Trinity students are increasingly shouldering the financial strains of the Trinity Sports Centre (TSC) – strains that College refuses to ease, despite its financial capacity to do so.
In addition to the annual Students Levies and Charges (SLC), which includes the Sports Centre Development charge of €125, students are paying arbitrarily large and uncapped booking fees in order to access those same sports facilities.
I play badminton with a few postgraduates every week or so, and we pay €10 per hour per court with an additional €6 tacked on if we bring non-members. And if we want to borrow a badminton racquet? Another €5 per booking, supposedly to prevent equipment theft. These fees add up quickly and place financial strain on me and my teammates. And yet it’s obvious the hole-ridden nets and decrepit racquets haven’t been replaced in years – the fees I pay clearly aren’t going towards maintenance.
It’s not just badminton. The rock climbing wall, the basketball and tennis courts, the football fields, the classes – essentially anything outside of the pool and weight-lifting facilities – we have to pay extra for. As if students weren’t already poor enough, and as if we didn’t already contribute to 88 per cent of Trinity Sports Centre (TSC) income, according to pages 19-20 of the most recent TSC annual report.
It should be mentioned that this same report does not explicitly say how much revenue is gained through these booking fees or what they are used to finance. The contribution is buried somewhere in the “Business Development Areas” category.
From this, we can draw two conclusions: the extortionate booking fees we pay do not contribute enough to TSC income to be reported, and squeezing the last pennies from students looking to keep healthy and active is considered part of the TSC business model.
Why didn’t Trinity Sport pressure College harder for more funding before laying the financial burden on the students? And why didn’t Trinity College acquiesce to what should have been a desperate plea for sports funding, despite having a reserve of €174 million in cash?
Trinity Sport and College operate as symbiotic businesses – their top goal is to make a profit. That requisite will always come at the expense of students unless we make explicit that we will not allow it. Voting “yes” in the upcoming referendum sends a message to TSC and TCD alike: you may no longer exploit the (statistically) poorest of your stakeholders.
Let’s be clear here: the referendum is not asking you to support a boycott of the SLC. TCDSU alone cannot boycott the levy. Upon a successful referendum, the Union will be mandated to raise the issue for discussion with the Capitations Committee, which, as a whole, is very unlikely to commit to a boycott.
But in raising the issue at all, we students will force the university hierarchy to have a critical conversation about how TSC is funded, all the while requesting that we minimise the financial burden on students as much as possible. This referendum puts pressure on College to subsidise the financial burden that currently weighs heavily on our strained sports services.
It is crucial that this reorganisation of funding comes back to the students for ratification. Does the SLC need to be amended? Fine, but let the students vote on it. Should College use some of its perpetuating reserve money to get rid of booking and equipment fees? Let the students vote on it.
In any case, we will restore what TSC deprived us of in administering these booking fees: our transactional consent. For all these reasons, I would encourage students to vote “yes” in the referendum when voting opens tonight.