Typically considered competitors, University College Dublin’s (UCD) two debating societies, the Law Society (LawSoc) and the Literary & Historical Society (L&H) have shown opposite financial trends in recent years. This has been particularly evident during the past academic year as LawSoc generated a total income of €77, 208.02, with a surplus of €10,230.56. In contrast, the L&H generated €19,744 during the same time period with a total loss attributable to the 165th session of -€6,589.13.
A Law(Soc) Unto Themselves
UCD LawSoc generated significant revenue from sponsorship agreements with €28,200, such as their agreement with Matheson, a ‘Big Four’ law firm, leading to the society ending the year with a total financial stockpile of almost €44,000. This figure combines both the LawSoc capital account and cash-on-hand.
LawSoc saw an increase in membership of more than 300 last year, recording a total of 4,185 members in a successful financial year. This increase wasn’t without investment, however, as the society spent more than €10,000 on their Freshers’ Week bags and stand, including €897 on ice-cream.
LawSoc made a profit of €2,341 from running the junior debating programme, JSchools, in which the both UCD debating societies teach debating to secondary school students from across Leinster. The society brought in €15,437 from this programme alone, with a total expenditure of €13,096.
Law Ball is one of the highlights of the UCD social scene every year, with queues forming to buy tickets. This was represented in the LawSoc accounts as the society had generated €17,310 from ticket sales and posted a profit of €5,997 from the event. This single event generated more money than the L&H did during their entire 165th session.
UCD’s Literary and Historical Society has struggled financially in recent years with large sums of debt adding up from previous sessions. Although repaying a significant amount of the aforementioned debt, the 165th session of the L&H posted a total loss of -€6,589.13.
The income of UCD’s oldest society amounted to €19,744. The annual Strauss Ball, which was last held in November 2018, did not take place last year, which may account for a portion of the reduced income of the society this year. ‘Newman’s Society’ spent almost €23,500 last year, including their reimbursement of creditors.
The L&H no longer has an active, liquid capital account and ended the year with a total projected closing balance, when amended to include debtors amounting to more than €5,050, of €6,595.27. A large amount of this debt is from Deloitte, a prominent legal and accounting firm, which, according the the L&H accounts, owes the society an outstanding debt of €3,250.
This follows a “catastrophic” previous session for the society, which saw an attempt to remove the Auditor from office, the resignation of over one-third of the committee and other concerning incidents. Financial difficulties haven’t been the only problem for the L&H, with the society’s ‘Legal Assessors’ expressing concern on their following of the constitution during a recent AGM.
The society’s Legal Assessors are tasked with oversight of the society and its constitution. The three former Auditors keep the students in check and must investigate allegations of malpractice within the society.
Last year, the L&H stopped purchasing posters for their house debates in November. The society racked up a debt of over €1,300 to Grehan Printers at the beginning of the year. Auditor Anthony Treacy was subjected to heavy questioning from the Legal Assessors on this: “So, you spent €1,000 postering in two months?” Treacy: “About that, yes.”
The society confirmed to The College Tribune that their budget for posters was not exceeded last year, however, the drop in posters later in the year speaks for itself.
During the AGM, one Legal Assessor remarked that there was “no public business activity of the society from November to February of this year,” despite being “constitutionally mandated” to do so on a weekly basis. The other Legal Assessors said there was “no number of excuses for this” and called it “bizarre”.
When questioned directly on this, the society told The College Tribune: “We are not in a position to speak authoritatively to what events did and didn’t take place last year, but the cancellation or otherwise of an event does not in and of itself breach the Constitution.” The L&H did not clarify who could“speak authoritatively” on what events happened just a few months ago.
The L&H has been unable to retrieve an outstanding debt owed by former sponsor Deloitte, with the matter stagnating over a year on from its initial invoicing. The sum of €3,250 has been outstanding since early 2019, and the society claims to have contacted the company “at least once per month” until November of that year.
The funds were dedicated to supporting the society’s Women’s Week and Careers Week events. Treacy stated that he spoke to a Deloitte recruitment representative at the latter event about payment, but the company went “radio silent” thereafter.
According to former Auditor Anthony Treacy, the issue was cascaded to the Societies Council, where Societies Officer Richard Butler said he was “dealing with it” and the L&H should “stop contacting [Deloitte] so [Butler] could figure it out”. Almost a year later, the AGM provided no indication of this debt being paid anytime soon. In a statement to The College Tribune, Butler indicated it “wouldn’t be appropriate for me to discuss counsel provided or not provided to Auditors.”
The L&H told The College Tribune they have been “unable to discuss the development” of that sponsorship in 2020. Deloitte recruitment has not responded to requests for comment by the time of publishing. The College Tribune spoke to Butler about the consequences for submitting false accounts for review, which he said would be “considered on a case by case basis.” When asked about the significant debt suffered by the L&H, the society said they are “fully solvent and secure”.
Conor Capplis – Senior Reporter
Hugh Dooley – News Editor