In March, when Take Back Trinity roiled the campus, College seemed to resolutely promise fee certainty to international and postgraduate students.
Last week’s fiasco, which saw Trinity reverse course on a five per cent fee increase for international students, therefore looks rather mystifying – even if, like us, you’ve become conditioned to expect rather elliptical decision-making from the College.
A charitable examination of what happened would take the supposed “differences of information interpretation” that led to the debacle at face value. That, essentially, would require us to contemplate whether Trinity, in the heat of the moment, signed on the metaphorical dotted line without knowing what it agreed to – and then, months later, had still not figured out just what exactly this whole “fee certainty” lark was.
The problem, however, is that the term “fee certainty” hardly requires much interpretation. Students either get certainty – by being told what fees they’ll have to pay for their degree from the get-go – or they don’t. It’s scarcely believable that Trinity, even as worn to a frazzle as its senior figures were in March, could have taken a “fee certainty” agreement to mean anything else.
There is, of course, a more sinister alternative – one that would fly in the face of the spirit of co-operation that’s been fostered in the aftermath of Take Back Trinity. Was College hoping that a charge affecting only 700 of Trinity’s 17,000 students would go unnoticed, as the campus basks in the stifling summer heat? And was it, in turn, underestimating the determination of Trinity’s students’ unions – and hoping its newly instated leaders were asleep at the wheel?
The presidents of Trinity’s students’ unions insisted after meeting College last week that there was “no malice” behind the fee increase, and the willingness with which Trinity backed down suggests that the sequence of events spawned from incompetence, rather than insidiousness. But both explanations, rather unfortunately, require us to think the College more than a little foolhardy.