The College Board is the highest decision-making body in Trinity: it’s a fact that candidates should be reminded of when they run in the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) elections. So many of their policies, promises and ideas might not be possible without the approval of Board.
Trinity is run committee by committee. TCDSU officers themselves sit on upwards of 10 committees, providing a student voice on everything from fees, student centres and new projects.
But this brings with it a certain power imbalance: new officers often come into the role faced with academics who have years of experience dealing with Trinity’s complex network.
Walking into their first committee meetings fresh-faced in August to sit side by side with leading academics that have worked their way up the Trinity ladder to governance levels must be considerably intimidating. However, the College does provide these new members of Board with an induction training to get them up to speed with its workings.
It is doubtful that this training is enough for student leaders to be able to adequately represent student interests at these tables, not least because it’s not in the interests of College to equip student leaders with the tools to effectively oppose moves they see as necessary, or profitable for Trinity.
Sometimes, in situations seemingly stacked against students, all that can be done is to voice enough dissent to be noted in the minutes. Other times, there are hidden ways of fighting back, if you can gain respect and muster the support of your academic colleagues, like in the recent case of GSU President Shane Collins – who, in his second term has seemingly caught on to how this works – rallying Board members to oppose a postgraduate fee increase by forcing a reconsideration of the powers given to the Finance Committee.
It’s about time that union leaders realise that to adequately fulfil the responsibility of being the sole student representatives on committees that have a far-reaching, everyday impact on normal students, they need to prioritise learning how to push hard against decisions that can cause years of damage to student causes and empower their successors to do the same.