This week, Trinity Calendar (Tcal), a useful and simple application that let students integrate their timetables with the calendar apps on their phones, was forced to shut down by College’s IT Services.
There are, of course, legitimate security concerns with unsanctioned, unofficial apps that access a student’s online portal in the way that it did. But for a university that regularly proclaims to champion the entrepreneurial mindset of its students, its handling of this episode leaves more than a little to be desired.
Trinity is supposedly the best university in Europe when it comes to producing entrepreneurial students and graduates – an accolade that Provost Patrick Prendergast has trumpeted for years.
Prendergast has in the past called student entrepreneurship initiatives, like Launchbox, the “cornerstone” of College, and has also supported other students in the past who have come up with innovations that made the lives of students easier. Former Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Entertainments Officer Finn Murphy oversaw the creation of the Trinity ID app that was launched with a dizzying array of hype by College, alongside its new student card payment system. But Murphy undoubtedly benefited from his stature as a TCDSU officer.
If Trinity’s existing solutions were in any way adequate, there would be no need for solutions like Tcal, which was created by Rory Hughes, a third-year computer science student. The relatively new official Myday app is an over-complicated muddle of services, for instance – and doesn’t seem to have caught on.
It’s pretty hard to argue that Hughes’s project, a low-cost solution that solved a problem for hundreds of students, was not exactly the kind of thing that Trinity proclaims to encourage its students to develop. For one thing, there seems to be no reason why Trinity couldn’t ask Hughes to help it integrate it into the online services that the College offers for its students. So far, it seems that Trinity has chosen not to champion this example of student innovation.
It’s time that all levels of this College champion the kind of innovation that Prendergast claims to admire and support. Tcal’s shutdown suggests Trinity might not be as receptive to student innovation as it likes to think.