Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union’s (TCDSU) sabbatical officers told heads of Schools this week that there would be “extreme backlash” from students if timetables are left the same after social-distancing measures are eased after reading week.
In an open letter, the officers wrote: “We strongly believe that by November 1st, only classes over 500 and those that have always been taught online for pedagogical reasons should be online.”
But who exactly is “we”?
Recent protests in Front Square and heated debates on Liveline indicate that students are sick of coronavirus restrictions, but there is currently no mandate from TCDSU council to support such a line-in-the-sand demand.
So why is the union sending out a threatening email to all the heads of Schools, throwing the union’s collective weight behind this issue?
While not unconstitutional per se, sabbatical officers taking executive action on such a big issue without discussing it with council is not in the spirit of the constitution. Council, after all, is responsible for deciding union policy.
This Editorial Board has written that it believes College has shortchanged students on in-person teaching. Furthermore, the union getting College’s back up on this issue is commendable and shows courage.
But the union has checks and balances that sabbatical officers should uphold and they should not send out such a scathing email, essentially setting out a new union policy, without getting the nod from council first.
On the flip side, it is hard to come down too hard on the union’s leaders: after all, students have yet to elect their class representatives, so TCDSU cannot hold a full council meeting yet.
But really the union should have had a stance on this a long time ago. At the very least, it should have some tangible way of proving to itself – and to the College administration – that a majority of students really are appalled by the lack of in-person teaching.
If students are going to come across as a united front on rejigging timetables, TCDSU’s leadership needs to get its ducks in a row and demonstrate to College that students are largely in agreement that the more in-person teaching there is, the better.