UCD Societies Council has announced that all societies will be free to join for the academic year of 2020/21, due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. The lack of the €2 registration fee will main that many societies will have to survive the upcoming year on much lower funds than they may have anticipated. This has left many societies is a tenuous position as they only found out about the lack of a registration fee this week, many have budgeted their year with more funds than they now have access to. Freshers Week will take place online this week, the 12th to the 16th of October. 

The College Tribune reached out to every society individually to see how the loss of funding will impact different societies and how they plan to run events despite this loss of funds. Every society is given a basic grant from the society’s council every academic year and the size of this grant varies depending on the size of the society. Our main query to the societies is whether the basic grant from the council would increase to minimise the effects of fewer funds. 

Kelvyn Fields, Auditor of the History Society, has explained that there is unlikely to be a change to the basic grant, instead, the loss of income means that HistorySoc will be “running all of our events online and as cost-efficiently as possible such as online lectures, movie nights, quizzes and speed friending.” Fields stated that “the only thing that needs subsidisation will be our trip which we are hoping can still go ahead.” 

Owen, Auditor of the Science Society said that the lack of registration income was “not ideal, to say the least.” ScienceSoc donates the proceeds of their events to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, this effort “[relies] heavily on the funds from new members to get the ball rolling”. The society is currently exploring sponsorship to bridge the financial gap caused by free membership, in the mean time, the costs of running online events will be “covered out of the committees’ personal funds”.

Becky Coonan, Auditor of Horse Racing Society stated, “We are quite a small society with limited funds in our account at the moment, so we are really going to struggle to fund events without the registration fee. The societies council have said that they are not going to increase the grant they give us. They are going to keep it the same and expect that we will host less events so will spend less money. However, we do not generally receive the grant money until the second semester, so we are really going to struggle to host anything this semester with no money.”

Mudita Verma, Auditor of DrawSoc, responded saying that the society are worried about their “funding situation” and that the society had not heard “anything about how the grants will be allocated this year.” 

Claire Read, Auditor of the Philosophy Society said; “We expect the basic grant to stay the same from previous sessions. Even though the membership fee has been waived, our society will spend less money on events. Hopefully, the money lost from collecting memberships fees should be offset by the money we’re saving from not hosting in-person events. Money typically spent on items such as posters, food, and drinks will now be saved or allocated to different portions of our budget. “

“PhilSoc’s biggest aim is to make philosophy and our society as accessible as possible. While a momentary decrease in income is not optimal, we hope students will be encouraged to become more engaged with Philosophy/our society since there is no membership fee.”

Iga Piotrowska, auditor of German Society explained that as a smaller society, the €2 membership fee was “a very important financial source for us.” Similarly to a number of other societies, GermanSoc are exploring sponsorship opportunities in order to make up for the loss of income, in the meantime they will “mostly relying on the basic grant”. GermanSoc have not been notified as to Society Council’s plans for the basic grant this year.

The delay from UCD in notifying societies as to the future of events on-campus during the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the society had invested supplies for on-campus events, “a cost that will now impact our basic grant, our only source of income for the time being.” The society “had hoped that [these costs] would have been covered by the membership fees. We are also quite worried that the loss of income due to the cancellation of membership fees this year will impact any on-campus events we will host once they can safely resume.”

Many societies are clearly unsure as to what will be happening in the future as they have now been left without vital funds to host events. However, the news that all societies activities will be held online for the foreseeable future has at least softened the blow for many societies. With societies being unaware of the basic grant increasing or not and many stating that it will not increase upon previous years, funds are clearly tighter this year. 

Sarah Connaughton – Reporter