At a meeting of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union’s (TCDSU) council last week, a discussion item on the union’s deficit for 2017/18 received much attention – and with good reason. There is an innate shock value to the figure of €70,000. In what could be considered a “freak” year, with the repeal movement accounting for €20,000 of the deficit and Take Back Trinity costing the union €10,000, speculation turned to the continuous losses highlighted in TCDSU’s accounts.
From the outset of a discussion about the SU Cafe in Goldsmith Hall, the union pledged its support to the cafe. This reached its crescendo when TCDSU President Shane De Rís promised that the cafe would remain open, in spite of a warning contained in the treasurer’s report that “if progress is not made in 2018/19 the way the cafe operates will have to be changed or closure may take place”.
For those unfamiliar with the cafe, the strength of De Rís’s commitment to the cafe may appear strange. As the figures show, the cafe is currently running a deficit.
However, to close the cafe, or to sell the space to a private company, would represent a true loss to campus life.
The SU Cafe offers those looking to waste an hour the space to do so, and without the pressure to buy anything – an increasing rarity in Dublin
The SU Cafe is the quintessential example of everything TCDSU strives to provide for students. In a co-op arrangement, the cafe is run by students, for students, with union oversight. It provides students at the Hamilton end of campus a space to microwave their homemade lunches or to purchase affordable meals.
Trinity has often been criticised for a lack of real student spaces. The SU Cafe offers those looking to waste an hour the space to do so, and without the pressure to buy anything – an increasing rarity in Dublin.
The cafe also offers its staff – all of whom are Trinity students – real experience working in and running a cafe. Working in the SU Cafe means many of the College’s students no longer have to fear the dreaded “minimum two years’ experience required” sign in shop doorways. It also offers those in management positions real-world training in how to organise and manage a team, and to provide a quality to service to customers. Demonstrably, this enfranchises students, something that TCDSU has always sought to do.
There has long existed a concerted determination to keep prices as student-friendly as possible, and it’s not always easy to balance this with Dublin’s high-price inflation
One could question the cafe’s management in light of the loss it made last year. This, however, is partly down to the cafe’s ongoing dedication to providing affordable lunches to its students – an undeniably worthy goal. In the cafe, there has long existed a concerted determination to keep prices as student-friendly as possible, and it’s not always easy to balance this with Dublin’s high-price inflation.
It is important, despite the cost, to preserve a student-run business on campus. It is not essential that the SU Cafe should be run for profit – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. TCDSU should not be in the business of profiting at the expense of students. Other areas of the budget will be defended by those more qualified to do so, but providing an affordable space on campus – in a city where students are already overburdened financially – is not only unique, but something that TCDSU should take pride in.
The phrase “for students, by students” may reek of cliche, but is that not the central aim of TCDSU? Thankfully, the union seems to agree that for all its faults, the SU Cafe is a cost that is worth keeping.