Feb 20, 2024

Majority of Motions Passed at Council Covering Issues from Student Parents to Trinity’s Virtual Learning Environment

The first council of 2024 voted through all motions but one, covering a range of aspects of student life including supports for Student Parents, opposing the government's Green Paper on Disability Reform and reforms to Trinity’s Virtual Learning Environment.

Alex PayneAssistant Editor
Alex Payne for the University Times

On Tuesday evening, student council quickly voted through a succession of uncontroversial motions, except the one concerning the Union’s political status, before both the Equality and Council Hustings took place for the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) sabbatical elections 2024.

The first of the four motions proposed by TCDSU President László Molnárfi suggested a mandate to “support ASTI’s campaign to ensure that student secondary-level teachers be paid properly and that the TCDSU develop links with ASTI on this issue”. ASTI is the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland.

This motion comes following Council’s noting “those undertaking Professional Masters in Education (P.M.E.) degrees are often unnoticed and underrepresented”. The motion draws attention to “a high dropout rate, financial difficulties and hidden costs and not being properly paid for their training working in secondary schools”. Molnárfi sought to highlight the “exploitation” that P.M.E. students face in his proposal of the motion.


Student Council agreed with Molnárfi’s sentiment in the motion that “the Union has a duty to support P.M.E. students, and that the best way to do this is through solidarity and combining our forces with ASTI”.

Following the passing of the motion, the TCDSU Student Parent Officer, Sheila Keegan, proposed the second motion of the night, calling for the establishment of a Student Parent Bursary out of the TCDSU’s Higher Education Authority Fund. This would mean reserving €20,000 from the Fund to be distributed over a five-year period, starting in September 2024, “to ensure sustained support for student parents”.

Keegan highlighted childcare costs and commitments as the main barrier for Student Parents “playing a part in making us more visible and making it possible for student parents to access university – Student Parents matter.”

Student Council voted to pass the motion, showing support for a new bursary program “aimed at providing financial assistance to both undergraduate and postgraduate student parents”.

Molnárfi then proposed a motion Opposing the Green Paper on Disability Reform. He called the Paper “terrible and shameful” and argued that “it seeks to categorise people with disabilities into a tiered system”, something he argued “mirrored the austerity years of Tory policy” in the UK that “unnecessarily forced people into work”.

Student Council voted strongly in favour of the Motion, enabling the TCDSU in its mandate to now “support the Scrap the Green Paper Coalition” and oppose the Green Paper “in its entirety”.

In proposing the next Motion to establish a Student Sport Bursary program, Molnárfi said that council has “seen positive developments when capitated bodies work together…this is essentially doing something very, very positive in tackling a very concrete issue”.

The motion was initially proposed by 11 postgraduate students who struggled with the cost-of-living crisis and felt it impinged on their abilities to access sport by having to pay the Sports Levy, part of the Student Contribution.

Similar to the Student Parent Bursary, the motion seeks to reserve €20,000 of the HEA Fund for the Sports Bursary, which is also to be distributed annually over a five-year period. Students voted in favour of the motion.

Conor Dempsey, current TCDSU Engagement Officer and also running for next year’s Communications & Marketing Officer in the sabbatical elections, proposed a motion seeking to change his mandate as Engagement Officer to produce two reports per academic year instead of a report once per term.

A member of council raised a concern that this could leave large portions of the academic year without a report from the Engagement Officer. However Council voted heavily in favour of the motion.

Current TCDSU Education Officer, Catherine Arnold, then proposed her motion to conduct a poll of Council members on whether Education Officers for the next three years should be able to collect date on teaching methods. The poll would question whether to stay with the College’s current Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Blackboard Learn, or switch to an alternative. Arnold highlighted that, following this process would enable future Education Officers to determine whether there is an alternative that “could be more accessible for students”.

Admitting that a motion on Trinity’s VLE “is not the most spicy topic”, she still implored Council to consider this motion due to any VLE’s integral part in students’ engagement with their studies.

Eoghan Gilroy, currently running to be the TCDSU’s next Education Officer, raised his concern that consideration of Trinity’s VLE should have “more student input” for a system that is used by all students, because he did not see an individual poll at one Student Council as sufficient to decide on the future of Trinity’s VLE.

The motion ended up passing. In the resultant poll, Council voted “to retain Blackboard Learn as the VLE with additional functionality”.

In proposing his Motion to Amend Section 1.4 of the TCDSU Constitution, Niko Evans implored Council to “make sure those 500 students who signed the petition have their voices heard”. 

Over 500 students previously signed a petition to change the wording of Section 1.4 from “the Union shall pursue its aims independent of any political, racial or religious ideology” to “the Union shall pursue its aims in a radical, egalitarian and autonomous way, and shall not affiliate with far-right groups”.

A PhD student spoke against the motion: “the SU lacks the equality necessary for any political movement”. He further highlighted “voluntary participation” with political movements, and that students, being enrolled at Trinity, are automatically members of the TCDSU, and so this constitutional change would not allow students to opt out of association with particular political parties.

Aiesha Wong, TCDSU Comms & Marketing Officer, argued in favour of the motion, saying, “people are political by nature”. She encouraged Council members to pass this motion because voting now would let “the entire student body decide whether we can be political…the point is we are giving the choice to people”.

Evans then summed up: “this is just a motion to hold a vote, letting the students of TCD to express themselves on the ballot. It usually all happens in here, which is awful.”

Voting happened via secret ballot and the motion failed to meet the required 2/3rds majority needed for a referendum on constitutional change, with 64 per cent voting in favour, narrowly missing the 66.7 per cent needed.

In a statement to The University Times, Molnárfi expressed his disappointment “to see that despite 520+ signatures gathered in just 6 days, Council voted 64%, 2% shy of the required 66%, to put our wording to be voted on by the entire student body”. He continued, explaining that “under normal circumstances, the 520 signatures would have automatically guaranteed a referendum. This sets a bad precedent in ignoring students’ wishes to hold a referendum on an issue of great importance”. 

Molnárfi reiterated his commitment in the statement: “As a result of Council not letting students have a vote, we will not back down, and we will keep being political in defiance of 1.4., constitutional clause cited to say the union cannot be political”. The statement specified that this would entail “continuing our stance of no-confidence in the government, which is a majority position amongst the student body”.

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