UCD-That coming storm

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN has just had the most troubled year of its existence. Occupations, demonstrations, illegal meetings, an openly dissident student body with tacit support from sections of the staff have shaken an administration that hitherto was singular for its strength if not for its efficiency.

Problems that built up over the years hit the college last year like a landslide and the administration is now bracing itself for more trouble this year.

These problems are in fact almost congenital defects in the U.C.D. system. Practices introduced for expediency have become permanent featUres, which have served to isolate the administration from college life. The policy pursued by President Tierney, the last President of U.C.D., was to prise as many students as was physically possible into the college. On to this fundamentally laudable attempt to broaden U.C.Do's educational role, was super-imposed the Grand Design of the great Catholic University, which when decanted into its sparkling receptacles at Belfield, would outshine the glow of a Protestant Trinity. The University was swamped with students and was faced with problems of a hopelessly overworked staff.

Illegal appointment of staff
The Charter of the college gave to college staff a security of tenure and had institutionalised the process of staff appointments into an absurdly cumbersome affair involving approval by the Senate of the National University-{)f which U.C.D. is a constituent member. The college therefore, to ensure that new staff could not enjoy the easy going conditions of the College charter, and furthermore to facilitate staff-employment appointed what were fraudulently termed" assistants" and " demonstrators" in financial accounts, who in fact, performed as college lecturers. This in fact illegal practice wasonly stopped in 1961, when a commission of judges was called in to investigate the affairs of the college.

Rather than prosecute the Governing Body, which is the legal if not actual ruler of the college, the government decided to legalise its activities. As a consequence of this, about two-thirds of the staff continued to be appointed without the security of tenure guaranteed to lecturers in the original charter. This has left a legacy of considerable bitterness amongst this section of the university.

The administration of the college was anyway burdened with an immense task of handling such enormous numbers of students, and the latent hostility between itself and the junior staff strengthened its natural inclination to hide its deficiencies behind a wall of secrecy without compare in similar institutions. The almost masonic fanaticism with which the President's financial report is shrouded in mystery-barely a handful in the college are allowed to see it-has been in the past extended to all levels of college life. And the consequences were stultification and apathy through ignorance. The educational process tended more to academic natural selection than to John Henry Newman's less heavily populated but more grandly principled design.

Class bias
U.C.D. anyway has successfully reproduced in its intake of students the class-nature of Irish society. Less than 1 % of the children of lower income groups managed to obtain entrance to the college. Almost 90% were supported by themselves, or more likely, by their parents; quite obviously an impossible task for working class families. In terms of proportions, any child coming from a professional background, no matter what his intelligence, had a I in 3 chance of getting into the college.For asuccessfulworker,assimilated into middle-class pay groups, the chance was I in 15. For the labourer's child, the chance has been about 1 in 400. Quite manifestly, middle class dominance is complete. The innate conservatism of the Irish professional and business classes, an emergent group which has derived a large percentage of its personnel from petty-bourgeois stock, strengthens the inertia of the student body.

Thus, the majority of U.C.D. students representing as they do children of the service professions (solicitors, doctors, bank officials) have tended to reproduce the patterns of their parents' class prejudice. The U.C.D. administration naturally assumed it could therefore ignore the possibility of militancy on the part of such patently submissive students in response to their conditions.

Failure rates
Overcrowding and high failure rates were the two most significant features of the college. Examination repeats have become a regular feature ofV.C.D. life. Whereas failure rates in British universities are seldom above 14%, the First Year Summer exams alone in V.C.D. produce a crop of 50% failure. The repeats allow some 20% back in. Further acts of salvation are needed to prevent similar figures in the finals. These results may largely be attributed to teaching conditions and overcrowding. The raising of entrance standards for the last academic year (1968-69) did not improve first year results: in fact, they were noticeably worse. Furthermore, only 50% of the failed students bothered to come back for repeats. Quire .obviously then the disillusion with university values that has infected student life has received its biggest testimony in V.C.D.

Staff Student ratio
In teaching facilities, as well as architectUral, U.C.D. can present some 13 staggering inadequacies. For the twelve hundred students doing Modern English last year, there were only twelve full-time lecturers: for the thirteen hundred students doing philosophy and allied subjects, there were 21. Whilst the qualification must be made that most of these students are doing mixed courses, involving two or three different subjects, thus introducing a far more favourable overall staff/student ratio, the conditions for the individual subjects remain acute. The staff/ student ratio of the humanities i.e. arts, education, music, law, social studies, commerce and business studies, is 22: 9 : 1. The staff /student ratio in British universities, in contrast, is 1 : 7, in Northern Irish ones, 1 : 9. The situation is even worse than these figures indicate, however, for due to the multiplicity of courses students are forced to take, V.C.D.'s quota of lecturers is very thinly spread.

These conditions were tolerated within the framework of apathy. The accretion of disinterest which allowed the President's financial report be a document of profoundest secrecy similarly allowed the continued academic attrition that constituted the selective processes of the college. The richer students could always res it their exams or repeat the year: the poorer couldn't, and were no longer a problem. The junior staff were sufficiently subdued 14 by their yearly contracts and by their method of employment - normally through an academic grapevine rather than by open advertisement.

Student unrest
This great fund of inertia has been dislocated by three forces: the merger, the move to Belfield and the student dissatisfaction with the middle-class values revivified in the university system. The Belfield move itself has been handled with an incompetence of profuse virtuosity which was allowed only through default. When it became apparent that the new Belfield campus would have no library the unifying factor between a number of radically different elements in college was forged. The impermanence of such an alliance was not so important as the effect it had on the whole student community. The radical Students for Democratic Action and large sections of staff both moderate and conservative, were stirred into action and the fact of this massive questioning of the administration's handling of the Belfield move has severely affected its confidence.
It was in January that students began to realise that work on the library for Belfield had not even begun. This was found out not through any public announcements but from information ferreted out of college officials. There were a variety of consequences: anoccupation, teach-ins, seminars, a suspension of all university activity to discuss a restructuring of the university. The proposals were uniformly reactionary and at that point the alliance struck between the socialist students and the academics disintegrated. The main body of the students distinguished themselves by their conservatism, but their indifference was gone. However, they lacked-and still do lack-the initiative to take action over the prospective chaos that threatens this year over the Belfield move.

A complicating factor so far has been the influence of the merger on the government's attitude to the university. It was probably this which led to the prevarication over granting the money for the first stage of the library-the contract for which was signed only in July. It is difficult to discern the exact role of the merger in the Belfield confusion: chaos due to the administration's ramshackle myopia was certainly exacerbated by the government's machinations over its Higher Education Policy. Generally there has been administrative and academic opposition to the merger and this has been countered by the government's reluctance to release funds for Belfield.

The first faculty to move out to the new campus in Belfield since the faculty of science went in 1964 has been Commerce, involving some 750 day and 350 night students. The first part of the main library, designed by Hardie Glover, will not be ready before the start of the 1971-72 session, and the present temporary library facilities allow for about 700 students and 30,000 books, supplemented by a telex system with Earlsfort Terrace. Commerce students should therefore enjoy a great deal of space if not much companionship out there.

There are nine blocks completed so far of the Arts building, and a tenth is under construction. Appointments within the buildings will be ready by January.

U.C.D. should then consist of a building of nine rather sparsely peopled blocks and the facultv of science in Belfield, together with various ancillary faculties of agriculture, engineering, and medicine in various parts of the city, and the still claustrophobically overcrowded Earlsfort Terrace.The college authorities will then be faced with the embarrassing fact of an empty arts block in Belfield with no library, and a library in Earlsfort Terrace with to all extents and purposes, no Arts block. How they are going to effect the translation of V.C.D. to the new site without total library disorder is anybody's guess. Even when the library

is complete in 1971, it will or!ly hold 180,000 of the 310,000 books at present in Earlsfort Terrace and will seat 1,800 readers. There is a further stage known as Phase II of the library intended to cater for all U.C.D.'s future needs. This in fact is at the moment no more than a glint in a dreamy administrative eye. Still, Miss Ellen Power, the College Librarian, is confident that an adequate library service will be provided for any students sent out to the new campus; she has already expressed her opposition to a departmental fragmentation of the library system.

The whole library question could cause considerable trouble in the fUture. There is the possibility of converting some of the new blocks into library facilities until the proper library is ready. On the other hand, Arts students could be committed to staying in the Terrace for a further year with the completed Arts building vacant the whole time. There is the third possibility of a horizontal division of the Faculty of Arts, which would involve the dispatch of say, First Year students only, with books, to share the reading facilities at present under-employed by the commerce students. This solution is favoured by Miss Power: it is likely to produce an unfriendly response from the staff.

Conditions in the Terrace should be marginally improved by the departure of the commerce students to Belfield. The pressure on the already overextended library staff should be eased and similarly there should be more library seats available for the students. There are still, however, dauntingly large classes and hundreds of bewildered freshmen lost in the anarchy of the first term. There is not much optimism at the moment amongst the administrative officers concerning the coming year. It is widely believed that there will be severe trouble from the students over demands for representation on decisionmaking bodies which so far have been consistently refused. Such adumbrations do not take into account the major departure in the policy of SDA, who have now decided to attack the role of the institution they last year sought " democratisation "of. They see that the university is bound of necessity to serve the interests of the ruling classes and there is emerging in SDA ranks a conviction that far more can be done to combat this role by an ideological critique than in any demands for representation. The Irish Student Movement, a more cautious and thoughtful body than SDA in the past, is similarly committed to critique rather than demands which represent middle-class self-interest. Its estimation of the student body as a potentially revolutionary section of the community is at odds with SDA's, which evaluates students as a whole as fundamentally reactionary. The two most potentially troublesome elements within the student community are therefore committed to organising student activism within the class struggle of society. They should cause little trouble for the adnlinistration unless the latter foolishly tries to suppress them. The people most likely to suffer from their activities are the academics whose courses come in for their scrutiny.

The governing body is the legal authority that exercises sole executive power within the college. It is elected or nominated by graduates of U.C.D., the Government, the Senate of the University, County Councils and the professors of the College (the Academic Council) Senate. That it has not extended itself in the exercise of theauthority vested in it is something of its own choosing, and it is this feature of the present Governing Body's record that could be of considerable importance in the elections. It has, without fail, supported the college administration in all its trials, a policy not designed to endear it to most of the staff or students.

The most interesting" constituency" will be the graduates, who are entitled to six members. A panel of five of the more prominent liberal staff, led surprisingly by Dr. Bryan Alton, and which includes Garret FitzGerald, hopes to take a number of these seats. The prohibitive cost of contacting the 27,000 registered graduates necessitates candidates' co-operation in canvassing for support in a multiple-vote, nopreference voting system. It also provides the sense of a political ticket, which should be impressive to an electorate used to motley displays of isolatedpersonalconviction.The Panel is determined to break the depressing voting record of the Governing Body, and its expressed aim is to end the virtual autonomy of the administration by making it responsible to the whole college community.

The elections, however, will not merely hinge upon the past subordination of the Governing Body to President Hogan. The merger is an issue that crosses all ranks, and should produce eccentric voting patterns. There is an anti-merger panel, behind which would appear to be the influence of St. Vincent's Hospital, which stands to lose its medical school in the event of a union with Trinity. It is a very conservative panel, consisting of Patrick Meenan, Ruan De Valera and Gerald Quinn, but its main attraction should be the obstinacy with which it intends to oppose the merger.
In addition to the pro-student faction which is represented by the AltonFitzGerald panel, there is the" antiEstablishment "tradition in the Governing Body: no radicals these, but often conservative academics who are appalled at the consequences for scholarship of administrative disorder. In normal circumstances one could have predicted an alliance of the" prostudent" and "anti-Establishment" forces.However, the feeling of the anti-Establishment is largely unsympathetic to the merger, so rather than rock the boat, this group could well ally itself with its traditional enemies, the administration who are similarly opposed to the merger. The merger, then, is a tangential issue that dissects all factions. Some of Alton's panel are against it: Alton himself is not.