Five years after its inception, Tobacco Free Trinity returned to the headlines this week, with the College seeking to expand smoke-free zones on campus. Though discussion on the matter has been delayed until next month’s meeting of the College Board, Trinity’s students’ unions won’t be able to avoid confronting their own position on it for much longer.
Tobacco Free Trinity was launched in April 2013 with a College-wide survey, which found that a majority of staff and students supported the idea of Trinity becoming a smoke-free campus. Since then, most of the feedback received by Trinity has been positive – and though Tobacco Free Trinity has not been without controversy, College, to its credit, has at every turn attempted to engage students in the project.
For their part, however, neither Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) nor the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) has a definitive stance on the initiative.
After an inconclusive 2014 referendum and several protracted discussions at the union’s council, TCDSU voted to remove its stance on Tobacco Free Trinity – a move that essentially bestowed the student representatives on board – the union’s President, Welfare Officer and Education Officer – with the power to vote however which way they want.
Meanwhile, while GSU members have been vocal in their support of the initiative in council discussions and in surveys, its President-elect, Oisín Vince Coulter, actually spoke against the initiative at TCDSU council. He now wields the power to decide where the GSU stands.
It is certainly not too much to ask Trinity’s representative unions to nail their colours to the mast. Their failure to do so should also have us question the usefulness of their respective decision-making bodies. The often-chaotic nature of TCDSU’s council, which either tends to follow the whims of its sabbatical officers or eschew making a decision, makes the body’s existence seem almost futile.
That the Take Back Trinity movement – which upended the campus for several weeks – came and went without a single mention at the council tells you how important this body really is.
In any case, if the idea of a smoke-free campus is something you have strong feelings about, you should probably make it known to your student representatives in the next few weeks.