There is no denying that the Graduates Memorial Building (GMB) is a stunning feat of architecture. Even to an untrained eye like my own, the building is intimidating, imposing – nearly godlike.
The reams of stairs and heavy doors only add to this otherworldly quality of the building, a place that feels like both a physical and spiritual remnant of times gone by. It is a fantastic resource for the three societies – the University Philosophical Society (the Phil), the College Historical Society (the Hist) and the College Theological Society (the Theo) – that reside in the building.
How many university societies can claim an entire building exists solely for them to hold events, and such a beautiful building at that? But the issue with the GMB lies in that very sentence: it is a fantastic resource for those three societies.
Even saying three societies is nothing more than lip service – the Theo is not currently in session, leaving the entire GMB in the hands of the Phil and the Hist. Both of these societies obviously have rich histories that link them to the building, but in a College where students are constantly pushing for updated change and reform, it is both unusual and almost inexplicable that more objection has not been raised to a state of affairs that often excludes other societies from holding events.
The space afforded to these two societies in the GMB is excessive and insulting to every other society on campus, most of whom have to share a cramped room in the Atrium or House Six or Goldsmith Hall with four or five other groups. Booking rooms in College is an ordeal in and of itself – and yet no-one seems to provide a solution in the form of repurposing the GMB as a space that every society can use, with equal accessibility for every group.
History and tradition is not a good enough reason to allow a monopoly on this building by the oldest societies on campus
History and tradition is not a good enough reason to allow a monopoly on this building by the oldest societies on campus. But this obsession with the old benefits the Hist and the Phil in more ways than just their entitlement to a building on campus.
Freshers’ week saw dedicated members of societies and sports clubs drag themselves into Front Square at unsavoury hours in order to snag a desirable location, while the Hist and Phil were afforded dedicated prime spots for the entire week – no early mornings necessary. And the justification for this blatant show of different treatment? Tradition.
The world will not go on fire if the traditional freshers’ week spots allocated to the Hist and Phil are taken by another society. If the GMB was repurposed as a society space for all student groups, there wouldn’t be a fire either.
Trying to book rooms for society events can be difficult, arduous and full of red tape. And yet there is a building on campus that could and should be used as a place for society events by all societies – not just the ones that have traditionally been there.
Semesterisation has already taken its toll on society life in Trinity, and now the issue of access to rooms and space is providing another challenge
Other societies are currently allowed to have events in the building – but that shouldn’t be applauded when the Hist and Phil can hold weekly events there without ever scrambling to find a free space on campus. Being the oldest societies should not entitle these groups to special treatment.
It’s hoped that the upcoming student centre will provide sufficient space on campus for all societies to cohabit and hold meetings and run events. But what about now? More and more societies are set up each year, with no growth in space to accommodate them. Semesterisation has already taken its toll on society life in Trinity, and now the issue of access to rooms and space is providing another challenge.
This attitude towards the Hist and Phil’s use of the GMB is indicative of College as a whole – it’s more focused on upholding past traditions rather than honestly evaluating what works best for everyone right now, and in the future.
A lack of space and the difficulty of booking rooms are two of the most common problems cited by societies on campus. There appears to be a simple solution, so why isn’t it reality? The GMB should be a place for all societies on campus – not just for the ones who happened to be in existence when it was built.