May 4, 2024

College Condemns Encampment

While College emphasised that “protests must be conducted within the rules of the university”, TCDSU President stresses peaceful nature of protest.

Sáoirse GoesDeputy Editor
Alex Payne for the University Times

College has condemned the “unauthorised BDS encampment” currently taking place on Trinity’s campus. 

In a statement released on Friday evening, a spokesperson for the College reiterated its support for students’ right to protest, but stressed that “protests must be conducted within the rules of the university”. 

The statement comes as a response to the establishment of an encampment on Fellows’ Square in solidarity with Gaza, and calling on Trinity to sever its ties with Israeli institutions. The encampment was started by members of the Trinity College Students’ Union (TCDSU) and the Trinity branch of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (TCD BDS) movement just after 8pm on Friday 3rd May. 


In a post to the TCD BDS Instagram account on Friday evening announcing the encampment, the movement expressed three demands from the protest: divestment and boycott, solidarity as well as reparations.

In light of this, College have restricted access to campus to anyone with college ID cards, in order “to ensure safety”. 

This marks an escalation in tensions between College and the TCDSU, following the issuing of a €214k fine to the Union earlier this week for actions which “disrupt the normal operation of activities within the college”, citing various blockades of the Book of Kells throughout the year.

The statement continued, stressing College’s role as “custodians of the Book of Kells” and highlighting its “obligation to protect this national treasure at all times”. Accordingly, the Old Library and the Book of Kells Experience are closed today, with refunds being issued to all ticket holders. 

The statement further cited the impact of the closure of the Old Library on researchers and the staff working there, “many of whom are students themselves”.

In response to the closing of College facilities, TCDSU President Lázsló Molnárfi also issued a statement opposing this decision. In an email sent to all students on Saturday evening, Molnárfi commented, “there is no reasoning behind the decision to close the library, reading rooms, sports center, etc. and cancel all events”. 

Molnárfi expressed his concern that “students have been thrown out of all libraries on campus”, emphasising that “we are a handful of peaceful protestors in Fellows’ Square who pose no risk whatsoever to students and staff”.

The SU President’s email contradicted College’s statement that access to bathroom facilities in House 6 and the Graduates’ Memorial Building (GMB) would remain open, noting that “the GMB was not open” at first. This led to “upwards of 70 students and staff who are engaging in peaceful protest with access to only one bathroom”, according to Molnárfi, which he deemed “a serious health and safety hazard”.

Although now open, Molnárfi continued, claiming that “only the non-accessible bathrooms are open” in the GMB. Deeming this a “blatant discrimination against Trinity’s disabled students and staff”, Molnárfi further identified this limitation of access as “an attempt to suppress our peaceful and legitimate protest which Trinity claims to respect”.

Molnárfi further condemned the Trinity administration as “dangerous”. He continued: “They are trying to turn students against each other. They are saying that the peaceful protestors are a threat to students and staff. This is an attempt to divide students and staff. They are doing this because they are scared of our power.”

Molnárfi concluded by calling on College to “immediately reopen all facilities on campus for students and staff”. 

The College statement also cited the Provost’s recent statement regarding the war in Gaza, posted on the Trinity website on Wednesday. In the article, Provost Linda Doyle wrote: “I abhor and condemn all violence and war, including the atrocities of October 7th and the continuing, ferocious and disproportionate onslaught in Gaza.”

Doyle commented on Trinity’s Endowment Fund, elucidating that “the individual companies in this portfolio are not hand-picked by Trinity but generated by our investment managers based on investment parameters we set”. From this basis, the Provost alleged that “the portfolio will be updated with reference to the UN blacklist” to reflect the work done in recent months.

Responding to TCDSU and TCD BDS’s calls to cut ties with Israeli institutions, Doyle contended that “such decisions rest with each individual academic”. She further noted: “Fundamentally, it is the right of the individual academic to make this decision, and no assumption about an academic’s political views should be inferred from those decisions.”

In terms of what she is doing practically, the Provost referenced College’s status as a University of Sanctuary. Doyle mentioned that “Trinity Global is working with local and international stakeholders including ‘We are not numbers’ and our embassy contacts to facilitate access to Trinity for students from Gaza seeking to continue their education”. She also referenced having met with the Palestinian ambassador for Ireland in March. 

In an email to staff and students on Saturday afternoon, headed as an “Important Update” on the encampment, the director of College Infrastructure Mike Clark echoed College’s previous statement, noting that “Trinity supports the right to peaceful protest and there are many good reasons why the university’s policies, including health and safety, dignity and respect, must be followed when doing so”. 

Providing further details on the decision to limit access to campus, Clark expressed that “our duty of care to students and staff is paramount”. He explained: “We have not made this decision lightly but felt it was necessary following calls for external groups to join the encampment protest, and the protest outside Front Gate this afternoon.”

Clark also detailed “with regret” that “​​libraries, Kinsella Hall, the 1937 Reading Room, Sports Centre, Book of Kells experience and Old Library and Pavilion Bar are closed until further notice”, as well as the Arts Block. 

The email also outlined that “student spaces in House 6 and the GMB remain open providing access to toilet facilities”.

In terms of on-campus residents, Clark elucidated that those “who have requested guests thus far will still be allowed access, but no new requests will be approved until further notice”.

The email concluded with Clark’s pledge to “provide further updates as circumstances dictate”.

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