This week saw a global news cycle dominated by coverage of rallies and marches taking place all over the world in protest at racism and police brutality.
Outrage about the death of George Floyd has been felt keenly on our shores. Thousands, including students, have marched all over the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and social media has been flooded with messages of solidarity with the black community.
College maintained radio silence on the issue until late this week – before a belated acknowledgement that came too late to avoid scathing criticism from Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU).
Trinity’s statement was conspicuous by its lateness: nobody sane could argue racism isn’t endemic in the US, and you’d have to be good at walking around with your eyes closed to ignore the fact that it’s a problem in Ireland too. A public declaration from the College should have come earlier.
One positive that came out of Trinity’s statement was its promise to “take up a real debate on race and ethnicity in Trinity and, especially, to bring about real structural change”.
It’s absolutely crucial that this commitment is upheld, even after the current wave of anger has subsided. As TCDSU President Laura Beston rightly pointed out, Trinity is keen to welcome international students to its campus, but less enthusiastic about putting in place supports for these students when they get here, or about taking active steps against racism in College.
Tangible action needs to be taken to make Trinity more inclusive. An Elective on Black Studies (a petition started by a student this week called for its introduction) would be a good first step. Individual departments shifting their curriculums to better represent minority groups would do more again, to show College is genuinely committed to making real change.
These measures, and others like them, will not be quick or easy to implement. But if Trinity wants to bridge the gap between the image it likes to present and the harsh realities many students are coming forward with, it needs to make real changes.
Otherwise, students will look back in a year on a statement that didn’t really mean anything.