The expansive, once-in-a-generation overhaul of Trinity’s undergraduate education is nearing completion. From exams at Christmas to changes to supplementals and new forms of assessment, it will impact thousands of undergraduate students in the college now and in the future.
But what do students know of these changes? One of the most discussed topics in The University Times this year might still seem somewhat alien to many– a bureaucratic headache complained of by staff or the subject line of an email received once each term. If complicated, multifaceted reforms justify the necessity of a students’ union and its presence on college committees, a lack of any real effort to get students talking about the issue in recent years suggests a deficiency in how effective it’s been in engaging students on the complex, bureaucratic issues that fundamentally shape our education.
When students failed to turn up to the public consultations organised by Trinity, that should have been a wake-up call. When, two years ago, conversations began about reforming Trinity’s education, the union should have been the first to announce consultations and representative bodies. Instead, just as the creases of the Trinity Education Project are being ironed out, we have an Academic Senate that’ll come too late to address the biggest academic project in Trinity this century.
Aside from visits from two consecutive vice-provosts to the union’s council to discuss the project, one might have thought the biggest issue being fought by the union in recent years was a student centre. The topic dominated the union’s social media, it played out publicly in a walk-in-the-park referendum. And yet, behind the scenes, the committee-level drama of the project was being played out without the sustained input from students necessary for a project that has the entirety of undergraduate education in its sights.
Union officers often get elected promising to redress any imbalance between TCDSU’s focus on national over domestic issues. From student spaces to nap rooms, they’ve largely achieved that. And yet, for all the energy put into demonstrations and lobby groups, where was the attempt to create debate and discussion about a project that’ll have ramifications long after we all leave Trinity?
For all College’s efforts to avoid a top-down process, the limited imagination of TCDSU will mean that, in years to come, students might reasonably scratch their heads and wonder where all these changes came from and why no one ever asked for their opinion.