Comment & Analysis
Mar 30, 2020

Hist Accusations a Timely Reminder – Again – That Elitism Has Deep Roots in Trinity

Questionable relics of the past remain intact in many of Trinity’s societies – including, but not only, in the Hist.

Léigh as Gaeilge an t-Eagarfhocal (Read Editorial in Irish) »
By The Editorial Board

The accusations of racism levelled this week at the College Historical Society (the Hist) – Trinity’s oldest society, and one of its most powerful – can hardly be considered a shocking expose.

For one, the claims made by Gabrielle Fullam, a senior Hist member who says she was frequently subject to racist remarks, remain, for now, just claims. We may hear more details about these specific allegations in the coming weeks, once the society’s election period closes.

Regardless: the suggestion that racism exists within the Hist is scarcely a revelation.


It’s both a popular stereotype and open secret that elitism is built into the foundations of Trinity, including its societies. Many organisations on campus are centuries old, and, more often than not, questionable relics of the past remain intact, due either to tradition or oversight.

While we haven’t heard the specifics of Fullam’s accusations, it’s easy to imagine that such interactions do indeed occur in a society like the Hist – and in many others within Trinity’s walls.

That the onus shouldn’t be on people who are victims of this behaviour to call it out should be obvious – yet, more often than not, it seems that the status quo keeps ticking obstinately over.

Without concrete evidence – which can be hard to gather – the often subtle and elusive ways in which organisations reproduce racism and other inequalities tend to persist.

This week’s news, like other scandals or high-profile incidents – whether it was the use of the “n-word” at the Phil last year, or the exposing of hazing practices in a male-dominated secret society on campus – should remind these organisations how much work is left to do.

How a society built upon anachronism can undo the inequality at its roots isn’t straightforward. But on Trinity’s campus, where awareness about these issues in the abstract is at all-time high, there’s not much excuse for token measures or brushing aside the structural nature of this exclusion.

Yet again, such accusations give cause to Trinity’s powerful institutions to pause, and then, hopefully, to act.