UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) will hold a protest at 12pm on Valentine’s Day outside O’Reilly Hall on the Belfield Campus against the “sky high rents” of on-campus student accommodation and the rising commercialization of the college.

The union is calling on UCD to “reciprocate the love that students have” for their college by addressing a number of “core UCD student issues” which have arisen over the last few years. UCDSU is hoping that the protest will lead to mass student mobilization to address the high cost of renting on-campus student accommodation, persuade UCD to provide greater funding to student support services and “ending [the] exploitation of postgraduate workers”.

What do UCDSU hope to achieve?

Speaking to the College Tribune, UCDSU President Ruairí Power said that he hopes the protest will generate “as much student mobilization as possible” arguing that “urgent change” is needed to combat the rising commercialization of the college. The union argued that this trend “poses an existential risk” to the experience of students in UCD.

UCDSU to hold Valentine’s Day Protest on Monday. Above: Ruairi Power and Robyn O’Keeffe of UCDSU.

The protest has received the support of trade unions such as IFUT UCD and SIPTU as well as receiving considerable support from students on campus. Speaking to the College Tribune, Ciarán, a final-year UCD student said, “we need to turn out to this protest, it feels like my last chance to change UCD for the better before I graduate.”

The UCDSU President argues that students should show up to the protest because “student and staff welfare has not been prioritized [in recent years], the corporate interests of the university have!”

Power hopes the “demonstration will unite as many students and staff members as possible” saying that he was “delighted to have support from SIPTU, Unite, and IFUT UCD. We think that’s quite a powerful message of solidarity and hope.”

“We are essentially saying a goodbye and God bless to [UCD President] Andrew Deeks and a welcome to [incoming interim President] Mark Rogers, but making it very clear that the student movement is ready to push back on commercialization.” UCD President Andrew Deeks will serve his last day as President at the end of March, the Union is hoping that the new President will “reciprocate” students’ love for the university during their term.

Why is IFUT supporting the protest?

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) have put their support behind the Union’s protest saying: “The concerns raised by the Students Union overlap with the issues IFUT has been campaigning on for years, namely the use of casual and precarious labour (including postgraduate students) in the delivery of modules, and the prevailing of corporate interests over staff and students.”

IFUT highlighted the plight of “precarious, casual, hourly paid and low paid” university staff, arguing that “the impact on the individual can be devastating including financial stresses, insecurity and mental health impacts” as well as damaging staff’s research and teaching outputs. IFUT are encouraging UCD to “recognize long service by precarious staff through the issue of Contracts of Indefinite Duration.”

To learn more about the protest visit UCDSU.ie

Hugh Dooley – News Editor