Students in Institute of Technology Tallaght (ITT) staged a sit-in today to protest the college’s delay in hiring a new full-time secretary for the students’ union.
Organised by Institute of Tallaght Students’ Union (ITTSU), the sit-in is the latest response to the months-long delay in hiring a new staff member after the union’s old secretary retired in September.
Up to 30 students took part in the sit-in today, with some students continuing the protest this evening and into the night. Earlier, students occupied ITT’s board room.
In an email statement to The University Times, the President of ITTSU, Jason Kavanagh: “All in all, although we feel ignored the protest went really well. Turnout was amazing , students behaviour was amazing, they have committed to staying over night. It’s one of the most iconic moment of student activism in a very long time.”
Representatives from Blanchardstown Institute of Technology Students’ Union, Dublin Institute of Technology Students’ Union, Institute of Technology Tralee Students’ Union and the Union of Students in Ireland also joined the sit-in.
“There was a very clear look of displeasure on the face of the staff in the office. Throughout the day they moved about their business as usual with no comments from the president at any time. I personally am extremely disappointed that ITT did not make contact to arrange a meeting to solve this”, Kavanagh said.
The issue has been ongoing for months. One staff member, who was initially offered the role in July on a three-day-a-week basis, had the job offer withdrawn after the ITTSU raised concerns about the lack of a full-time replacement.
Since then, meetings and negotiations have continued between ITTSU and the college over a new full-time secretary. Kavanagh claimed that in October, the college said it had found a new secretary. However, at a subsequent meeting in November, he said the union was instead offered an administrative support role, which would see a new staff member located in the Registrar’s office on a three-day-a-week basis.
In an email statement to The University Times earlier this week, the Communications and Marketing Manager in ITT, Adrian Payne, said he wasn’t in a position to comment on the specific details.
“I believe that the President of the SU here met with the Registrar and the Student Affairs Manager yesterday, and were not able to come to an agreement on the nature of the provision of a Secretarial position”, said Payne.
Tensions between the two sides appear to be rising. In a meeting this week, where Kavanagh was presenting the petition, he claimed ITT’s Registrar, Dr Kenneth Carroll, slammed a table and called him “childish”. The attitude, Kavanagh said, shows a “complete lack of respect for the student voice”.
The union has rejected the college’s most recent proposal, which they say is a re-hash of a proposal it made months ago.
The union will keep protesting, Kavanagh said, until a full-time secretary is hired. Yesterday afternoon, 500 students, nearly a sixth of the college’s full-time student population, signed a petition calling for the introduction of a new full-time secretary. The union’s council already voted to support ITTSU in lobbying for a secretary.
Nearly all students’ unions have at least one full-time, permanent staff member to carry out administrative tasks and help in the day-to-day operation of the union. Kavanagh has had to ask part-time students’ union officers and other members of the union to help support ITTSU in the absence of a full-time secretary.
In an email statement to The University Times, Kavanagh said: “I alone have done over 300 hours of overtime since July, even with that I stopped counting some time ago. There’s only so much I can ask from my team and the line has been crossed when the college clearly ignores the student voice.”
Kavanagh said his team had worked around 600 hours unpaid to make up for the absence of a secretary. “The mental health of the students’ union has been pushed to the limit, there have been breakdowns and strains on every form of relationship we have”, he said.
Earlier this year, ITTSU was forced into a dispute with the college over the closure of a campus créche.