When news broke that two Trinity students were seeking to establish a Dublin University Real Estate Society (DURES), the reaction was mixed, to say the least. The proposal drew criticism from a number of Twitter users – some called it “the most Trinity thing I have ever seen” and scathingly nicknamed it “the Trinity Landlords Club”.
With controversy brewing before the society had even been officially established, it’s no wonder that the founders, Harry Williams and Oscar Verdon, are keen to tell their side of the story.
“Real estate is a huge industry in Ireland and in the world”, Verdon says. “Many students across Trinity from all kinds of backgrounds and courses could one day find careers in [real estate].”
“We want to have talks about real estate, get speakers in, have workshops”, Williams adds, detailing his hopes to set up an alumni network of Trinity graduates who have gone into real estate and “have a good social setting to it”.
According to Verdon, the society’s main objective is to create job prospects for students and kickstart their careers in the field of real estate. “It has quite a broad appeal to it, I think”, he says, “maybe more than a lot of other societies”.
Given the prevailing restrictions and uncertainty over whether students will return to campus in September, Williams and Verdon fear some difficulties in completing the Central Societies Committee protocol to officially establish the society, as most of the steps require in-person interaction.
Nevertheless, they are confident that garnering interest in the society, even in a virtual space, won’t be a problem. “We’ve already had a lot of people message us about it”, they tell me, “from first years to third years to postgrad students – a really diverse group of people.”
The co-founders meanwhile, seem confident and eager to get started, even if it means moving their debut events online. “It’s not quite as exciting but it would still be good”, says Verdon.
But what exactly is the need for such a niche society on Trinity’s already society-active campus? “We’d be the first of its kind in Ireland but a lot of other universities around the world – some of the best universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford – they all have them”, Williams says.
Eventually, I bite the bullet and ask the question that had been plastered on my Twitter feed: Had they considered that they were being in any way insensitive given the prevalent housing crisis in Dublin?
Though this question is a little more uncomfortable than those which came before, Williams and Verdon appear prepared for it all. They admit that some of the criticism surrounding the society is “justified, some unjustified”.
“One of our main aims was not to appear insensitive”, Verdon tells me. He insists that, ultimately, their main intention is to help students find jobs after they graduate.
One event idea that they have in mind is to host a renters’ rights meeting. Neither Williams nor Verdon is from Dublin and they hope that such an event would help to ensure that students that require accommodation, such as themselves, are fully aware of their rights and the rules when renting. “It goes without saying that the Dublin housing market, especially for students, is a very tricky place to be”, Verdon says. “We think something like the Real Estate Society is part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
It’s hard to know what the future holds for DURES. Williams and Verdon however, are confident in their objectives, assured that their society will ultimately benefit other students and apparently have plenty of support behind the scenes.
When asked about what my own first impressions of the society were, I’m bluntly honest in repeating the phrases I had seen thrown around online such as “Trinity Landlords’ Club”, or an “up-and-coming Landlords’ society”. This, thankfully, does not offend but, rather, warrants a laugh from the co-founders, both of whom have been staying off of social media.