When students realised, last Thursday, that their last-minute, pre-exam studying attempts would be thwarted by reduced library opening hours, panic set in.
If College or Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) made any attempt to anticipate the problems created by the Trinity Education Project, they surely would have forseen that Easter would coincide with the weekend before exams.
Yet, once again, it seemed that College was blindsided by – and unconcerned about – the hordes of students gathered outside the library on Friday, with TCDSU scrambling to arrange alternative study spaces for students at the last minute. But what the commotion this weekend most revealed was an unhealthy attitude among TCDSU’s sabbatical team.
Students – unsatisfied with the union’s representation and communication thus far – turned to these full-time sabbatical officers for a remedy to the issues they were facing, and the response when contacted over the Easter weekend was slow and begrudging. After all, the union’s officers said, if it weren’t for them, the library may not even have opened at all this weekend.
However, as the criticism became increasingly heated, TCDSU caved to pressure and secured other on-campus study spaces. That union officers seemed to expect congratulations for keeping the library open at the weekend betrays a misunderstanding of what they’re there for at all.
Of course, everyone is entitled to take annual leave, and no student expects TCDSU’s sabbatical officers to chain themselves to their desks. But being responsive, acting quickly and sympathising with students’ struggles at the most stressful time of the year is the bare minimum we should expect of our full-time representatives.
In any political, union or representative role, there is a requirement to advocate on people’s behalf – even while on leave or at times that are inconvenient – and those running for these positions surely know that being paid to represent 17,000 students for a year is not only no ordinary job, but a privilege.
Under the Trinity Education Project, assessment has been condensed into a shorter, more intense period and students are flailing. TCDSU should never show disdain for the students it represents – least of all at a time when strong representation and support are needed most.