Lavish, taxpayer-funded parties are never popular, be it for politicians or university presidents. But they’re less popular when thrown by a sector that has come repeatedly, cap-in-hand, looking for more money from the state. Parties involving ice sculptures might be rare, but they’ll thaw goodwill for higher education when it desperately needs to win friends and alienate less people. Politicians have just about started to feel comfortable telling voters there’s a higher education funding crisis. But scandals about spending – whether serious or petty – are the best way to make a mockery of the funding question.
You would naturally believe the College’s €4 million refurbishment of the Arts Block would include a face lift of the dark and uncomfortable lecture halls. After all, they are the most widely used spaces in the building. But no – the theatres are not on the list of areas set for renovation. It beggars belief to think that the suggested renovations will cost €4 million considering that the theatres are not involved. Small changes will be welcomed, but when this is the project we’ve all been waiting for, students have a right to ask: why all the hype?
It’s self-evident that universities and students’ unions can co-operate, work together and improve the lives of students. But offering support when asked for doesn’t mean ceding complete control. In Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union (QUBSU), students are making the best case possible for independence: on principle, students’ unions exist to be autonomous. A lacuna in the law might be in their way, but by assuaging Queen’s doubts – QUBSU still wants a good working relationship – it might just get the independence it deserves.