Unions aren't to be taken for granted. Solidarity is strength — TCDSU represents every student in Trinity College Dublin and since 1968, it has united our voices around issues of learning conditions, discrimination, classism and inequaility.
This is your union! So what does that mean? The first thing you should know is that with the Students' Union, you're the boss. You elect the officers, you own the shops and the SU Café. Through your elected class rep, you decide the priorities and actions taken by the Union over the year.
Imagine you took a student aside. Imagine you said to her or to him:
"You'll have to repeat the year - I suspect you were cheating" .... Or: "We're going to charge you (at least!) €3000 a year in college fees" ..... Or: "We're going to get rid of free student spaces you can meet your friends or eat your lunch in"
Would you get away with it? The answer is probably yes, and there are two reasons. Firstly most students, between studying, working, socialising and whatever else, won't generally have time to know all of their rights, all of the time, much less have the energy to insist on their enforcement. Secondly, there is a limit to the impact one isolated individual can have.
Now, imagine that when you took that student aside — their SU Class Rep swooped in and said "You can't just make an allegation of plagiarism and demand that the student repeats the year. If plagiarism is suspected, you have to follow the procedure set out in the TCD Calendar which gives the student a chance to respond to the allegation in a meeting, supported by their tutor or Students' Union representative."
There is strength in numbers. There are over 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in Trinity. Each one of them is a TCDSU member, and your union has your back. Together we can only be pushed as far as we are prepared to go — we have the power to say "Enough is enough".
TCDSU represents your interests within Trinity. Often the most effective work is done at the local level, and this is really where you can get involved in the Union. The five Sabbatical Officers can't be in every class or lab, but as a Class Rep or Convenor you'll be making sure that the issues that affect you and your friends are our priorities. Exams, lecturers, timetables — whatever the problem, students working together can fix it.
At the start of the academic year, every undergraduate and postgraduate course elects a Class Rep who sits on their Faculty Assembly (STEM/AHSS/HS) and SU Council. This is a position of responsibility, but it's also fun! A Class Rep:
- Is the link between the union's members and its Convenors/Officers.
- Represents students on faculty and departmental committees, which deal with issues such as course changes, college policies, and the election of heads of departments and faculty deans.
- Participates in SU Council meetings and directs Union Forum and full-time Sabbatical Officers in their work.
- Helps individual students in their class, dealing with basic queries and referring students in difficulty to the Education Officer, Welfare & Equality Officer, or college services such as the Senior Tutor.
- Can co-ordinate services such as course hoodies, social events (with the help of the Ents Officer), and whatever else comes up!
Each class sits within one of Trinity's 24 schools, and every school has a TCDSU School Convenor. They make sure that Class Reps in their school work together to fix issues that affect all their courses, e.g. timetabling, assessment protocols. TCDSU School Convenors represent you at School Executive meetings where staff make decisions about how their school runs lectures, assignments, exams, etc. Some schools also run School Committee meetings that Class Reps can attend.
Each School sits within of the three Trinity Faculties:
- AHSS (Arts, Humanities, and Social Science)
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths)
- HS (Health Science)
Every faculty has a Faculty Convenor and a Deputy Convenor who work together to coordinate their faculty's School Convenors and Class Reps. Faculty Assemblies are meetings of the respective Faculty Convenor/Deputy Convenor, School Convenors and Class Reps. They are used to resolve faculty-specific academic issues (placement, labs, fieldwork, etc.) and local issues (broken chairs, crammed classrooms, etc.)
The three TCDSU Faculty Convenors also represent your interests at University Council, which they attend with the TCDSU Education Officer.
Union Forum (UF) meets every two weeks, it's attended by the five Sabbatical Officers, thirteen Part-Time Officers, three Faculty Convenors, the Chair of the Electoral Commission, the Chair of the Oversight Commission, and the Junior Common Room (JCR) President.
It has the dual role of supervising the work of the full-time Sabbatical Officers and keeping the Union going between Council meetings. Those in attendance report on their work, direct the union's campaign strategy, draft motions and discussion items for SU Council, and generally ensure that the union is managed properly.
All the people listed above — i.e. Class Reps, Convenors, and Officers — are members of Council, which usually meets 7 times during the year. It is the main policy-making institution, and in any given year, an average of 30 motions are passed on everything from library problems to the quality of food in the Buttery, from Repeal the 8th lobbying to student housing.
Apart from policy motions, Council also hears reports from the Sabbatical Officers and elects students to various committees, e.g. Welfare Committee. At the last Council of the year, the Faculty Convenors and Part-Time Officers for the following academic year are elected.
Motions passed by Council are valid until the end of the year, and then for two further years. So for 2022/23, all policies passed since October 2020 are in force. The current "Policy Manual" is available to read here. Referenda remain in force unless they have been overturned or changed by another referendum.
The TCDSU Sabbatical Board consists of five full-time officers or "sabbats". It is elected by the student body every Spring. We're here to work for you, so never hesitate to contact us if you have anything on your mind!
- The President oversees the union's finances, management, and campaigns.
- The Education Officer organises union representation at the Course/School/Faculty level and supports students with any academic issues.
- The Welfare & Equality Officer looks after the welfare interests of the members of the Union (all Trinity students!) on an individual basis and by representing your needs in College committees like University Board and other sub-committees, e.g. Healthy Trinity.
- The Communications & Marketing Officer oversees commercial sponsorship for union campaigns and services, as well as managing the TCDSU website, social media, printed materials, and communications strategy.
- The Ents Officer is in charge of making sure that every Trinity student has a social outlet after lectures. They chair the Ents Committee, which organises everything from pub crawls and live gigs, to scavenger hunts and cinema screenings.
Lobbying college, no matter how effective, is only one side of the story. It's the government that decides how much money a university will be given, or what level of support will be given to a certain category of students. The Students' Union therefore represents the interests of our members to the government and to society as a whole.
At a national level, all Trinity students are members of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). We join a quarter of a million students in coming together in one national organisation dedicated to representing student interests and running campaigns on fees, grants, LGBT+ rights, student housing, and much more. You're also entitled to advice and representation under the USI-SIPTU agreement if you work part-time while at college.
Of course, SU Officers can't do it all alone — you have to help us to help you. Often its as simple as writing letters to TDs or taking part in a protest, but the basic rule remains the same — the more involved the bigger the impact.
The TCDSU Commissions work together to ensure that all union actions are in line with our Constitution and Council mandates. Any Trinity student can ask a question during the Sabbatical Officer's Council reports or submit a discussion item to Council. You have a direct say in our priorities via your Class Rep's vote at Council and Faculty Assembly.
The Electoral Commission runs all elections and referenda held by the Students’ Union, ensuring clarity and transparency. No member of the EC may hold another position in the Union, although the Chair of the EC is also the Chair of SU Council.
The Oversight Commission (OC) are responsible for managing and maintaining the Union’s policy. Any student in the College can ask the OC about existing Union policy and whether the Union has executed it. The Chair of the OC is also the Secretary to Council and can be contacted if you want to submit a motion or item for discussion.