UCD. We love it. We hate it. It is the central hub to our sort-of-adult-but-still-pretty-clueless lives, and yet, it feels as though it is trying to push us away with sky-high expenses and an ever-expanding ‘campus agenda’.
We are all quite well aware of the construction being undertaken, causing unrelenting fogs of smoke and even more stubborn traffic congestion. We have all gotten the email updates – and glossed over them. Yet many of us are starting to beg the question: what is this all actually for? Is our beloved campus not big enough as is? And if they were going to start modernising the college, they’d surely start with the Newman Building. But perhaps the furthest the idea of ‘Modern’ stretches for Newman is the fact that it has proper heating.
The ’Future Campus’ project – which began in the ripe year of 2016 and is projected to span until 2026 – aims to “provide 22,500 m2 of new teaching, learning and research facilities”, all at the utterly measly and not at all unreasonable price of €180 million and circa 117 trees. Arguably, this money could be put to a multitude of better uses or necessary causes, but at least we’ll have a swanky new building with obscure towers protruding from its head that meagrely represent the Giant’s Causeway in a far-fetched ode to our beloved James Joyce and his Finnegan’s Wake. (“Giamond’s Coarseway”, get it? I didn’t either). But at the very least that explains where our rent money is going.
Included in this whopper of a budget are, of course, the new and hopefully improved landscape, a dazzling Centre for Creativity and an innovative Centre for Future Learning. All additions to the university’s architecture are very clearly needed, if not begged for by the student body.
Despite protests from local residents on the “form of modern folly”, An Bord Pleanála paired with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to grant planning permission for the expansion of our campus, all under UCD’s guise of having the ambition to create “a more welcoming and engaging entrance at the primary entry point to the campus while facilitating the growth and improvement of educational facilities”. The true purity of this statement is yet to be verified as the residents neighbouring the campus condemn what is doomed to be an “eye-sore” and students debate the possibility of a prettier entrance helping them get to their morning class with an added pep to their steps. And yet I suppose we can hope to get to our classes earlier with the new and improved entrance, although we can thank the clearing of obstruction – apologies – construction for that.
What’s more, our ever esteemed university is quoted to believe that the result of such bashing and building enhances and even ameliorates “an underwhelming and substandard section of the campus” in addition to encouraging a necessary connection between the local community and campus. Once again, this statement is yet to be tested as tension still lingers between local residents and university management.
But how do students truly feel about the matter? That is, the students who haven’t just resolved to press on and power through instead of seething with rage every time their bus almost flings them through the window while driving through the treacherous bus lanes of the upheaval.
Some indeed are quite angry (to put it politely) at the inconvenience of it all, and its seeming frivolity. And others are actually quite saddened by the ordeal. It portrays a side to UCD that is hypocritical to its acclaimed ‘global university status, and indeed, everything it seems to stand for. For a campus that is “striving” towards being environmentally friendly and doing its bit, the heavy smog of construction seemed to be embraced a tad too quickly. For a university that aims to be inclusive and fair, the superficial and quite frankly flippant expenditure is espoused too readily, when funds could be allocated to bettering more necessary faculties and causes. In fact, all this ‘innovation’ seems to be advertising is the booming capitalism that is so weaved into the hierarchies of the university’s management. Management with the ideals of bettering the façade of the university, its ego; rather than establishing and nurturing a solid foundation that evokes the ideals it claims to embody.
Rhoen Eate – Features Editor