The Central Societies Committee was last year forced to cover a societies excess spending bill that was 20 times higher in 2016/17 than it had been in the previous year, The University Times has learned.
Although the income of the CSC increased from €354,035 to €360,493 – around a two per cent increase – in the same period, the organisation last year spent €380,277, compared to €354,913 the year before, a freedom of information request by The University Times has revealed.
While the primary purpose of the CSC is to cover society expenses, a twenty-fold increase is still a significant jump in costs, even for an organisation that is used to handling fluctuating student spending.
In an email statement to The University Times, the Secretary of the CSC, Fiona May, said: “We would actually aim to spend slightly more on an annual basis than we receive from the Capitation income – the societies need this money, and the CSC would be neglectful if it did not ensure that the societies get the full use of it in order to carry out their activities.”
The system of claiming back for funding means that the CSC’s accounts can differ greatly between years, according to May: “We can never be sure … exactly how much or in which areas the money will be claimed.”
But, she said, the CSC “can be sure that not more can be claimed than we can afford”. This “is why there are fluctuations in all the figures on a year to year basis”, she said.
The highest expense for the CSC is travel and accommodation, with €31,738 spent in 2016/17, up from €27,406 the previous year. This covers funding for society field trips, conferences and competitions. This funding is capped: each society can claim €60 per person for a group of up to 40 people or 20 per cent of members, whichever is fewer. This means that the maximum a society can be given per year is €2,400. Societies cannot get funding for field trips two years in a row. Money for travel is granted on a first-come-first-served basis, according to May.
The CSC accounts for the past two years saw the amount for special grants double, rising from €9,160 to €18,632. Special grants are given to societies to host a conference or to host speakers, where costs would go over the normal limit on travel and accommodation. Special grants were given to the University Philosophical Society (the Phil) to host Martin Scorsese last year and to DU Dance Society to host intervarsities.
Another significant cost for the CSC is for guest speakers, which societies spent €17,338 on last year. Per speaker, the maximum a society can claim is €220 for travel and €130 per night for a maximum of two nights for overseas guests. There is a cap of €65 set aside for entertaining the speaker.
In an email statement to The University Times, May said that the size of a society is not a consideration when giving grants: “The CSC does not differentiate against societies on the basis of membership numbers. In fact the only time that we refer to a society as small, medium or large, is in respect of the Society of the Year Awards, and this is just so that we have more categories at the awards.”
The CSC is the body that runs Trinity’s more than 100 student societies and it is a capitated body funded by the College through the Capitations Committee along with DU Central Athletic Club (DUCAC), Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) and Trinity Publications.
For years, the capitations budget suffered harsh annual cuts, with heads of the capitated bodies, including then-TCDSU President Tom Lenihan, strongly opposing these cuts. In 2015, the College decided to allocate funding based on student numbers, giving a certain amount per student enrolled.