College students have a vast variety of traits they’re famous for. Most of these fall under remit of the classic Seven Deadly Sins. You know; gluttony, lust, sloth, that sort of thing. Of course, they’re also known for being annoying progressive NPCs, but let’s not hold that against them, at least not for the purpose of this article.

However, one thing that college students are definitely not known for is for being good with money. Quite the opposite in fact, with it being well known that a significant proportion of students spend a far greater percentage of their budget on weed and alcohol than most 3rd world dictators spend on their military.

While I, as a sixty year old man in a youth’s body, do bemoan the reckless spending of my generation, it’s not that big a problem. Sure, it’s something that results in some awkward moments, like when one of your friends needs a loan of fifty cent because he spent too much on drink last night, but it’s not the end of the world.

However, when this mentality is brought to the administrative level of Students’ Unions it stops being funny and starts being worrying.

The Trinity Students’ Union, for the third time in a row last college year, ran a deficit, this being by far the highest of the last three years at €70,622 over budget. This failure of previous president Kevin Keane to balance the books has now brought the net loss of the SU to a whopping €117,742.

But what is the cause of this last year’s massive deficit? Well, the page length document presented to members of Student Council has shed a bit of light.

Firstly, a significant degree of spending went on the two major political campaigns, those being Repeal and Take Back Trinity. The former cost a pretty penny at a shade over €20,000.

This is one hell of a spend. Looking at it objectively though, it’s not terrible bang for buck considering the SU achieved what they set out to do in the first place in repealing the 8th.

I can’t say the same for the price tag of the latter though. At €10,615, one has to question where the money went – considering the protest basically amounted to a hissy fit thrown in response to Trinity College trying to make reforms to their exam system.

Leaving to one side the politics, the Take Back Trinity campaign was reactionary and quite brief, so how did it rack up over half the cost of the Repeal campaign? This is a question that most certainly needs answering.

However, while I don’t want to admit it, I overall can’t say that this political spending was all that problematic, at least not economically. For a progressive organization, the investment into the referendum at the very least was money well spent. As was the money spent on the Hamilton shop. Infrastructure is important. It should be maintained.

What clearly isn’t value for money though is University Times; the SU run student paper which appears to be slowly sinking down into the abyss of economic unsustainability.

The SU’s document presents a €16,569 deficit, but also mentions that that deficit does not include the money spent on the Editor’s ‘rooms’ and salary.

Considering the cost of board in Dublin and minimum wage in the country, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to put the real deficit at around twice that. But considering that the document provided by the SU leaves over €20k unaccounted for, it seems like a reasonable estimate.

But what can be done about this expenditure? President Shane De Rís says that the efforts being made by the editors to wrangle this short down as ‘Trojan.’ However, when considering this publication runs off the smell of a few copper coins, I find myself having to question the president’s definition of the word. Perhaps he means Trojan in the sense of the Trojan Horse, a trick.

So, what could be done about UT? Well, first of all, it would help if they stopped publishing garbage, but that’s probably me asking too much. Mean spirited jokes aside, the UT does need to start making some hard decisions if it wants to survive.

I personally have to question the value of the various inserts within each publication. This last issue had two different inserts in the shape of Radius and The University Times Magazine. Do we need two inserts? Do we even need one? Why can’t these both just be sections in the main paper?

Which brings me to the other major issue the UT has: the print run. Firstly, there are way too many printed. With costs the way they are today, it would be much better for UT to print too few issues rather than too many.

But why print any at all? We live in the digital age, and while this may seem like a terrifying suggestion at first, they would have a lot to gain by going online-only. Being able to integrate audio, video and hyperlinks into each story would be a great addition to the paper, not to mention no longer having to deal with the cumbersome broadsheet!

This move might not be without its problems. I can see some of the advertisers having a problem with the change, but overall, I can’t see how such a move could do anything other than shrink costs whilst simultaneously making the paper far more accessible.

While the SU do need to take almost immediate action with their publication, as well as with a whole host of other services, the one thing they do not need to worry about is their entertainment branch.

Trinity Ents to be honest, surprised me, though looking back, it probably shouldn’t have. Unlike everything else in the SU, it seems not only to work, but to work rather well, with it being announced it made a €21,705 profit, with the hopes of improving that number this year. It figures that while mostly incompetent, the one thing the SU can do is organize a party. Way to combat those student stereotypes lads.

Speaking of organizing: do I think President De Rís will be able to organize a budget capable of digging the SU out of this six figure deficit hole? Well, considering he is incapable of holding a Refugee Week event without getting deported from the room he booked for not having the right paperwork, let’s just say I don’t have high hopes.

Which is a bit of a problem. You see, the SU have been running a deficit for an uncomfortably long time now, so much so that we’re beginning to teeter on the point of having key areas of the organization gutted in order to keep the thing afloat. And considering the SU hasn’t been all that popular this last year, cutting services is the last thing it wants to be doing right now.

The SU is very like the students that make it up: Loud, rash, and highly debased. But the organisation also seems to have picked up the bad money management that many students suffer from. While that’s bad enough for a kid in his first year, for a body as big as the SU, it’s a problem on a whole other level.

Make no mistake, the SU is in trouble right now. The only question that remains is will they be able to get out of it before it is too late.

Peter Caddle

Posted by Peter Caddle

Peter is the Burkean's resident expert on all things popular and cultural.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *