As the saying goes, a week is a long time in politics. And if you have more than a tangential involvement in campaigning, a week in the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) elections feels very long indeed.
Harking back to an event that happened around 12 months ago thus feels like some kind of ancient history lesson. But, as this Editorial Board has consistently noted, few things in recent memory have roiled Trinity’s bustling 47-acre campus more than the Take Back Trinity protests that happened last March.
Still, as time passes, the movement seems to be remembered far more for its disputatious aspects than for its staggering successes. Even if we are to consider only their direct consequences – a reversal of a College Board decision and the introduction of long-demanded fee certainty for postgraduate students – the two weeks of on-campus protests were strikingly effective.
But the ramifications have inarguably been far more significant. Students – long treated like a burr under Provost Patrick Prendergast’s saddle – have in recent months finally been treated as stakeholders by College.
While the 2019 TCDSU elections have not been devoid of mention of Take Back Trinity, in this context the attention paid to it seems a little meagre. Even Laura Beston, a prominent player in the movement, has at times distanced herself from its more radical aspects.
The reasons for this are multifaceted. For one thing, though the union’s leaders did a good job of taking credit for the movement’s successes, it was by and large a grassroots-led campaign. And despite upending norms and making national headlines, it received not one substantive mention at any meeting of TCDSU council, supposedly the union’s foremost decision-making body. (It’s no wonder students feel like the union is removed from reality.)
What Take Back Trinity achieved over the course of a few days in March compares favourably to what even the most capable TCDSU presidents achieve in an entire term. Candidates in these elections, three of whom will end up sitting across from the Provost at College Board meetings, should take heed.