Move over Mariupol, the latest journalistic affray in Trinity College Dublin looks set to outmatch the carnage coming out of the Donbass this month.

News of a campaign to strip Trinity College’s premier student newspaper the University Times (UT) of the majority of their funding has perked the ears of Burkean writers the past week, with a petition inching closer to the prerequisite 500 signatures needed to trigger a referendum.

Born out of student opprobium shown towards the paper for their alleged botched handling of an article on sexual harassment, which supposedly resulted in confidential details of victims being leaked, the motion proposed would remove the majority of their Student Union funding for the paper (€55,000 per annum), including a flat gifted to their elected editor.

In summary, through their reporting of alleged sexual harassment towards mainly first year debaters in TCD, confidential details of women who spoke under conditions of anonymity reportedly ended up being leaked and made the subject of college gossip through what appears to be the sloppy work of current Deputy Editor of the paper Mairead Maguire.

The fallout from this alleged cock-up resulted in Maguire herself being stonewalled in her electoral attempts to become the UT editor for next year, with 60% of students voting to re-open nominations rather than elect her this month.

One of the two student papers operational with the student purse alongside the decidedly more left-leaning Trinity News, the rift opening up this week has seen a lot of bad juju being aired among Ireland’s supposed educational avant garde.

In addition to questionable journalistic tradecraft in the handling of the details of abuse victims, the paper has also earned the ire of the campus Left for their apparent failure to cut ties fully with the Irish Times over the latter’s temerity of platforming TERFs.

The second time in three years such a referendum has been called for, in 2019 the paper again crossed ethical lines when they were caught rapid in placing a student flat under electronic surveillance in their reporting of a college fraternity.

After a bungled cover-up, and eventual exposure by campus rival Trinity News, a similar petition resulted in a referendum which after some initial worry was voted down by students.

Word on campus points to the alleged influence of twinkish barracuda Jack Kennedy, the present editor of Trinity News who seems to be wanting to twist the dagger, with the campus Left in particular looking for their pound of flesh against an overly centrist UT.

Regardless the UT can count themselves as the architects of their own misfortune with this faux pas, as the copious amounts of cash injected into the paper tied in with their vulnerable constitutional position making them inherently vulnerable. 

Students pay the piper on UT’s journalism and are more than entitled to turn off the fiscal taps should they will it. Writing this article I think back at the sheer ill will of the student body when news of their bugging of a student flat broke followed by the smug defences of the UT editorial staff at their ethical transgressions of student privacy.

Trimming the UT’s budget down to size is not an affront to journalism. €55,000 per year is a truly obnoxious figure to place on student shoulders, as are the perennial ethical mishaps found at the paper.

The Burkean will blithely be watching our friends in House Six scramble for their keep should the petition cross the threshold for a student vote.

The forest fire engulfing student journalism at the moment can only be welcomed not only for seeing some rightful just deserts being doled out but for setting the stage for an eventual changing of the guard in years to come.

We wait with baited breath to see if any referendum materialises from the ongoing push but increasingly it appears that the UT goose is well and truly cooked on this one.

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

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