The state of our university is often criticised. Whether it is cuts to services or a grindingly slow bureaucracy, Trinity is often the butt of frustration and scorn from students and staff. Indeed, The University Times has never been slow to point out and criticise decisions of the Trinity administration.
Too often, or so the perception goes, Trinity’s administration is unbending and unreflective of student needs. Yet to see this administration as a faceless machine is a mistake. We misunderstand Trinity if we fail to see it as a collection of numerous decision-making processes carried out by staff who often have the best interests of the university at heart.
In an interview with The University Times published this week, former Vice-Provost Linda Hogan said: “As an officer of the university, you take on the role, and your task is, in a way, to leave the place in as good or better state than you took it over.”
Sometimes College decisions might conflict with the interests of students. Sometimes we might find consensus between students and staff. Either way, these College officers play a central role in defining the student experience of Trinity. The Vice-Provost, for instance, is ultimately responsible for the decisions on education and academia within Trinity. Their new ideas and practices will ultimately trickle down to influence and shape the experience students have in Trinity.
Some of the decisions may prove unpopular. Yet we cannot simply dismiss them as Trinity bureaucracy. These officers are part of the institution, but their motivation isn’t simply to make life difficult for students.
Take the new Dean of Graduate Studies, Neville Cox, who last week described to this paper his role as a tutor as “the biggest privilege connected with being a member of academic staff in Trinity”.
When rules are changed and regulations are passed, it is often to try improve the institution. Sometimes these reforms fail, or College fails to listen to what students want.
But when we complain about a Trinity bureaucracy, we suggest that it is incapable of being understood. We suggest that it is an institution incapable of negotiation. By engaging with the bureaucracy at the human level, we give ourselves a chance to come face to face with the people actually in charge of making decisions.