In cooperation with Fix Our Education UCD, the UCD Students’ Union organised a demonstration of staff and students outside the University Club today, March 4th. The protest aimed to oppose the planned 12% increase of on-campus rental accommodation and the commercialisation of the publicly funded university.
Meeting in UCD’s Quad at 12 o’clock, about 200 students marched on the University Club chanting as they went. Screams of “Andrew in your ivory tower, this is called people power” echoed around the lake as students attempted to gain entry to the controversial University Club. Security staff of the Club blocked the entrance and attempted to stop the protestors from gaining entry to the building. UCD SU President Joanna Siewierska and the Co-Chair of Fix Our Education, Ruarí Power, managed to gain entry to the building carrying a large painted banner. The duo made their way upstairs and unfurled the banner reading “Not a business” in a room overlooking the cheering protestors.
Upon leaving the facility, Siewierska and Power received a hero’s welcome from the crowd. The demonstration continued until students moved from the front entrance and chanted directly at the members of the exclusive club.
Highlighting the apparent divisions between students and the management team, staff of the University Club were seen “smiling and waving” to the students who were gathered outside the blocked front entrance. After a student brought attention to the crowd that staff were “standing there with big smiles on their faces and 5 Euro Lattes” the crowd of students began to chant; “Fuck your lattes, fuck your pints.”
Katie O’Dea explained why their protest was aimed at the club, which was revealed to have cost €12.4 million by the College Tribune; “The University Club is the most symbolic building on campus. It’s a symbol of where the University Management’s priorities lie; in creating buildings for themselves and making the university look good, well, in their eyes at least. The club represents what is wrong with UCD, they are investing in the wrong places and aren’t prioritising their students’ needs. We see money being spent elsewhere, being spent on the president’s offices and premium properties being bought up all around UCD, money being spent on places that aren’t prioritising the acute needs of students.”
The University Club, which is a member-only establishment, has attracted a lot of criticism since it opened last May. Both students and staff voiced their concerns about the University Club when it opened in May of 2019, with more than 400 staff members signing a pledge to boycott the members only facility.
Speaking to the College Tribune, Joanna Siewierska expressed her satisfaction with the turnout; “I’m delighted with the turnout. Obviously, we promote things as best we can and want big numbers. What can I say, has it been the biggest rally? It’s the biggest rally that I’ve seen on campus since I’ve been here. So, I stand by that, and the rallies will only continue getting bigger.”
Explaining the Union’s next step, Siewierska said, “First of all, we need to see how management responds to what we have been doing so far. We are still collecting signatures for a staff/student petition on the matter, there’s a Governing Authority meeting coming up.”
Hugh Dooley – Reporter