Putting Student Facilities Back on the Agenda

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When you visit the Grangegorman campus you can see the great progress being made on the building of the Central and East Quads. These builds are on a time pressure to be ready in time for 10,000 students to move there for September 2020. After so many years of uncertainty, it’s looking more probable that Cathal Brugha Street, Kevin Street and Rathmines will find new homes on this new state of art campus. But the question is will there be sufficient student facilities when this campus is completed?

What’s the Issue

The development of the Grangegorman campus has seen the prioritisation of the building of the Quads, an Academic Hub, Energy Centre and Student Accommodation. In the Grangegorman master plan, provision of student facilities is being fitted into the ground floor of the Student Accommodation Block. Firstly, there’s no time frame on when the student accommodation will be built and therefore left out of any discussion for a purpose built student centre. Secondly, the thoughts of putting a student centre and sports facilities into basements of the next state of the art campus in Ireland that will cater for 20,000 students is absolutely horrendous, especially for a Technological University that is supposed to be setting a new standard in providing Irish third level education.

The fitting out of the Student Centre and Sports Facilities is dependent on the introduction of a student levy. These levy negotiations have been going on for over 14 years to no avail, as no guarantees has ever been given of providing student facilities on the ground floor of the student accommodation.

Its a lot worse than it looks as there could be less facilities on the Grangegorman campus than what students currently have such as a BLACK BOX, radio station, open courtyard for events and common room area space.

Creating Conflict between DITSU, Sports & Societies

It soon became apparent that DITSU, Sports and Societies were being pitted against each other to get any form of Student Facilities on campus, which was all dependent on a levy referendum facilitated by the Students’ Union and only if the Student Council levy policy and the requirements were satisfied . This brought up tense discussions.  For example Sports wanted to build a swimming pool where DITSU and Societies wanted to build a purpose built student centre. It was seen that Sports had already got a lot of what they wanted including sports pitches and Broombridge. The inconsistent information and constant arguments, was one of the many reasons why the Student Activities Committee (SAC) was formed between DITSU, Clubs and Societies. From there the respective student representatives took it upon themselves to work together on the maximum possible outcome for all students after being made to compete against each other by DIT.

Presentation to Finance and Property

It was decided through the SAC that we should raise this concerns straight to the top to the DIT Governing Body. This was done through a memo to the meeting in April and a discussion on student concerns on Grangegorman facilities. The feedback from this meeting was that it was an issue for the Finance and Property Sub Committee to address. Therefore, it was proposed that the student representatives in DITSU, Clubs and Societies present at it’s Sub Committee meeting in May.

The Sub Committee meeting in May was postponed and the presentation was rescheduled to take place in September. This meant that myself, Jack Neilan-O’Connor; Chairperson of Student Sports Council and Mark O’Donnell; Societies President in their new roles had to take it upon themselves to do it. Thankfully they received a lot of support and guidance from staff within DITSU, Sport and Societies which showed how three organisations can work together on a common goal: ensuring sufficient student facilities on Grangegorman campus.

What We Are Demanding for DIT Students

The presentation took place in the early morning of 26th September in Park House, with members of the Governing Body, Director of Student Development, Director of Corporate Services, Head of Campus Planning and Director and Dean of College of Engineering and Built Environment in attendance. The presentation was well received by all in the room, with many questions asked and suggestions made. Ultimately, the SAC had three demands from the sub committee, which was thankfully supported and approved.

Jack Neilan-O’Connor stated;

For this presentation, going straight to the governing body shows how frustrated we all were. To go as a “United Student force” gave a huge impression how serious it was.  I was delighted with how it was received, all of our concerns were accepted and acknowledged at face value. Getting this information for our students is essential. This is only the first step but we will keep pursuing and keeping the co-curricular facilities of a sports centre and student centre a priority in the eyes of the Grangegorman development. These co-curricular facilities are essential to the student experience and student’s life.

Our first demand, was that a project team be set up to oversee the development of the Student Centre and Sports Centre. This would provide the students with direct connection to Campus Planning and the Grangegorman Development Agency (GDA), reducing the issue of inconsistent information. Currently the co-curricular facilities are the only building without a designated project team. We want DIT to prioritise a student centre and sports centre, for them to recognize the importance these co-curricular facilities have for the students of a the new University.

Secondly, it was requested that funding be provided to refresh the reports done on the development of co-curricular facilities on campus. The Holohan and PwC report were both commissioned 10 and 12 years ago respectively. The information in those of what is needed in a student centre and sports facilities are so outdated due to the fast changing environment we live in as well as the requirements needed by each society and club in DIT to effectively run their activities as well as be able to compete in competitions. It was accepted by the sub committee of governing body that the building of co-curricular facilities needed to be supported by the most up to date information.

Mark O’Donnell believes;

this presentation was an important step in the combined efforts of Societies, Sports and the Students’ Union to push for the best possible student and sports centres in Grangegorman. We hope that DIT are now beginning to listen to our frustrations and concerns around the development and we can now begin to move forward more positively to achieve the best campus possible for the future students of the new University.

Finally, and which is the sticking point on the development of a student centre and sports facilities: student levy. There are many reasons why the levy negotiations have stalled and made very little progress and that’s because of €190 asked of students to develop such facilities on the ground floor of the student accommodation. It is not guaranteed by the developer and if that amount is even needed. Therefore, it was asked that DIT would revise the ridiculous €190 price tag. Other Universities around the country have built purpose built student centres and sports facilities asking for a fraction of that. For example, University of Limerick asked students €36 and it took them three referendums before it was finally accepted by the students. Therefore, how would it be possible to do it in DIT when over 40% are on some form of a grant, the complications of IT Tallaght and IT Blanchardstown and the much less information and no guarantees given of space on campus.

I believe;

the development of co-curricular facilities being built was in serious doubt while the three organisations we’re in conflict. However, it took leadership and determination to come together for the benefit of the students moving to Grangegorman, but also of the new University that should have access to the best of facilities that should at least be on par if not better than the other Universities. However, this is only the beginning and we will continue to work through the SAC to ensure that student centre and sports facilities remain on the agenda for the Grangegorman development and not an afterthought.

Upon writing this article, there has been no movement on the establishment of the project team we were given by Governing Body Sub Committee. This leaves us concerned if students are really to be taken seriously. The most that has been done, are discussions of the presentation being done again at the Transitional works where the interim student centre is being discussed. We are still awaiting to hear from Paul Horan (Head of Campus Planning) to send us correspondence of the Terms of Reference of how the project team will operate.

The points raised in the presentation have all been accepted as valid and a fair reflection of where we are with the Grangegorman facilities by all members of the Finance and Property Committee of Governing Body.  We will continue to follow the diplomatic approach and push for these, but if no progress is made on this, the SAC will have to discuss the possibilities of taking direct action because students have had enough and deserve better.

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