Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union’s council on Tuesday voted against supporting Cut the Rent, a student-led grassroots movement calling for a rent strike on Trinity’s campus. The group had been building support in the weeks leading up to council: collecting 200 signatures, canvassing students and even getting national media traction.
But from the moment members of Cut the Rent stood up at council to defend a motion to mandate the union to support them, the atmosphere in the room soured.
After a lengthy debate – during which several council mainstays cast doubt on the safety of rent strikes – the motion was put to a vote. To the untrained eye, the number of voting slips raised in the air against the motion seemed to have a small majority – but there was a chance that the motion had passed.
To anyone familiar with council, however, the result was never in doubt.
Council voted not to support the students and, as it has consistently done in recent years, voted against change. Once a body that prided itself on being progressive, it again showed itself to be a conservative organisation, wary of rocking the boat and preferring to retain the status quo.
Council’s conservatism has struck Cut the Rent a massive blow. The union’s support would have lent the group legitimacy among students and, more importantly, among the Trinity administration.
It also strips students who want to withhold their rents of an extra layer of protection from a potentially hostile administration. Contrary to what some people argued, not supporting Cut the Rent is what will really put students in danger.
The rejection of the motion was met with anger online. People lambasted council for its conservatism. Some pointed to 2015, when council voted not to take a stance opposing student fees – a decision that would be met with outrage at today’s council.
And this reveals a key characteristic of council: it refuses to endorse change until there is absolutely no risk in doing so. As long as this continues, the union’s clout among students and the College will continue to diminish, as will the opportunities for Trinity students to take meaningful action.