storm’ of information, which may seem like a big story; I’m not sure there is anything more than the usual organisational and inter personal challenges that almost all societies, large and small, have to deal with.”
A meeting is due to take place on Tuesday 18th February between Lawsoc, L&H and previous Executive committee members of their societies. It is understood that the purpose of the meeting is to rejuvenate the debating scene on-campus.
The Literary & Historical Society, the company who had been sponsoring the L&H and reportedly threatened legal action, and UCD Societies Council were contacted for a statement but have not responded for comment by the time of publishing.
This article has been amended with some corrections. A previous version reported “multiple attempts to remove the Auditor.” This has been corrected in favour of new information, suggesting a number of events that contributed to one extended attempt to remove Auditor Anthony Treacy.
A quote previously attributed to an Executive member of the L&H Committee, is now understood to have originated from a non-executive committee member. Note that the term executive is an informal name given to certain committee members within the L&H.
Conor Capplis (Editor) and Hugh Dooley (Reporter)