VOLUME xViI ISSUE 10
Ne quid false dicere audeat ne quid veri non audeat
IRELAND’S AWARD-WINNING STUDENT NEWSPAPER
1st March 2011
EATING DISORDERS ARE EXAMINED AS PART OF OUR MENTAL HEALTH SERIES
WE DEBATE WHETHER THE UCD HORIZONS SYSTEM HAS BEEN A SUCCESS FOLLOWING ITS FIVE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY
O-two 2ND MAR
The Univ ersity Obs erver’s Arts
MARTIN SHEEN SPEAKS ABOUT HIS ACTING CAREER AND HIS BEST FILM TO DATE
2011 ISSU E 10 VOL.
O-two talk to Martin about Sheen The We st Win humani g, his tarian work and best-ev er role his
+INSIDE >> GOING OUT VS STAYING IN > OTWO ATTEMPTS PARENTING > UCD FASHION SHOW > MEAN GIRLS 2
Desk shortage consigns students to floor during mid term exam Amy Bracken News Editor
round 30 first-year Economics students took an MCQ exam while sitting on the floor due to a shortage of seats and desks in the exam hall. The first-year Principles of Macroeconomics class arrived for their midterm MCQ in Blackrock Exam Centre on February 24th to discover that there was a shortage of desks. Those students who didn’t have seats had to complete their exams while on the floor. One student told The University Observer: “There was a crowd; there was a lot of people going into the exam and a lot of confusion as to where we were sitting. But then it just turned out that there weren’t any seats, or not enough at least.” The student said that the time limit was taken off the exam and that the students could take as long as they wished to complete it. Course Lecturer, Dr Ivan Pastine, told The University Observer: “The balance of registration for the module between semester one and two this year was different from the past, with more students than expected taking the module in semester two and the usual number of seats was not sufficient. Consequently, we had approximately 30 more students than seats.” Dr Pastine said that in addition to adjusting the time limit, he also offered those students who did not have desks the opportunity to wait and take the exam when some of the desks became vacant. Dr Pastine continued: “The school is taking steps to ensure that this does not happen again. We are also amending the marking system for the course to ensure that nobody’s grade is adversely affected by the rocky start to last night’s exam. I am very happy to meet with any of the students who had to wait for a seat and would like to discuss their exam.” Students’ Union Education VicePresident James Williamson criticised the handling of the situation: “I think the exam should have gone ahead, but I think that the 20 or so students should have been catered for instead of being told to sit on the floor. Being an exam, everybody has to be assessed in the same way, be it the amount of time, or being given a chair; the proper facilities.” A UCD spokesperson told The University Observer “the university is satisfied that no student will be disadvantaged by the seating issue”. The affected student said: “It didn’t really affect my knowledge in any way. It was an honest mistake. The man apologised for it anyway.”
A represenative for UCD’s contract clamping company NCPS fails to adhere to parking regulations.
Students admit cheating to secure high grades Paul Fennessy and Quinton O’Reilly
former UCD student has admitted that he was paid to sit three exams for two struggling students in the Semester One 2008 Christmas exams, one of whom had failed at least one exam previously. In an in-depth interview with The University Observer, the student, who cannot be named for confidentiality purposes, secured an A and A+ grade in two of the exams, while he was unsure of his grade for the third exam. One of those students for whom he sat the exam, who also cannot be named, confirmed the veracity of his statements. The student who sat the exam said that he was paid a “significant” amount of money for his services. He admitted
to being apprehensive about sitting the exam and acknowledged how: “The consequences of getting caught are massive. I know I didn’t, but I’m pretty sure you’d get expelled.” He also said that he would be unlikely to accept the opportunity to sit someone else’s exam again in exchange for cash, but added that he would not rule out the possibility of this happening: “It’s probably not feasible and it’s unlikely to ever arise again based on my situation at the moment. That’s not to say if the price was right or the circumstances were right, I wouldn’t.” One of those students who paid him to sit the exam also spoke to The University Observer, expressing regret for his actions and admitting: “It was a bit stupid to do it.” The student claimed that the grades he
attained illegally “made zero difference” on his overall degree and added that he would not encourage others to cheat. He neglected to criticise UCD despite their inability to identify the cheating, saying: “It’s not a UCD problem; it’s a third-level problem.” Despite these revelations, it is not believed that cheating is a significant problem in UCD. The number of students cheating in exams has fallen due to the new student card fine introduced this term. The measure aims to prevent students allowing other people to take an exam on their behalf. SU education officer, James Williamson, stated that while he didn’t have official figures at the time of print, the introduction of the student card fine brought about “a large drop in students forgetting
their student card and I would say there was a drop in cheating in general because of this.” Speaking to The University Observer last November, a spokesperson for the university said: “We’re not prepared to give out specific figures mainly because it’s a university wide issue as opposed to a UCD-specific issue. But there hasn’t been any change in the pattern over the last few years, so they’re not seeing any sudden spikes because of the proliferation of iPhones or mobile phones or things like that.” University officials were unavailable for comment at the time of going to print. Reaction and Analysis: page 3. Editorial: page 2. Full Interview: page 11.
TCDSU seeking legal action over unregistered student voters Sarah Doran Chief News Reporter
rinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) are considering legal action after a number of TCD students were turned away from polling stations in the capital during the General Election. The students, who had taken part in a TCDSU registration drive last November, arrived at various polling stations on February 25th under the jurisdiction of Dublin City Council to discover that they were not listed on the register of electors. TCDSU Campaigns and Communica-
tions Officer, Tom Lowe, explained that the voter registration forms had been hand delivered to Dublin City Council in individual envelopes in advance of the closing date. “We got them in on time so as far as I’m concerned, I just can’t see why this problem is emerging,” he stated. “Something that makes it so incredibly difficult for people to vote, even that there is a register of electors at all seems pretty strange to me,” Lowe said. “It’s a very strange system and it’s one that we’ll be pushing [to reform] after this event.” UCDSU Campaigns and Communications Vice-President Pat de Brún echoed Lowe’s call for reform of in light of Friday’s events. He believed that the fact that UCDSU sponsored registration drives were held
last September, two months before the deadline, might have contributed to the success of UCD’s student applications. However he did not believe TCDSU were at fault. “I have firmly placed the blame at the door of the county councils and of the electoral system. I’m actually on a task force with USI on electoral law reform and we’re working on some kind of lobbying campaign to have it reformed,” he stated. Lowe said: “As far as [TCDSU] are concerned, it’s not an issue that we have with Dublin City Council, it’s the system that needs reforming”. At the time of going to print, 14 formal complaints had been submitted to an e-mail account set up by TCDSU in order to assist students. He stressed that the volume
of complaints was surpassed by the anger of those students who were turned away. “I think we definitely will be looking into taking legal advice from a Professor in Trinity College,” Lowe said. Both Lowe and de Brún expressed their disappointment for the students affected: “It’s just frustrating when you want to enable people to have their voice heard and to become politically active,” “that you end up facing administrative hassles.” said Lowe. In a statement issued on Friday evening, Dublin City Council confirmed that all applications received before the official deadline had been processed and stated that it could not explain why some students who claimed to have submitted the appropriate forms had not been listed on the register of electors.
THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 1 March 2011
Student cheating and the efficacy of the UCD examinations system The blame for cheating in exams lies entirely at the feet of the individual students and this worrying phenomenon must not be treated solely as a UCD problem The revelations in this newspaper that students conspired to cheat over the course of the 2008 Christmas exams constitute another blow for fairness and transparency at university level. The fact that not one, but two students approached an individual to illegally sit an exam in their place is deeply disconcerting and indicative of a larger malaise afflicting Irish society. Make no mistake: this is a nationwide problem rather than one solely restricted to UCD. Last November, DCU’s the College View reported that “at least five DCU graduates cheated on their final exams using a hidden electronic device” and claimed that students from Trinity, UCD and DIT also availed of the device. As one of the offending students who spoke with The University Observer said, cheating is a “third-level problem rather than a UCD problem”. With a small minority of students seemingly so intent on cheating, UCD – the biggest Irish university – is naturally the most prone to being targeted by cheats. It would therefore be unreasonable to point the figure of blame at the heads of invigilators or UCD authorities. So vast are the numbers of students attending this university that it would be almost impossible to implement a flawless system to completely mitigate the risk posed by cheats. So who is to blame? The students, no matter which university they attend, must look
to take personal responsibility and question their motives. An exemplary GPA is not something that can be taken for granted, but surely it is not worth the “worry... hanging over you” which one of the interviewees admitted to feeling. And while ultimately, we are only talking about a very limited number of college exams. Nonetheless, people who are found to be lying about the small things are often capable of lying about the big things too. To wit: dozens of cheats have been badly exposed in our society in recent months, their presence has been apparent in tribunals, our regulators and our flawed banking systems. While the process of refining our education system is undoubtedly an ongoing process, UCD, to their credit, have enforced significant changes to the manner in which the exams are held since 2008 (when the incidents in question took place). There has been the introduction of the €50 fine for forgetting your student cards – a useful scheme, although one which may not dissuade someone who is desperate enough to cheat in the first place. The use of additional photo ID by examiners to check the veracity of someone’s student card is another meagre towards alleviating the threat of cheating. This move will perhaps put an end to students impersonating others and thus, being able to sit their exams. But potential still exists for exploitation of the system – listening de-
vices (as mentioned already), along with fake IDs, are understood to be two prominent methods which students have adopted to gain an undue advantage over their counterparts. And it is their counterparts who suffer most as a result of such blatant wrongdoing. It only takes one person to sully the reputation of an entire course and to discredit the validity of a degree. And yet students persist, undaunted by the implications of such actions. Why? Because it is human nature and it has “plagued education since the beginning of time,” as one of its exponents cynically told this newspaper. And let’s be honest, it is not unreasonable to suggest that far more people than the two students interviewed would seize the opportunity to cheat if given legitimate scope to avoid the consequences that come with being caught. In November 2009, The University Observer reported that an exam was cancelled after “it emerged that some Commerce Students had photocopied their exam paper and shared copies with their counterparts in second year Business & Law who were due to sit the exam later that week”. Therefore in short, it seems cheating remains a serious concern both within and outside the confines of UCD. So the latest revelations are ostensibly a mere footnote underpinning deeper societal issues that surely require strict vigilance and harsh sanctions.
Journalism, the internet and the proposed reforms to the student’s union constitution While the internet has in many ways improved freedom of speech and journalistic transparency, its growing prominence has also led to an increase in the dissemination of false information, as recent events have proven It is indicative of the growing power of the internet that one or two grumblings regarding this newspaper in recent months has evolved into something far more serious altogether. The paucity of informed opinion in these online debates led to the prevalence of misguided notions concerning the paper’s finances and the elevation of myth over fact. Many of the opinions expressed on such matters have been at best misguided and at worst, wilfully malevolent. The internet has often served as a significant aid towards enabling democracy to prevail. It has undoubtedly given voice to people who would otherwise have remained on the periphery of society. Julian Assange, for instance, would surely be unheard of were it not for its existence. Nonetheless, more often than not the internet has also been a place where falsehoods are presented as fact, where people with no recourse to the necessary information on a topic of contention are represented as authoritative figureheads, and where ignorance is bliss essentially. Anyone can say anything without being restrained, owing to the leniency of online libel laws. To suggest this newspaper costs €50,000 is significantly overstated, to say it is a mouthpiece for the Students’ Union when it has a history of forensically and objectively analysing the organisation (up to and including this year) and to argue that it needs to start cutting costs when
it has in fact been consistently reducing costs over the past four years, constitutes a select few examples of the attempted triumph of fact over fiction. When the prospect of a referendum and an all-too-hastily drawn up motion emanates from this blurring of fact and fiction, all interested parties must ask serious questions both of themselves and of the current regulations which gave credence to such ill-thought-out attacks on student media. Perhaps the endless array of information readily available at the click of a mouse has been both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps it has induced laziness as much as it has inspired curiosity. Perhaps it has harmed our analytical faculties, discouraged our need to scrutinise and question opinion, and debilitated our willingness to engage in objective, thorough and sustained research. One of the most pressing issues, as far as this university is concerned, is the lack of knowledge in relation to the Students’ Union constitution which has become apparent recently. This is one pertinent example of the laziness of the internet generation writ large. Very few people, from the Class Reps, admittedly up to and including myself, seem to possess a practical knowledge of a document that to a large extent dictates how UCD students experience life on campus.
I personally pledge to no longer take this document for granted and to develop a more thorough understanding of its guidelines, and I can only hope other Students’ Union affiliates will do the same. A continuation of this lack of knowledge will further the likelihood of potential scenarios whereby its terms are breeched, with the attendant lack of scrutiny and transparency to the detriment of all parties. UCD is all too often an overly docile environment. Voting turnouts both for student and national elections are generally disproportionately low, while the number of students who neglect to undertake activities outside of their mandatory coursework remains disproportionately high. Thus rigorous standards must be upheld from the top down. And Sabbatical Officers and Class Reps demonstrating a more comprehensive understanding of their own constitution would be a step in the right direction. Albert Einstein once stated: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” While the internet grants us unlimited access to information, we all share a certain responsibility to use this information in the honest pursuit of the truth, to challenge the status quo, to question those in power and safeguard student integrity. It doesn’t give us the right to become complacent, as how rather than what you read is ultimately imperative.
Thanks for Quotes of the Fortnight: your support
[Cheating] is indefensible and it’s a bit like trying to defend somebody who put their hands up and said ‘yeah, I killed ten people’. SU education officer James Williamson offers a unique analogy for students who cheat.
Whether it was writing in letters of support or simply liking the Facebook status, The University Observer wishes to sincerely thank everyone for their solidarity in recent weeks The paper has been faced with a number of challenges to overcome and I have been required to make a series of difficult decisions of late. Yet despite the daunting tests confronting the paper, the guidance, support and encouragement we’ve received has been nothing short of overwhelming. Not once did we ever feel alone during these ordeals, thanks to the generous offerings of help by too many people to mention. Friends, colleagues, relatives and ex-editors have all played a significant part in helping to ensure the stability and continuing success of this paper was preserved. And most importantly, I would like to thank all the loyal readers for your consistent expressions of support throughout recent proceedings. Over the course of my five years working for The University Observer, I have occasionally heard the quip that “it’s only a student paper”. Recent weeks have once again proven that it’s so much more than that.
If you left a stack of exam notes for the wrong subject hidden...you could just wander in, go to that particular stall, pick them (exam notes) out, have a quick read, flush it down the toilet and come back outside. A UCD invigilator provides a hypothetical scenario outlining the lengths which students will go to in order to get away with cheating. UCD claim in the press that they’re this organisation who are bridging gaps between Ireland and China. To turn around and do something like to this to the tune of €24,000 a year is actually just mean. Senior lecturer in Medicine Dr Jack Lambert expresses his outrage at UCD’s decision to discontinue their policy of allowing Chinese Language students to use classrooms in the Quinn School free of charge.
1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
Exam Cheating: Reaction and analysis
Following revelations of cheating in exams, Quinton O’Reilly gets the reaction and opinion from this news SU Education Officer, James Williamson
When asked about whether he heard of any exam cheating cases involving impersonation, Williamson stated that he hadn’t come across an actual case but was aware of the possibilities due to rumours that were spreading around different universities. He referred to the new student card fine introduced during the Semester One examination this term as a major step in stopping such practices from occurring. “Because UCD couldn’t determine how easy it is to forge these documents (personal ID), the €50 student card fine is there to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Williamson He admitted that he was only made aware of the rumours last semester when he inquired to university officials about the reasoning behind the student card fine. While he sympathised with those students who
felt the measure unfairly punished those who genuinely forgot or lost their student card, he felt that the end result made it worthwhile. “I know a lot of students had problems with the €50 fine but that was because of rumours going around the country and UCD that students were selling themselves, postgrads were coming back to do exams,” explained Williamson. “It was a rumour last year…there have been cases, there has been a worry that there’s been students who have been caught for impersonation in exams…[but] the numbers are very low and the students [who cheat] are caught straight away and are punished.” While not having the figures at the time of print, Williamson revealed that there was a large drop in students forgetting their student card for exams and felt this subsequently led to a drop in cheating overall. “In terms of impersonation, this €50 fine is to act as a deterrent, not to financially burden people,” he stated. “This is a preventative measure on UCD’s part to try and get rid of any possibility of students
impersonating anyone to try and get rid of any notions that students can impersonate anyone.” He also mentioned that for those who genuinely forgot or lost their student card before an exam, they could get another one printed down at the exam hall for the amount the card costs. Williamson said that the possibility of a student cheating would be more likely during the midterm exams, but stressed that the actual number of students found cheating is very low. He said that the majority of cases that he would deal with would concern plagiarism but stated that the SU and the university “have a strict policy and we’re 100 per cent in favour of a fair means of assessment”.
When asked about his opinion on the student card fine introduced this semester, the invigilator supported it and said “it deters people, it’s unfortunate that it catches peo-
Do n wo ’t ta ask rD fo ke ou gr our r it. r aD uat L aw .. es!
ple who had bad luck and been mugged or lost their student card or forgot there was a €50 fine, but is it worth it to get people who are blatantly cheating? Probably yes, on balance.” The invigilator who has been attending exams over the past three years stated that “the amount of cheating detected or that is going on, it’s very low. “Cheating isn’t really the primary focus, we’re just there as Alan Hunter (the chief invigilator) always tells up, we are there to ensure the smooth running of the exams,” explained the invigilator. “So that’s kind of the primary focus, the cheating is it’s almost an aside because it rarely happens. We can see almost all the blatant forms of cheating, you rarely see them and we do spot checks for all the most subtle forms of cheating.” He stated that the only real way for invigilators to detect any cheating that’s occurring is through walking up and down the aisles, but felt that if cheating did occur, “the chances are somebody will spot it”. “The golden rule is that you never approach someone directly,” said the invigilator. “You always have to confirm with another invigilator who goes up the chain of command and Alan Hunter will arrive over and intimidate [the student in question] into admitting to what you’ve been doing.” The invigilator explained that when instances of cheating do occur, the invigilators have little say in the student’s fate. He refers to a specific case in which this happened. “There was one person who actually cheated by simply writing everything in formulas on his arm and pulled up his sleeve to read it during the exam which was about as blatant as you could get,” explained the invigilator. “He was lucky because what happened was you can’t approach him by yourself, you have to make sure with another invigilator, get your section head and then go to Dr Hunter who has responsibility. “Basically everything is eventually Alan Hunter’s call. So by the time Alan Hunter had arrived, the guy had seen what was up and had legged it to the toilets and had scrubbed off nearly all the evidence. So he came back and rolled up his sleeve, and there’s nothing there. There was no doubt that he was up to something and his seat number was recorded, so it’s up to Alan Hunter what he does about that.” When asked if the student in question was punished for cheating, the invigilator
replied: “Well I don’t know, we wouldn’t hear because it would be something that would be done after the exam.” Overall, the invigilator felt that the new protocol introduced has reduced the chances of success for those who cheat, saying: “I think that was the one big thing that no invigilator could simply catch and now that’s kind of cut out the one loophole.”
Student who paid to cheat exam
When asked about how he felt about paying someone to cheat in his exam, the student felt regret over his actions saying that it was “a bit stupid to do it” and that he regretted the “unnecessary risks” taken in cheating. But despite the regret felt, the student didn’t feel it had much of an effect in the greater scheme of things, saying: “When your degree counts toward 24 modules, it doesn’t make a huge difference [to your overall GPA].” The student, who has since left UCD, spoke of how nervous he was about getting caught the first time he enlisted a student to cheat for him. “Obviously the first time I was very apprehensive. I was trying to secure a good grade and you weigh up the pros and cons and try to figure out the likelihood of ever getting caught [but] on a practical level, it’s a very difficult thing.” He referred to the new protocol introduced by the university to curb cheating as a step in the right direction and acknowledged that “UCD do make a conscious effort to prevent it...[and to be honest] the best deterrent is the risk.” While he felt that the university has done well in tackling the problem, he believed it wasn’t a UCD-specific problem: “It happens in universities all around the world and it’s not a UCD problem, it’s a thirdlevel problem.” He claimed that such problems has “plagued education since the beginning of time” through plagiarism and the growing advent of essays written and bought online. To date, the student has yet to be contacted by the university about his exams. While referring to the situation as a “foolish mistake”, the student felt that “in the general scheme of things, there’s very little
Voxpops: Cheating If you could get someone to sit your exam for you and get away with it, would you?
Anna McDermott - 1st year Arts No, because I wouldn’t get away with it, I’d feel too guilty and I’d like to sit my own exam.
Francis McNamara - 2nd year Law No, because it’s wrong. If you did well [by cheating], you didn’t deserve to do well. I want to do well by myself.
Jonathan Briody - 2nd year Arts Yes, because I would enjoy a nice high grade.
Teresa Bradley - Actuarial and Financial Studies No, I wouldn’t, I don’t think cheating is right. I’d rather do it myself and see how I would do.
THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 1 March 2011
News News in Brief • L&H and LawSoc co-host debate competition UCD’s Law Society (LawSoc) and Literary & Historical Society (L&H) are combining their debating competitions in a bid to increase the standards of debating in UCD. Instead of hosting two separate competitions like previous years, the two societies began the first round of their joint Maidens Mace competition last week. When asked about the motivations for working together, LawSoc Auditor, Kieran McCarthy, stated that “given how debating in the university on a competitive scale hasn’t reached the heights that it reached in years previous, we felt that the best thing to do was to pool our resources”. L&H Auditor, Niall Fahy, said that these competitions are of “similar style” and this year’s joint Maidens Mace is “different to either of these.” He referred to the new mentoring system by which each team “gets a more experienced debater to mentor them and to help them improve their debating”. Fahy told The University Observer that “obviously, there is competition between the L&H and LawSoc and I would love for the L&H to run the best competition without LawSoc – but the way it works practically, the best way we feel to do the competition, is as a joint competition.” The first round of the joint Maidens Mace competition began on February 21st and is set to run for the next three weeks, with the final being held after the midterm break. - Marianne Madden • Please Talk fashion show planned A fashion show modelling customisable Please Talk T-shirts is one of the events to be held for the Students’ Union Please Talk campaign. Stands were set up across campus all week where students could take a T-shirt and sign up for the campaign. It is hoped that such events will further promote the message of mental health among students. Students’ Union Welfare Officer, Scott Ahearn, said: “The Please Talk T-shirts have been quite traditional for the past two or three years in UCD. We’re going to have someone to help the students to customise and tailor the T-shirts.” According to Ahearn, the idea behind the incentive is to “push the message of Please Talk and it’s a new interactive way for students to take part in the campaign”. Please Talk T-shirts were given out across campus over the past week and the prize for the competition is a Nintendo Wii. - Katie Hughes • Gallagher to run for USI equality officer UCD Students’ Union Disability Rights Officer, Gerard Gallagher, has announced his intention to run for the position of Equality Officer of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). If elected, Gallagher hopes to tackle the areas of mature students, students with disabilities, international students and LGBT. The declining mature student population is one of the issues Gallagher hopes to tackle by having a “reform of the grants for mature students, the maintenance grant and the back to education allowance and encourage mature students to go to college and as I mentioned the idea of overcoming segregation”. Gallagher also aims to campaign for issues faced by mature students: “I think sometimes they are seen maybe as a cash cow by the larger universities around the country and I think it’s very important that they are charged a fair and reasonable fee, because sometimes there’s a tendency maybe to use international students to cover shortfalls. “With the economic recession there’s a tendency to forget about some of the basic issues and students basic rights – that’s why the position of USI equality is more important than ever before,” concluded Gallagher. Gallagher is running unopposed in the election, which takes place on March 13th during USI Congress. - David Farrell
Science University defends plans to replace sporting facilities with car park Day skydive cancelled for logistical reasons Sarah Doran
Chief News Reporter
he university has defended its decision to build a five-storey car park and bus terminal on the same location as existing sporting
facilities.The new car park will be located beside
Mathilde Guenegan & Quinton O’Reilly
sponsored skydive organised by the Science Day Society will not be going ahead due to logistical problems encountered last year.
Fundraising for the skydive, which took place last year, had previously occurred at the same time as the charity cycle that the Science Day committee organise every year. Science Day vice-auditor, James Williamson, said they would be unlikely to do the sky dive due to the difficulty of keeping up to date on two major events. “It’s very hard to keep up to tabs with two huge groups of people who are doing two big fundraising efforts,” explained Williamson. “I think they (the Science Day committee) just made the choice to focus on one of them and make it work properly as opposed to two that divides attention.” Williamson said that despite the news, the tradition behind Science Day always meant there were always other avenues or offers for fundraising throughout the year. “Science students do have that sense of community especially in the last few years and everybody chips in and helps out on the day and those who don’t pretty much enjoy themselves.” One of the other events that took place for Science Day was the charity cycle on January 4th and 5th. The cycle route is from Dublin to Galway with a stop-off at Athlone in Co Westmeath on the first night. One of the cycle organisers, Brendon Staunton, said that around 37 students took part in the event and that the treacherous conditions made the trip very difficult. “We cycled to Athlone on Friday (January 4th) and that day there was gale force winds,” explained Staunton “It was a miracle, 60 mph winds in your face so it was an absolute struggle but everybody made it in the end. “It was the worst weather conditions ever for the cycle, we weren’t sure whether it would be going ahead or not and it was in doubt for a couple of hours there on Thursday night (January 3rd). I wasn’t sure whether we should do it or not but because of everyone’s enthusiasm, we made it in the end.” While the final total from the cycle or Science Day had yet to be established, Staunton was hopeful that the funds raised from the cycle will surpass last year’s figure of €13,000. The final total will be donated to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin at the end of the semester.
the Sports Centre and Astroturf pitches where the tennis courts and existing car park are. A spokesperson for the university said that the majority of sports facilities within the vicinity would not be affected and that the tennis courts would be “relocated to a site neighbouring the National Hockey Stadium”. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council called upon the university to make payments of more than €2 million in development levies for the project, according to documentation obtained by The University Observer. The County Council deemed it “reasonable” that €500,000 of this €2 million in development levies would be for drainage services whilst a further €500,000 would be levied for parks and landscaping. They suggested that the final €1 million would be contributed to the development of the roads network in order to meet the demands imposed by the new hub. The university has been granted planning permission by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for a “commuting west” facility incorporating a five-storey car park and a bus terminal to be built on campus. The National Transport Authority (NTA) had initially withheld permission due to objections to the proposed development. The Authority grant-
The tennis courts are set to be demolished in order to accommodate the new five-storey car park.
ed it earlier this month following the withdrawal of these objections from An Bord Pleanála. The complex will facilitate the development of sustainable transport links to and from the campus as advocated under the Government’s ‘Smarter Travel Initiative’ transport policy. The proposed new development will occupy a 3.84-hectare site between the sports hall and the water tower at the western end of campus. Plans for the transport hub will result in the redevelopment of this area that currently facilitates five tennis courts, 88 parking spaces and various landscaped areas. Boundary fencing will be introduced around the water tower, whilst landscaping around the tower is to be revised. New landscaped areas will occupy the rest of the site, which will include a covered walkway of about 300m. The documentation obtained by The Univer-
sity Observer showed that in order to obtain planning permission, the university was required to commit to limiting overall car parking in Belfield to 3,600 spaces within three months of the opening of the facility. A commitment toward reducing car park demand on campus through the development of sustainable transport planning was also necessary. The hub will incorporate a multi-storey car park and a relocated bus terminus for Belfield. Rising to a height of 41.3 metres, the 17,000 square metre complex will provide 583 parking spaces and facilitate parking for up to five coaches. A spokesperson for the university also said that charge points are to be introduced for electric cars. Provision will also be made for 617 bicycle spaces and 81 motorbike spaces in the development of the Belfield transport hub.
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1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
Lecturer attacks ‘myopic’ UCD over U-turn on classroom charges
Labour Party pledges not to re-introduce third-level fees
Paul Fennessy and Quinton O’Reilly
senior lecturer in Medicine has branded UCD “myopic” over the college’s decision to discontinue its policy of providing rent-free classrooms in the Quinn Institute granted to 5-15 year-old children taking Chinese classes. Speaking to The University Observer, Dr Jack Lambert claimed that this decision contrasted with the progressive image that the university seeks to uphold. He said: “UCD claim in the press that they’re this organisation who are bridging gaps between Ireland and China. To turn around and do something like to this to the tune of €24,000 a year is actually just mean.” The classes had been held in conjunction with the Confucius Institute as part of an informal arrangement in recent years, however UCD is now asking the students to pay €500 per week to rent the rooms on the basis that they have no formal affiliation with them. Dr Lambert argued that UCD should reverse the decision, saying: “Quinn Business school is open Saturday afternoon, there’s no additional costs, so why are they charging all of a sudden? It seems like it’s not a culturally appropriate thing to do and it’s a bit ludicrous, as there’s 20 to 30 classrooms available.” While UCD attributed the decision to charge the students to “the economic climate,” Dr Lambert argued that there was no additional costs to the school, as many of its classrooms were “open anyway” on Saturday afternoons. “The issue is that there’s a building that’s open, with no additional charge. If you agreed to provide free classrooms for these kids, why did they not just continue to do it in the spirit of goodwill? There’s no justification for it.” Dr Lambert added that the class have now had to arrange “alternative accommodation in the city centre”. Dean of the Quinn Business School, Dr Tom Begley, defended the decision in an email, writing: “Having investigated the situation, I would have to say that the decision to begin charging rent needs to stand. The funding of Irish universities is being significantly reduced. We cannot afford to fund extra nonSchool related activities through absorbing the operational costs. I do not know if the Medical School has uncommitted discretionary income. We [the Quinn School] do not.” Cindy Liu, a DIT lecturer in charge of running the classes, described the university’s stance as “disappointing” and expressed hope that they would reconsider the decision. The classes originally took place from 2-4pm every Saturday. When contacted by The University Observer, a university spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
The Labour Party last week vowed to support the students’ fight against fees.
Katie Hughes Deputy News Editor
abour Party spokesperson on Education, Ruairí Quinn, has signed a Union of Students Ireland (USI) pledge not to reintroduce third-level fees, it has been announced. The pledge was signed on February 21st in the run up to the general election. A spokesperson for the Labour Party explained that the decision to sign the pledge was made because the party be-
lieve “that families should not be forced to pay fees to send their children to college”. USI President Gary Redmond was adamant that “the pledge is a promise and we’ll be holding the Labour Party to account. They signed a promise with the students of Ireland that they won’t increase fees or introduce fees in any way and we’ll keep them to that.” He added: “We’ve asked every candidate from the five major political parties to sign the pledge.” However, a Sinn Féin spokesperson told The University Observer that the “head of-
fice has no record of being invited to sign the USI pledge”. USI Eastern Area Officer John Logue insisted that “anybody who had an e-mail address available was contacted and we went to great lengths to ensure that we sought out any means of communication possible, our administration staff spent the best part of two days ensuring that 500 odd e-mails went out.” The Labour Party’s proposals to decrease the Students Contribution fee from €2,000 to €1,500 on February 17th were met with approval from UCD Students’
Union President, Paul Lynam, who stated that “reversing the €500 increase in registration fee is just the beginning. We are now calling on Labour to make third-level education a priority.” Lynam added: “Labour and Fine Gael are poles apart when it comes to third-level policies and we must get a firm agreement from Labour not to backtrack on pledges made to students. Students demand a strong government that will fight for their right to third-level education and we now need a firm commitment from Labour that is not just political posturing.”
Confusion over allocation of contribution charge to services Katie Hughes Deputy News Editor
onfusion has arisen as to how much funds will be allocated to student services due to the rebranding of the student registration fee for next term. The Student Contribution Charge, which was introduced when the 2011 budget was announced, will replace the student registration fee for the term 2011/2012. The University Observer understands that there are no conditions at present that states revenue raised from this charge will be invested towards any services or organisations within any of the universities. Since it is a new charge introduced, its terms do not abide by the conditions of the original registration fee, rendering the original
fee breakdown to student services obsolete. The average cost per full-time undergraduate student is set at €10,000 – the more specific breakdown shows the figures ranging from €8,800 for Arts and Social Sciences students to €12,700 for Science students and €26,800 for those studying Veterinary Science. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) pays the remaining amount to the university on behalf of the state, which is worked out on the basis of a formula negotiated every year between each higher-level institution and the HEA. A portion of the former registration fee was allocated to the state though it is unclear as to whether this will be the case with the current student contribution fee. HEA Spokesperson, Malcolm Byrne, stated that “if you pay the €2,000 and only €1,500 stays in the university
and €500 goes to the state, the state still has to come up with the money for the balance in terms of being able to fund the students”. “Not the entire €2000 rests in the university itself, some will go straight into state coffers, but the payment is then made out of the state coffers to the university.” Byrne said that essentially, the sum paid by the HEA is based on student numbers though “more money would be given to an Engineering student than an Arts and Humanities student based on the fact that it costs more”. This system of monetary allocation is known as the Recurrent Grant Allocation Model (RGAM). This is not a “demand-led funding mechanism” – rather, a “funds follow the students” approach is taken. This allocation is based on the “total available funding divided by total weighted student numbers”. The University Observer
understands that the students are weighted in four main subject price groups: laboratory-based subjects, non-laboratory-based subjects, clinical subjects and field or studio subjects. The internal allocation of funds is at the discretion of each individual university. A spokesperson for UCD said that around 43 per cent of students are grant holders and as they will not be paying the fee personally and will not be “impacted by any increase in charges”. The third-level education system now houses 156,000 students of which 130,000 are undergraduates. There was an increase of what was formerly the Student Registration Fee from €1,500 to €2,000 in the December 2010 budget. If there are more than one member of the same family attending third level, the fee will be lowered to €1,600 for subsequent members.
THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 1 March 2011
SU constitution set to undergo review
International News in Brief • University of Cambridge, England Students have expressed fears that plans to introduce unpaid political internships would hinder access into elite professions Cambridge MP Julian Huppurt has decided to offer unpaid internships for periods of up to six months. Many students feel that those with the most comfortable financial situation will now continue to be unduly favoured as a result of Huppurt’s proposal, due to the difficulty for many students in supporting themselves financially while on unpaid internships. He has stated that this would be in place until an official parliamentary internship scheme is implemented, whereby a fund would be available to allow MPs to pay interns working in their office. Huppurt believes this is the most reasonable alternative that would still allow students to experience political life first hand. Lobby groups such as Interns Aware and Cambridge Defend Education have expressed concerns, saying that the scheme violates the National Minimum Wage Act and contributes to the normalisation of unpaid labour. Huppurt, a Liberal Democrat, has also reportedly come under criticism from students recently for his decision to vote for the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance. • Georgetown University, Washington DC Campus organisations and student leaders have demanded the opportunity to contest new spending reforms. In an open letter to Georgetown University Student Activities Commission (SAC), students claim that the proposed reforms stifle their creativity and unfairly distribute funds. While students say that they merely aimed to voice their concerns and did not set out to cause controversy, SAC Commissioner, Ruiyong Chen, claims that writing an open letter was not an appropriate way to express their dissatisfaction. It is understood that the International Relations Club were the driving force behind the move. They are understood to have signed the letter alongside a number of other SAC-funded student organisations, including three former SAC Commissioners. SAC Advisor in the Centre for Student Programmes, Bill McCoy, said that it was irresponsible on the part of the students to have waited so late in the year to come forward on the matter. Chen has reportedly outlined her aim to introduce a procedure whereby more formal feedback can be heard before spending reforms are implemented in the future. However, it is unlikely that any changes will be made before the controversial guidelines are released. At a recent meeting, Chen said that SAC would reply with their own letter. • University of British Columbia, Canada An article published by a national current affairs magazine has caused controversy after suggesting that US universities should limit the number of Asian students enrolling. In November 2010, Macleans Magazine published an article entitled ‘Too Asian?’ which suggested that Asian students have been choosing to study at Canadian universities due to an admissions limit in US universities. It also suggested that this influx left fewer university places for local Canadian students to avail of. The article was widely criticised by students, but Macleans defended it saying that the title was a direct quote from the National Association for College Admission Counselling. However, they issued a formal apology and changed the article title to ‘The Enrolment Controversy’. Students in UBC have had mixed reactions to the original article, with one creating their own video in response entitled, ‘UBC’s Way Too Asian’, which has gained almost 10,000 hits in a month. - Niamh Beirne
Amy Bracken News Editor
U Council has passed a motion mandating the establishment of a constitutional review group for the Students’ Union consti-
tution. The motion, which was proposed by Sports Officer Brendan Lacey and seconded by SU President Paul Lynam, acknowledged “the integral nature of the constitution to the Students’ Union as well as the sensitive nature of a constitution and the need to keep the document up to date and relevant to the student body”. It proposes that “the SU President convene a committee to hold a full and thorough constitutional review process over the next twelve months, which will include a review of the current document, seek suggested amendments and ultimately make recommendations to go forward to referendum for next year”. Lynam said he seconded the motion “because it’s a good motion. It’s as simple as that… I think we could come back with a better constitution.” Brendan Lacey told The University Observer that he proposed the motion because he has “a great respect for the constitution” coming from a law background, and also that “we are mandated to review it every four to five years”. Lacey also spoke of the issues of constitutional amendments requiring a referendum of all students: “A number of motions are coming up to Exec and to Council on the idea of constitutional amendment, and a referendum costs a lot of money to the union.” Lacey also expressed his belief that more stu-
dents should be involved in the writing of the constitution. Lynam spoke of the complicated process involved in the constitutional review process and that it would be his intention that the next SU President would utilise the constitutions of other universities, both in Ireland and the UK, to help with the writing of a new constitution. He said: “If you have just UCD students or UCD class reps, you’re only going to get one experience, whereas if you get input from Students’ Unions in WIT, NUIG, Trinity and Sligo, you see what did work in their constitutions and what didn’t work for them, we can come back with a stronger constitution that looks at all the different things.” The current constitution came under review four years ago. When asked if he felt it was very soon to be holding a constitutional review, Lynam responded: “Well you do see people putting in motions for constitutional amendments. I think if you look at the document as a whole and if you constantly have to keep chopping it, I think there should be a new document that students should be able to vote on it to keep it for five years. But there should be some clause that it shouldn’t run for five years after that.” Lacey said that he believes in gathering a wide range of opinions would be beneficial but said that “The SU we have in UCD is really, really good. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel in terms of what we’re talking about here. But there’s no reason we can’t do better.” Lynam expressed hope that the review process would be voted on “by the sabbatical elections in 2012, and that by the following year we’d have a constitution that’s fit for purpose in the Students’ Union”.
Lynam has estimated that the proposed constitutional reform will take just over a year to implement and will be voted on in next year’s sabbatical elections.
Societies prepare for Student Centre move board members are to meet in the upcoming weeks to discuss the matter of how accepting an office in the new StuNews Editor dent Centre could be seen as a contradiche University Observer has tion to their editorial independence. learned that the university FilmSoc Auditor, Jake Murray, told The plans to overhaul the lower University Observer that the society have ground floor area of the Arts been asked to leave their office after ten Block and to move societies such as Filmyears in the LG area of the Arts Block. Soc and The College Tribune out of their He said: “The entire space, including the offices. old DramSoc Theatre, is being converted The societies have been offered new ofinto academic storage.” fices in the new Student Centre that is Murray said that despite the plans, expected to be complete by Christmas there has been uncertainty as to what 2011. space will be allocated for their society. It is the understanding of The Univer“We’ve definitely been promised a room, Hot Chocolate 235mm x 157 Final CO1.pdf 21/01/2011 13:32:26 sity Observer that The College Tribune’s but we’ve gotten conflicting reports be-
tween the people that planned the Student Centre, and the Chair of the Societies Council as to where we’re going to be. All we know is that we’re getting a room.” He said that it is his understanding that the university hopes to have every society based out in the new Student Centre. They have yet to receive details as to when the offices must be vacated with Murray commenting: “I presume it will be either during the summer or at the start of the next semester.” Regardless of when they are required to relocate, Murray didn’t feel that there was a need for concern explaining: “We’re in a unique position because
we’ve got a lot of equipment that needs to be stored, and also editing facilities; pretty sizeable computer equipment down in the office as well. So if the Student Centre isn’t ready, we’ll have to stay put or they’ll have to provide us with some other appropriate space to keep everything.” The editor of The College Tribune, Colman Hanley, declined to comment when questioned. The new Student Centre began construction in early 2009 and, when completed, will include facilities such as a 50-metre Olympic-sized swimming pool, debating chamber, student media centre, drama theatre and cinema.
1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
Reviewing your future With the Students’ Union looking to review their constitution, Amy Bracken questions how regularly such a process must occur
ust under four years after the last review, the UCD Students’ Union Council has passed a motion for a review of the Students’ Union
constitution. SU Sports Officer Brendan Lacey proposed the motion and cited a number of reasons for doing so. Mainly, that his experience in the Students’ Union and his friendship with a number of members of the Students’ Union Executive and of the Sabbatical Officers, as well as the significant amount of motions being put to Council and Executive, would require a constitutional amendment in order to be enacted. This was in line with the fact that the Students’ Union is mandated to review the constitution every four to five years. SU President Paul Lynam seconded the motion on the basis that “it’s a good motion”. While it is not proposing a whole new constitution to be written per se, it does require that “the SU President convene a committee to hold a full and thorough constitutional review process over the next twelve months, which will include a review of the current document, seek suggested amendments and ultimately make recommendations to go forward to referendum for next year”. Although not a member of SU Council, as a regular attendee, I can testify to the vast number of motions that are put to Council that require a referendum of all students to
Students’ Union elections have come under criticism in the past for their lack of voter turnout.
change the Constitution. On the face of it, regular constitutional review seems to be a good thing that is beneficial for all students. But of course, it has its drawbacks. Who is going to be on the committee? What specific aspects need the most attention? And the burning question on everybody’s lips these days: how much is it going to cost? In relation to the matter, Lynam said: “I think it’s a necessity, and we probably should have included it in the motion, that outsiders belong to the Constitutional Review group.” Therefore, it seems imperative
that these outsiders would have to be paid for partaking in the review group. He explained that ironically there is no point in simply assessing the UCD constitution if the aim is to better and improve the current one. It is undoubtedly necessary to isolate what has worked and the potential pitfalls of other Students’ Union constitutions. Lynam does not see constitutional review as a costly process, stating the only outside contributions will be through interviews, and that the review group themselves will be working within UCD, meeting once every
week or fortnight. Consequently, neither interviewer not interviewee would need to be paid. This serves to further add to the credibility of enacting the review group. Meanwhile, Lacey is of the opinion that regular constitutional review every four to five years is far more economical than having constant referendum campaigns. This is feasible. For every referendum, the Students’ Union is expected to provide funding for pamphlets, posters, and anything else that is required. Considering that there were two constitutional amendments originally intended
for proposal at the last Council meeting, it is easy to see how much this could actually cost the SU over the mandated four-to-fiveyear period that the constitution is enacted for. From this perspective, it could be argued that perhaps four to five years is even too long to wait to have a constitutional review. However, holding a review in such a short period of time would be very unfeasible, given the lengthy process and cost involved in implementing it. As was acknowledged in the text of the motion, it is expected that the review proposed last year would take twelve months, so an annual or even bi-annual review of the constitution is impossible. To summarise, when we hear the words “full review of the Constitution”, we instinctively think of the cost and whether it’s necessity. These concerns can be alleviated when we consider how a significant number of constitutional amendment motions have been put to Council recently. And additionally, when the fact that referendums cost the Students’ Union vast amounts of money is taken into account, resolving the issue by regular constitutional review is a logical step. While annual reviews are unfeasible, four to five years is perhaps too long to be leaving the constitution un-reviewed, especially given the lengthy process involved. The Students’ Union has the right attitude going into this review, undoubtedly, by looking to other universities instead of simply reviewing the current UCDSU constitution. The outcome should thus hopefully be a more workable and efficient document to be enacted by the 2012 academic year.
It’s a new Dáil, it’s a new day
Following the 2011 general election, Katie Hughes examines the various education policies of the parties and argues that there is a new dawn on the horizon
ith the general election and the surrounding hype comDeputy News Editor ing to a close, there is a general feeling of what’s done is done and who’s elected will bring change. However, it must be remembered that these elected politicians are going to determine our higher-education futures as well as those of current second-level students. Despite the student proportion of the electorate standing at only a fraction of that of the general population, it was held in high esteem by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) who went so far as to launch a national campaign encouraging students to vote in last week’s general election. Given that the majority of the voters are graduates or simply people unaffiliated with the third-level system, they would not be voting based on a party’s educational policies; they would instead be voting based on the parties beliefs regarding taxes, the health system and unemployment. With the expected outcome of the voting prior to the election being a Fine Gael-Labour coalition, it is those parties’ policies regarding education that were the most scrutinised in the lead up to polling day. It was admittedly the Labour Party who initially abolished third-level fees in 1995, and who are still decidedly against their re-introduction – so much so that they signed a pledge with USI promising to not back down from this stance should they enter into Government. They continued
to say that they will strive to bring the current registration fee back down to €1,500. With a reformation of the means test and a proposal to reform the grant system by transferring the burden to the Department of Social Protection, which they believe will “reduce the bureaucracy associated with student support”, the Labour Party hope to make the system more equitable. However, the policies of Fine Gael are different on all accounts. With the idea of completely abolishing the registration fee and replacing it with a graduate tax, the party aspires to make entry into thirdlevel education a more feasible option for second-level students regardless of their background. Fine Gael’s graduate tax plan is a new one, and one that, if introduced, will more than likely be met with various reactions from students of different disciplines. The proposed system would require a graduate, who entered university free of charge, to pay back 30 per cent of the cost of their degree through a special graduate tax. The money from this tax would be directly put back into the education sector. The downside of the graduate tax plan is that the cost of studying different disciplines has various amounts: while a Business degree costs €8,100, a medical one comes to a total of €22,000. Paying back 30 per cent of €8,100 is significantly less substantial than the €6,600 medical graduates would be required to pay. What a uniform registration fee does, is allow students freedom of choice when it comes to selecting their degree – the knowledge that they will have heavy taxes
Students have protested vigorously in recent months and they will need to keep their voices heard in the fight
to pay if they choose a more expensive university pathway could deter students in pursuing their ideal career path. Fine Gael are less detailed with regard to their policies on the grant system, simply promising a “more cost-effective” system through a Payments and Entitlements Service. Though if their initiative to abolish the registration fee comes to fruition, there would not appear to be much need for their proposed “one-stop-shop” grants system. Fine Gael coming into power would also severely compromise the status of
the Irish language in society, and hence requirements for entry into universities. However, they do state that Irish would only become an optional Leaving Certificate subject following “consultation” on several matters including the overhaul of the second-level curriculum and teacher training methods. With a new government in power and the beginning of the 31st Dáil, we are most definitely coming into a period of transition and reform in all aspects of the education sector. This can be referred to as the govern-
ment of the students’ generation, with both USI and UCD Students’ Union informing their members of every aspect of the election from registration to the voting itself, meaning that there is no one but ourselves to blame if student voices were not heard. With the first graduates of free third-level education beginning to be elected to the Dáil, a new beginning for third-level education and politics could be on the cards. But it is up to students to keep their voices loud and audible, as it is their future that this new government will shape.
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1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
18 January 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
Mental awareness: Mental awareness:
Incredibly weak, my knees buckling and my whole body shaking, I would retire to the nearest bed or couch and simply collapse into what felt like a coma
Depression Eating Disorders
In the first of a series in on mental health issues in Ireland, Leanne Waters In discusses the fourth instalment of our mental health series, mental Leanne Waters writes about her own personal wellbeing and depression experiences dealing with Bulimia Nervosa
he term repulsive of habits. It worked in cycles: fast, in these moments is upsetting and disturbm e n t a la r k health is i n g binge, purge. During that period, I could ing to say the least. The goal was simple: get a concept manage weeks at a time with no food. Wary t h e as much in as fast as possible. And I did just that we are beginning of any hidden calories, I avoided food, all that. I’ve heard of other bulimics who considto see again and again b e in contemporary Irisheating drinks and even chewing gum and mouthginning of an er eating so much as an apple as a binge. This Features Editor And it would be noted and concluded, most society. From isonline wash. Brushing my teeth was a necessity, but disorder a tricky was not the case with me. Though I wouldn’t support organisations to the HSE telling us meticulously, through texture and colouraI cowered over the sink every time for what I dare break a fast for something like an apple, on our television screensendeavour. to “look after yourSome tion. Aware of what I had eaten, it was easy Features Editor what putting in my mouth. could argue when I broke it, I really broke it. mental health,” it appears that there’s no it get-begins to note what had come up and what was left ting away from the challenge of having to Fasting was – in one way – very easy. My with the first skipped meal, or when the body Weeks without food leave an individual, take on and really consider this seemingly to come up. mind was split in two between the real me startsenigmatic to deteriorate, or perhaps not even unquite simply, ravenous. I have one image imnotion. Marking when to finish became logical; and the bulimic me. My bulimic self contil oneWith has sobeen printed in my mind of a 2am binge in which muchclinically importancediagnosed being weight-under the substance had, by this point, turned alon the term itself, one does beg to ‘anorexic’, wonvinced the both of us of how horrid food thoseednow terribly familiar terms; I sat in front of an open fridge for 20-odd most to pure liquid and my stomach would der, what exactly is mental health? Accordwas, of how watching someone actively put ‘bulimic’, ‘binge eater’ or whatever the given minutes devouring everything my fingers ing to Sandra Hogan of Aware Ireland – a start to pull as if someone was trying to yank this horrible stuff into their mouth was the condition. touched. For me, a binge would last anything national support organisation for depression it out through my throat. It would also make Lincoln was one of the many historical figures to have been regularly struck with depression. – mental health can be prevalence seen in variousoflights most grotesque of sights. And we didn’t want The usually weighty time be-Abraham from 15 minutes up to an hour and a half. a very distinct noise with every wretch. In this but in a broader sense refers to the emotionto be that person. Instead, she and I existed comes unravelled under the influence of such Sometimes I would begin a binge with no al and psychological wellbeing of any given way, I knew I had finished. on water and black coffee. And we felt pure. a disease. No longer a mere journey from A intention of purging. quite I and moderate depression, severe depression, ingIndeed, through any issuesoften with someone close.” their families are understood and supportindividual. every purge, I would sleep. Incredas well as bipolar disorder. latter ofperson these Universally, is seen of What the The average recognises as ed, are free from stigma and have access to a to B in Hogan your life, time becomes andifferent ambiguous could barely see past the next sliceJanuary of cake go-to be oneAfter states: “There are many ibly weak, my knees my to whole conditions, in its most primitive of explathe most depressing times on the calendar, broad range of buckling appropriate and therapies endefinitions health, but in general hunger pains became excruciating after matter and canforbemental warped through the distoring down my throat. However, after a time, I nations, involves periods of extreme depreswith January 22nd reported to be thebody sad- shaking, able them to reach their fullto potential”. It is it refers to our mind, emotions and thought I would retire the nearest of not eating. tionsprocesses; of both how memory and thought-process.sions andweeks would become so violently and be that time of a voluntary establishment formed in 1985 of extreme highs, along Despite with the this, such pains dest day ofillthe year.would It remains we think and feel about ourbed or couch and simply collapse into what were welcomed, they marked and docuusual symptoms of a depressiveasstate. Toselves say and when I began onwemy of Buliin such agony from year whatwhen I had to myhave wrapped the done celebrations by a group of interested patients and mental others and how copepath with life coma. Guilt, shame andwas utter selfsymptoms, are seen in all Along with this, up, have whenno reality andchoice; responsibilityfelt havelike ahealth professionals, whose aim to assist and its challenges. health issues are and These mented mywhich ongoing success. mia Nervosa would Mental take me back years stomach, that I would other of the above conditions include: feelings fallen firmly back on the ground, when the that section of the population whose lives repulsion would then ensue and in these mocommon and can affect any of us at any success was seen in my incredibly low body through far too many a personal experience several times I beganweather vomiting before I’d evenalong the lines are directly affected by depression. of boredom, sadness, lethargy and anxiety; promotes something time. Many factors can influence a person’s ments, I was happy to escape into a forgetful temperature. I washabits; cold all the time, wrapped to share. But, as every story must finished eating. disruptions in normal sleeping poor of pathetic fallacy and when funds are probThe website goes on to explain: “400,000 mental wellbeing: difficulties in lifehave (for a besleep. different people suffer from depression in concentration; low self-esteem and feelings ably at their lowest. And with the ongoing example) relationship problems, financial up in several layers and slept for hours on ginning, permit me to set my beginning in On other occasions, I would enter into of worthlessness; a loss of interest in socialis hitting the majorThis cycle ofatfasting, binging andhide purging Ireland any one time, but many their concerns, bullying and lossItarewas quitearound signifi- this end, day and night. the latter part of 2008. a binge reassured byeconomic the factturmoil that that I knew I ising and pastimes; and, of course, suicidal ity of the nation, it seems all too natural to months. conditionI had and never get help. Sadly,taking over cant.” lasted been excessively The binge – though others may not untime that one could have witnessed the tranwould purge soon after. Purging was, on thoughts. allow for submission into what is truly a de500 people take their own life each year. It has become clear in recent years that laxatives and had lost in the region of about According to the–experts of Aware, the the worst part. This pressive state. act. To enderstand was arguably sitionmental fromhealth whathas wasnotonce a health-conthese occasions, a premeditated Since its foundation in 1985, Aware has beenjust valued on the four stone. reflection, I had reached foundations thispoint of mental con- time. This was Moreover, in a matter of such been In working energetically to bring support a to which it thoroughly in ourof the wasofthe of ill-health failure every sciouslevel individual, into the deserves beginning sure its perfect execution, I would be sure to magnitude dition can be rooted from many contribuand of such personal properties, it is point noth- of to depression sufferers and very their lethargic families, lieve in our own invincibility while we are society. On this point, Hogan contends: emaciation. I became the point when you gave into all your horrid most“We dangerous threat in my life to date. drink as much water as possible to lubricate tors. They state: “Depression has a numing less than necessary to approach with an andwith to dispel the myths andor misunderstandso young. still have a long way to go in terms of and weak, little energy motivation. temptations, when you thought It began withwith a diet. Teetering throat and makeair the ordealand a little less ber of possible causes. For some everything people, it of delicacy understanding. It is an ings of this devastating illness.” However, the reality my remains that despite how we deal mental health but around I think the Physically, holes began to form at thesensitive back of comes about as a result of a traumatic life important facet of the issue to not give in In a context of such a deeply our somewhat audacious views on what we that as afigure society of we about are getting better. you were working for fell to pieces and you unnerving 175 pounds, I rehorrific. event such as bereavement, relationship to the will of an apparent cloud of negativsubject, perhaps theseveral right words canduring come my teeth and I fainted times can and can’t handle, we as students are ex“Young people can really help with that lost all control of yourself. But more than solvedtoo,tosolose weight. In our image-obsessed The purge was almost always inevitable. breakdown, financial difficulties or bullying. ity. In the knowledge that at some point fromasfew One source may beof tremely vulnerable to the threat of mental it’s important that they do what they thisorperiod, wellsources. as enduring a number this, binging remains one of the most revoltculture, where flawlessness and popular It would be carried out when nobody was “In other situations, the person may have another we will all suffer from some mental found in one Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln ill health. Social life and academic studies can to help to make it a more open society months without menstruating. an inherent tendencya towards issue indeed depression it was among the most famous of historical aside, without prioritising our psychologiwhere people with depression mentalit was ing things person depression, can do. ‘ideals’ dominate every media(and outlet, in earshot or when ithealth could beordrowned out itself, and such genetic factors can be key in the Moreover, I suffered and becomes easier to lighten one’s troublesome characters who was from knownheadaches to have suffered cal and emotional wellbeing, we run the risk ill-health) can get the help and support they To think back and try to envision myself an all-too-natural aspiration to shed some under the noise of a running electric shower. case of bipolar disorder. This mood disorload through many ways and outlets. Firstly, mental ill health andthat had the a “tendency to of causing more damage to ourselves than a need.” dizziness and also found emotional pounds.This Andbeing theresaid, wasawareness, no disgrace in what der I involves not just periods of depression, €230 failed module causes to our bank ac- we have Aware itself. Hogan talks a little bit be melancholy” and once commented that empathy but also periods of elation, where the perabout the work they do. saw, simply, as the pursuit perfection. such an affliction is to be observed as it is “a counts. and understanding remain of factors of absoson’s mood is significantly higher than nor“Aware provides information and emomisfortune, not a fault”. On the topic of student vulnerability, lute necessity in creating a before more open and Daily gym attendance schooldays mal. During these periods, he/she may have tional support services for both individuals On the matter, Lincoln said: “In this sad Hogan decisively expresses her position: harmonious country for mental health to became the norm for a number of months excessive energy with little need for sleep, who experience depression and also family world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to “Yes students and young people are at risk flourish. One of the main consequences of and eventually escalated may have grandiose ideas and may engage members/friends concerned for a loved one. the young, it comes with bitterest agony, of mental health issues. There are a lot of poor mental health we canto see frequenting in daily life is the in risk-taking behaviour.” Services include loCall Helpline (1890 303 because it takes them unawares. The older changes that happen during adolescence Aware.ie classes as “aup to gym depression. twice a day and, at depression weekends, Now that we can argue with extraordi302) open 365 days a year; support groups have learned to ever expect it. and when combined with the transition common condition which affects more threevery times. The transition from this time to nary confidence that depression and mennationwide and online; email support ser“Perfect relief is not possible, except with from school to college, it can cause probthan one in ten people at any one time. Any the point emergency that wasortobackfollow is tal ill health are not only dangerous to any vice (email@example.com); free informatime. You cannot now realise that you will lems. of us, of irrespective of age, gender individual but that they are also extremely tion and online discussion forums. Aware ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is “Mental health issues can impact on a ground can be affected at any point in our a blurry one. common, here we must consider the threat also offers a Beat the Blues secondary a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. person’s confidence, it can cause relationpeople come through depression It life. Most entails merely snapshot memories of of these things to students. schools awareness programme to increase To know this, which is certainly true, will ship difficulties, and it can hamper studies with help, and early recognition and ongofriends commenting, “Is that all you’re eatIn a time when we are contending with knowledge of depression among young make you some less miserable now. I have as well. So it is very important to get help. ing support are essential for a positive outso many demanding factors, we as students people and enable them to identify sources ing?”come.” and nights spent crying about my aphad experience enough to know what I say; Eating a balanced nutritious diet is impormust come to terms with the fact that we of help in their lives.” and you need only to believe it, to feel better tant. [As well as] limiting alcohol intake if this matter, there are several different parent On failure to lose a sufficient amount of are potentially damaging our own mental The foundation’s mission is to “create a at once.” you are prone to low mood, getting regular variations and forms in which depression weight. To pinpoint what exactly caused this health. It seems a natural occurrence to besociety where people with depression and For more information, visit www.aware.ie. exercise, having close friendships [and] talkcan manifest itself. Among these are mild
400,000 different people suffer from depression in Ireland at any one time, but many hide their condition and never get help
rather rapid transition is a matter that still remains unresolved in my own head. The real turning point came in the form of a new diet. Your stereotypical yo-yo dieter, I had not been reaching my desired goals and so embarked on what I saw as the fastest means possible. Said diet involved drinking three prescribed milkshakes every day and nothing else. For two weeks, not so much as a morsel passed my lips. The milkshakes provided me with adequate energy levels, while drinking litres of water eased the growing lethargy. In those two weeks of June 2009, I lost a little under a stone in body weight. And yet, it was not enough. When one reaches a certain weight – one that is natural to your anatomical structure – they may notice that further weight loss is a great deal more difficult. To continue in this pursuit, it requires more restriction and utter dedication. Such dedication is not to be read in a positive light, as more often than not, it demands unhealthy sacrifice. I cannot remember the first time I purged (self-induced vomiting), but it was a moment that would lead to the most destructive and
Anorexia nervosa often emanates from a distorted self-image.
Features effects of my situation led me to feel very depressed and extremely isolated. Despite this, I remember lying in bed at night on more occasions that my pride would care to admit, with a feeling of overwhelming satisfaction. I relished in my protruding ribcage and hips and enjoyed holding up my arms to glory in their daintiness. I had reached rock bottom. Such dramatic changes both in my physique and my character, of course, did not go unnoticed by family and friends. My parents’ constant concern was forever growing and, in hindsight, I allowed their many comments and tears to fall on deaf ears. Similarly, friends could no longer bear what they were witnessing and attempted intervening as best they could. I discarded their concerns and nearabandoned their friendships, replacing them instead with like-minded victims on pro-Ana (anorexic) and pro-Mia (bulimic) websites. The hurt I caused these people is irrevocable. Ultimately, psychological therapy became necessary. It usually always is. A common misunderstanding as regards bulimia and other eating disorders is the role of the victim and whether said individual has simply chosen this path. To clarify, an eating disorder is never a choice but rather one is consumed by thoughts and behaviours dictated by someone else. This second party is of course, the condition itself; it is the bulimic self briefly commented upon earlier. Moreover, an eating disorder is rarely about weight loss. More often than not, it is rooted in the very ambiguous concept of control. Months of therapy brought me to understand just that. Having felt as if control over my life and the many facets within it was slipping away, I had resorted to grasping and maintaining the only thing I could. As a result, I sacrificed my health, my psychological well-being, my academia and the well-being of many loved ones. Though it seems altogether curious as to why one would parade their personal and, quite simply, horrid experiences, I write this piece in an attempt to undermine the shame attached to such an illness. With mental ill health becoming more widely understood in contemporary society, the unveiling of personal realities is, I believe, a necessity. As stated at the beginning, in marking the beginning of an eating disorder, one may find tremendous difficulty. Its origins lie too far back to account for every reason or justification. Furthermore, the end of an eating disorder comes only when one can live without thinking of it. When it becomes natural to live a bulimic life, any other existence seems grossly unnatural. As such, it is only when living – as one is encouraged to live – becomes natural that I believe an eating disorder has truly ceased. Until that point, it is a constant battle to shield oneself from the temptations of regression. Such is the state in which I write this article post-therapy, living healthily and happily, fighting an ongoing daily battle.
THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 1 March 2011
An bhfuil gach cuid den Tíogar Cheilteach glanta ón chóras? Leis an olltoghchán i mbéil an phobail, ceistíonn Meabh Ní Choileáin an acmhainneacht atá ag seanchlaontacht áirithe
a lá atá ann inniu, ní amháin go bhfuilimid i dteideal ár dtuairimí féin, ach tá muid misnithe iad a chuir in iúl. Más éadrom atá said, ar nós ár rogha gcarachtar ar chlár teilifíse nó níos dáríre, mar shampla an páirtí polaitíochta a thugaimis tacaíocht dó, tá na tuairimí seo á roinnt againn leis an gcuid eile den domhan níos mó ná riamh. B’fhéidir gur amaideach, míchruinn agus aineolach go bhunúsach atá an chuid is mó de na tráchtanna faoi na físeáin ar YouTube, ach tá guth ag na daoine seo agus ag deireadh an lae, tá an ceart acu é a úsáid, cé gur minic an trua é seo don chuid eile againn. Ach cé mhéad físeáin popcheol, bombardaithe le tráchtanna áiféiseacha faoi gach rud i dtreo an chiníochais agus na homafóibe, a bhfuil orainn breathnú ar go dtí go mbeidh an líne idir ár dtuairimí agus an chlaontacht sofheicthe dúinn? Le déanaí, agus polaitíocht na hÉireann á bplé agam leis fear tacsaí, dúradh liom gur dócha nach raibh suim i bhFine Gael toisc nárbh as Baile Átha Cliath an cheannaire, Enda Kenny. Dár leis an bhfear seo, ní raibh meas ag muintir Bhaile Átha Cliath ar aon bhlas teanga
Tá deireadh tagtha le híomha na ‘D4s’.
lasmuigh den Pháil agus go gcailleadh duine ar bith le blas teanga na tuaithe ar ár vótaí anseo sa phríomhchathair mar thoradh.
Cé gur ráiteas áiféiseach é seo i dtreo daoine ar fud na tíre, ní amháin muintir Bhaile Atha Cliath agus nach bhfuil aon fianaise ceangailte leis, fós féin, árdaíonn sé ceist na claontachta sóisialta in Éirinn. Leis an olltoghchán is mó agus is tábhachtaí i mbéil an phobail faoi láthair, an toisc é an claontacht blas teanga gur chóir go mbeadh ár bpolaiteoirí comhfhiosach faoi? Ar an suíomh www.politics.ie, tá fóram ar an ábhar seo ag dul ar aghaidh le cúpla seachtain anuas agus tá go leor daoine gur dóigh leo gur fadhb é. Is i gcoinne muintir Bhaile Átha Cliath atá siad don chuid is mó, ag rá gur dream árdnósach iad nach dtabharfadh vóta d’éinne lasmuigh dá gceantar féin. Tá fear amháin den bharúil “nach n-éiródh le pholaiteoir nach raibh blas teanga snoite aige le daoine a mhealladh” agus duine eile cinnte “go bhfuil daoine áirithe i mBaile Átha Cliath fós ag maireachtáil faoi dhúmas bréige”. Ní fhéadfadh leis an méid seo a bheith fíor sa lá atá ann inniu. Cinnte, i rith ré an Tíogar Cheiltigh bhí dearcadh ann faoi cheantair áirithe i mBaile Átha Cliath, mar shampla, áiteanna a spreag carachtair ar nós Ross O’Carroll-Kelly agus
an cineál saol a bhí acu ach, mar atá feicthe againn go soléir le cúpla bliain anuas, tá deireadh ar fad tagtha leis an íomhá sin. Thug airgead bréagach tacaíocht don stíl maireachtála sin agus anois níl fágtha ach drochfhiach agus dúlagar. Sna laethanta sin, bhí stádas ceanngailte le blas teanga dheisceart Bhaile Átha Cliath; bhí cuma rathúil, rachmasach agus oilte ar na daoine a labhair i mbealach áiraithe ach ní mar sin atá cúrsaí inniu. D’fhéadfá a rá go ndéanann na daoine seo pearsantú ar an téarma “cúlú eacnamaíochta” agus gurb iad na ciontóirí is measa sa phraiseach mór seo. Ach is argóint é seo atá míchothram ar daoine ar fud na tíre, ní muintir Bhaile Atha Cliath amháin. Má léiríonn blas teanga na tuaithe an ghnáth duine, atá macánta agus a oibríonn go crua, cinnte beidh gach cluais ag éisteacht nuair a árdaíonn sé a ghuth. Nílimid tógtha le híomhá ar leith níos mó nó blas teanga áiraithe ach oiread. Ag an bpointe seo, tá freagraí agus réitigh uainn. Is róchuma conas mar a fhúmaíonn sé, má tá polaiteoir amuigh ansin leis an méid sin aige, gheobhaigh sé ár vótaí. Más rud é go raibh claontachta ann maidir le blas teanga,
tá na laethanta sin taobh thiar dúinn. Ná déanaigí dearmad gur as Baile Átha Cliath do Bertie Ahern - is leor é sin chun dearchtaí áirithe a athrú.
Gluais Achmhainneacht – potential Claontacht – prejudice Olltoghchán – general election Toisc – factor Stíl maireachtála – lifestyle Pearsantú – personify Cúlú eacnamaíochta – recession
AA case of denial? Following Charlie Sheen’s slandering of AA on American radio, Natalie Voorheis examines the links between celebrity and the obsession with self-destruction
n February 24th, actor Charlie Sheen took to American radio on The Alex Jones Cheif Features Writer Show and ranted his way through a slot about his personal life and working on the hit show Two and a Half Men. Sheen has had a troubled and complicated personal life, and his lengthy alcohol abuse struggles have been very publicly played out in the media, a trend fuelled by Hollywood’s sensationalist reporting surrounding celebrity rehab stints. Sheen has roughly five of these rehab stays under his belt. Sheen vented his frustration with the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group involved in his treatment in a barrage of abuse on national radio. He likened the AA to a “bootleg cult” and called its founder “desperate and broken down”. Sheen went on to express his deepseated cynicism of AA’s objectives and achievements by saying: “They urge you to put down your sword and come join the winners. In 22 years, the only winners I can locate in their toothless war were either driving a convertible van or living like trolls under some abandoned bridge. Another one of their stupid models, Alex, is don’t be special, be one of us. Newsflash, I am special and I never will be one of you. There it is.” Sheen went on to say that while others might be having no fun at all at AA meetings: “I’m gonna hang out with these two smoking hotties and fly privately around the world. It might be lonely up here, but I sure like the view.” Sheen claims to have cured himself of his multiple decade-old alcohol addic-
tion in a matter of seconds, by simply thinking himself out of the situation. He said: “I have cleansed myself. I closed my eyes and in a nanosecond, I cured myself from this ridiculous model of a disease, which became an obsession… I dare anyone to debate on things. Debate me on AA right now. I have a disease? Bullshit! I cured it with my brain, my mind. I’m cured. I’m done.” Sheen’s rant on national radio has caused the filming of Two and a Half Men, for which Sheen has been acclaimed in his role as Charlie Harper, to be axed. Sheen’s outpouring is just the latest in a constant stream of train wreck celebrities public displays of strange behaviour all seemingly routed in alcohol and substance abuse. The world of celebrity has always been synonymous with a seedy underbelly of excess and addiction. Modern stars such as Pete Doherty, Lindsay Lohan and Amy Winehouse have almost become more famous for their lifestyles than for the talent that originally placed them there. These celebrities’ personal problems usually become public knowledge, due to the utilisation of online media and the birth of such websites like Perez Hilton.com. Fans and cynics alike have, as a result, access to information about incidents of debaucherous and outrageous behaviour within seconds of its occurrence. The celebrity has never been so much an object of public ownership. A chance encounter and perhaps a compromising Twitpic taken by a random passer-by can fuel a media frenzy around the globe in seconds. Far from creating a generation of celebrities who lock away their personal lives, modern media has created a set of celebrity monsters feeding of their very
exposure. Instead of retaining their own sanity, modesty and the integrity of their chosen profession, the modern celebrity is less routed in quantifiable talent and more dependent on his or her skills of unashamed self-promotion. Do something untoward and sell your story to a magazine, call the paparazzi on yourself while drunk outside a club, star in a reality TV show and check into rehab and you will have well and truly made it in the fame game. The exhibitionist culture of the 21st century seems to know no bounds. Today it is a norm for famous talents to have their intimate personal problems exploited by the media and for average nobodies to themselves exploit that same media by feeding it and rocketing themselves to the status of celebrity. Think Big Brother, Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters. As Amy Winehouse would sing on her worldwide hit record released in October of 2006: “They tried make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no’”. What a quintessential insight into the modern management machine this was and how Charlie Sheen’s rant about AA is just one of many instances of a famous figure being punished for strikingly ironic it turned making controversial comments. out to be.
1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
‘How I cheated the UCD exam system’ The lack of strict rules in UCD exam halls facilitates cheating, says one individual, who was paid to covertly sit papers in place of underperforming students. He talks to Paul Fennessy
Many students believe cheating in exams in UCD is not uncommon.
here was nothing ingenious in the plan we concocted. It was nothing like Ocean’s Eleven or anything,” says John*, who has sat exams on three separate occasions in the past two years on behalf of students that had been struggling with their course, including at least one case in which the individual had failed the paper previously. Prior to the exams, a deal had been settled on whereby John had agreed upon what he deemed an “acceptable” sum of money, which was subject to him achieving the desired grades for the students in question. “I was pretty busy myself, because I had my own final exams as well,” he says in reference to his first attempt. “I wouldn’t have been willing to do it for cheap. “Obviously I wasn’t in the same course as this student and they were different classes, but the subjects were related to subjects I was studying, so it wasn’t too much of a hassle to do those subjects.” In his final year during the 2009 Christmas exams, John sat two exams in which he secured an A and an A+ grade respectively for the student. He also sat another exam for which John was only required to pass the subject. He never checked the actual result of this exam, but he says: “I assume I got an A+. “It was a pretty easy module,” he continues. “I didn’t have to do any real work or anything for it, but I never actually talked to him subsequently. I think he’d failed the module maybe twice or something, so I was kind of worried it might look a bit suspicious.” Despite acknowledging the considerable risk that this endeavour posed, John was never overly concerned that the course lecturer might act on such suspicious circumstances. “The lecturer probably could have done some research and thought ‘hang on, this student has failed the module a couple of times, then all of a sudden he got a very
high percentage grade on it’. “But it’s hard to investigate,” he says. “There are two sides to that coin. They’d really have to be sure, wouldn’t they? If someone makes allegations like that, it’s pretty powerful. And I would accept that people have failed exams and then studied really hard and done brilliant repeat papers.” John also describes how he was approached to sit a paper for another student prior to the Christmas exams last year, but declined the offer on the grounds that he considered it an undue risk, given that he had taken the module previously. “So let’s just say I was in Commerce and I was approached to do one of the Commerce papers the year after I’d left college. I wouldn’t have done the paper because I’d be sitting the paper and there’d be a lot of final-year Commerce students sitting it and they’d already know that I’d already done Commerce. “Some people could easily complain, because as you know yourself, exams are quite a competitive environment. So it’s quite easy for a person to turn around and go: ‘Listen, I know for a fact that that person isn’t in this class’. “So I wouldn’t risk doing a subject where I’d know people who are doing that subject. You can’t take the chance. In every bunch, there’s always going to be a few people who aren’t just gonna accept it and say: ‘Ah well, fair enough’.” In the months leading up to the exam, John was given access to the student’s Blackboard course materials, so that he was able to study the course lecture notes. Moreover, he also had to ensure that the papers didn’t clash with his own exams. In addition, on the first occasion, John recalls how he took a few further precautions to lessen his chances of being caught, as he admits to feeling “slightly apprehensive” about the situation. For example, he elected to learn off details such as “his address, his phone number, email – anything that could
be asked – standard personal details”. As a result of his preparation for such scenarios, John was able to avoid getting caught on the rare occasions in which his identity was questioned. “I didn’t have to show any ID. [I wrote] his name, the module code and his address on the attendance form they provide if you don’t have a student card. “When the invigilator came around, I just said ‘listen, I’ve left my student card at home’. I just told them my student number, so they just marked them off the list and there wasn’t a hassle.” John claims that the whole process did not overly stress him, while at the same time not feeling unaffected by it. “I wasn’t panicking or anything, but I wouldn’t say I was completely calm. There’s risk in the sense that I could sit down at the desk, I didn’t know what people were in the class, and somebody could look at me and go: ‘Hey what are you doing in here. I didn’t think you were in this module.’ “Or else people could recognise me around the general exam area and ask ‘why isn’t anyone else from your class here’. I decided I’d get to the exam hall pretty early and just go in and put my head down on the desk until the exam actually started, so you don’t have to talk to anybody.” People’s tendency to avoid vigorously questioning these types of suspicious-seeming situations is highlighted by one particular anecdote. He recalls how “I subsequently found out that a friend of a friend – I only knew her to see – I remember talking to her a few months later and she found out what had happened. She said she was wondering why I was at the exam. It just kind of struck her, as in: ‘I didn’t think he did this course.’” Moreover, there was one occasion last year whereby John had virtually no other alternative than to own up to his misdemeanour – a relatively close friend whom he had known since his schooldays confronted him just prior to the exam.
“I just had to say it to him,” he says. “Obviously he didn’t care, but I just couldn’t give a plausible pretext when he fully knew that I was finished college.” John also claims that “there are two or three people I know who have sat exams for other people,” and is unsurprised that cheating is viable, owing to UCD’s large student population. “There are literally hundreds in the exam halls, so I can accept with the people trying to regulate the exams, it’s such a burden,” he says. “As the person who approached me to do the exam for him said: ‘It’s a big organisation, there’s obviously gonna be a few cracks in it which you’ll be able to overcome.’” While John feels that UCD could do more to decrease the chances of similar circumstances arising in the future, he understands that it would be difficult to impose a stricter system without resorting to extreme measures. “If the system was perfectly efficient, you wouldn’t be able to get away with it, so UCD do have to accept responsibility in that regard. But I can appreciate that it isn’t easy. It would be very difficult to de-
The fundamental issue underpinning how the whole cheating system works is the way that you can just say ‘oh sorry, I forgot my student card’
sign a fool-proof method, short of having a bouncer at the door, checking you off, getting your student card, saying you have to have your student card, matching it up,” he says, before adding: “Maybe they could cross reference things a bit more.” Although John believes that the recently introduced €50 fine for students who forget to bring their student cards to exams is “a step in the right direction,” he feels it will not ultimately discourage people, like the student who approached him, from cheating. “The fundamental issue underpinning how the whole cheating system works is the way that you can just say ‘oh sorry, I forgot my student card’,” he says. “I know it’s a very cynical thing to say, but at the very least UCD will make some money from it. “But people are going to be willing to pay €50 and I suppose, in some sense, you can’t put a monetary value on a good grade. An A+ is worth a lot to some people. If it’s the difference between a 1:1 and a 2:1, €50 is insignificant at the end of the day.” John claims that he is unlikely to ever cheat in an exam again, saying: “It’s probably not feasible and it’s unlikely to ever arise again based on my situation at the moment.” However, he adds: “That’s not to say if the price was right or the circumstances were right, I wouldn’t.” While John was never reprimanded from his behaviour, he emphasises the other considerable drawbacks that the experience ultimately entails. “I wouldn’t encourage it. I didn’t treat it lightly or anything, as there is a significant risk and obviously, that would weigh on your mind a lot. The consequences of getting caught are massive. I know I didn’t, but I’m pretty sure you’d get expelled. And it’s not good for your peace of mind, the worry, it’s hanging over you.” * The name of the interviewee in this article has been changed for confidentiality purposes.
THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 1 March 2011
Do the write thing With the Dublin Book Festival kicking off tomorrow, Sean Finnan speaks to some of those involved about creative writing and UCD’s strong literary tradition
f meandering through Temple Bar every weekend filtering for hours through the book stalls is your idea for fun, then one of the highlights of the year will undoubtedly be the Dublin Book Festival. The fourth Dublin Book Festival runs for five days that will see over 80 of the country’s best-known authors, journalists and poets giving readings, interviews, workshops and debates that pay homage to Dublin’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature. Yet while events such as these can be the catalyst in sparking the flame of creativity, there is never a guarantee that those taking their first steps into this world will emerge the other side as the next Joyce or Roddy Doyle. As with all people who write either professionally or for pleasure, the question remains. Can you really teach someone to write? The mantra of reading and writing a lot to improve still holds true but is it a skill that you can learn through constant practice and effort? Or is it the domain of the naturally talented and gifted, those who can produce lyrical and engaging pieces within a moment’s insight? To look for an example close to home, UCD itself is home to a strong writing and literary tradition and this is reflected through their creative writing course. It has a substantial representation at this year’s festival with the launch of the anthology of new creative writing by the MA students from last year’s Creative Writing class. The anthology entitled Platform 44 is a diverse selection of writings and
the high standard of all involved in the anthology ensures UCD’s literary tradition is in safe hands. Lecturer in Creative Writing, James Ryan, spoke about the anthology as a gateway for these writers to cement their place in the literary world. “It’s a very fine anthology and we’re very proud of it. The students largely do the work, in fact they do all the work from the very beginning to the very end including promotion, circulation and so forth,” says Ryan. “It’s a very fine document for publishers who are scouting for new writers or who have a particular speciality, they can see it there in the printing.” Ryan spoke of how a background of tradition and high standards can only help foster the minds of new writers and attracts high standards. “The very fact that they [the creative writing students] are there in the first place and got through to take the course is an achievement as the competition is very intense,” explains Ryan. “UCD has such a strong literary connection that it’s not surprising that people are drawn to the college for this sort of work.” One of the advantages of the Creative Writing MA is the exposure to publishers and agents during this process. “There’s no actual link but they would come into contact with publishers,” says Ryan. “There are writers here who’ll talk about the experience of publishing and the way in which to go about publishing. Publishers do look at the work, no question about that, and a number of students would have agents and novels ready to go.” Like the Creative Writing course, the festival offers the platform for prospective writers to learn about the publish-
Books have been in existence since approximately the sixth century BC, but creative writing classes are a 20th century phenomenon.
ing industry and also gives workshops for those with an interest in writing to establish a starting point in their careers. Spokesperson for the festival, Zoe Faulder, refers to the many workshops and events that would enlighten those interested who always wanted to get started but needed that push. “I suppose a lot of students who would be interested in either careers in publishing or in how the industry
works [would attend the workshops],” explains Faulder. “There’s also quite a lot of writing events about how to go about writing… [as well as] a workshop in writing popular fiction and it’s for any student who would be interested in writing careers or writing paths.” As Ryan would acknowledge, there are no rules or set paths to becoming a writer or making a career from it. The success of these individuals lies not only in their
Just the job I
n today’s Ireland and the current economic state that we live in, garnering a part-time job is like finding the golden ticket. The idea that you can stroll into your local newsagent, ask for hours and leave with a sufficiently paid part-time job is unfortunately dead and gone. Students are not just competing with one another to get jobs; they are also going up against adults. One positive, however, is that students are no longer confined to work in the village’s supermarket or to babysit their neighbours’ children. Students are being creative in their efforts to secure jobs. They’re finding jobs in the events sector, club promotions and are even infrequently working in places such as the Aviva or the O2. For those students who are currently employed, their days are spent painstakingly balancing their part-time jobs and college work. While the employed greatly appreciate the hours they have, they will regularly complain about work and the fact they have to go to it. While the unemployed find it decidedly hard to sympathise, it does raise the question of whether or not students can balance their job, college assignments and social lives. And because of the hours
they give up to part-time work, is their academic achievement affected? When it comes to our generation, it is an unfortunate fact that we are obsessed with the latest fashion and technology, while keeping a busy and expensive social life. Said lifestyle is not cheap to maintain and with summer right around the corner, having no money is a living nightmare. Students are turning more and more to loans to accommodate their spending needs. In recent years, getting a student loan has become a harsh necessity, as part-time jobs have become less readily available. The truth is that most places are just not hiring. They can’t afford us and they don’t need us. When asking UCD students whether or not they find getting part-time work an issue, the majority of them claim they find it difficult to secure a job. First-year Arts student, Rachel Duffy, works in an after-school child care centre three days a week and confirms there are challenges facing third-level students with regard to part-time work. She says: “My lecture hours are insane, so for me it made it very difficult to get a steady part-time job.” When asked would she take out a
As the rush to acquire funds for summer vacations begins, Faye Docherty looks at the difficulties facing students both with and without jobs
Many students struggle to combine college work with a part-time job and suffer financially as a result.
student loan, Duffy says: “Yes, definitely. I suppose if I was living on campus I would have to, as my part-time hours wouldn’t be sufficient, but luckily I live at home so for the moment I don’t need to.” Another generally accepted consensus is that part-time work doesn’t just eat away at a student’s time but it also affects their energy levels for study. For Duffy, this is a huge issue. “Minding children is very
hard work, but their willingness to take that first step into this world. Writing is about self-expression and creating something that is shaped by your mind and as Sylvia Plath once said: “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Be sure to keep that in mind when you’re writing the next Harry Potter. For more information about the Dublin Book Festival, visit www.dublinbookfestival.com.
tiring,” she says. First-year English and Drama student, Sophie Ryan, agrees with Duffy’s sentiments completely. Ryan is one of the many students who can’t find part-time work. In response to asking whether she has tried to find a part-time job, she says: “God yes, I’ve put my CV into a countless number of places and I haven’t heard back once.”
Unfortunately, many UCD students are left with the same frustration. When asked if she thinks part-time work is essential for a student, Ryan says: “It’s a definite necessity, especially as the summer is coming up.” From the comments of Ryan and others, it’s obvious the summer months are playing on many students’ minds. Funding this period is an issue that can cause a lot of stress. For many students, a loan is a daunting and intimidating prospect and Ryan says she would try and avoid taking out one if possible: “I’d prefer not to. If I couldn’t pay it back, what would I do?” In terms of passing tests and completing assignments on time, it’s about developing a knack at balancing work and play. Unfortunately, many students don’t get involved in extracurricular activities and bypass student life in favour of taking extra hours at work. As many lecturers and tutors will say, college is and should be a student’s first priority. If part-time work, college and a hectic social life aren’t in a state of equilibrium, there is no denying which of these areas you would be advised to sacrifice and say goodbye to.
1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
A global education As another year’s International Week goes by, Kate Rothwell asks why so many students move country in order to study at UCD
here’s no denying that U C D is a university with worldwide appeal. Conversations in numerous languages can be overheard when walking through any part of the campus, which is hardly surprising considering that last year, over 19 per cent of UCD’s student body was made up of students from outside of Ireland. Many of these were Erasmus or exchange students who spend just one or two semesters of their degree at UCD, but others make a more permanent move, and come to Ireland in order to study a full-time degree. Sebastian Jähne is one such student, having moved from Berlin to study Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UCD. Now in his second year of the degree, he explains that the disorganisation of universities in Berlin and a desire to travel were two of his main reasons for studying abroad. “It was a good decision to get out of Berlin. I don’t think it’s too good to stay in one place for too long.” Gosia Soltys, from Szezecin in Poland, is in her final year of studying Linguistics and German at UCD. She originally began her studies in Poland, but finds that the system of continual assessment at UCD is much more student-friendly. “I think it’s easier [here]. You study a lot as well but you don’t notice it. In Poland, it’s basically studying the week before the exam. Here you have to work all semester.” Post-degree plans among these few stu-
dents are, as for the majority of students in Ireland, not exactly clear-cut. Further study is becoming an essential and desirable option for graduates, but international students are just as concerned about the price of Masters or PhD programmes and the job opportunities that may or may not arise during the next few years. Lisa Schultz, a first-year student of Sociology and Information Studies from Frankfurt, will decide whether to stay in Ireland for a Masters only if job prospects improve and if her desired courses are available. “If I find anything here, perfect; if not, I’ll go on looking. But I might not go back to Germany, there are so many other countries.” Soltys doesn’t foresee going abroad to study as being an option, as personal connections will keep her here in Ireland. “I actually would like to do a Masters somewhere else but I don’t want to leave Ireland. I have a boyfriend here, and to be honest I have no choice. I have to do a Masters here.” European students make up much of the international body at UCD, but there are also many students who travel from even further afield in order to discover what the Irish education system has to offer. Mariam Amusan, from Lagos, Nigeria moved to Ireland as a teenager to do her Leaving Certificate, and has since graduated with a BA in Economics and Sociology. She is soon moving back to Nigeria in order to work, but plans on returning to Ireland or England to do a Masters the following year. She admits that being so far away from home was difficult at first, but sees the advantages of
the experience as making it more than worthwhile. “You have that international perspective, you learn a new culture […] You grow up faster as well.” Hijaz Zainudin, from Kuala Lumpur, studied Medicine at UCD and is now working as a doctor back home in Malaysia. He speaks fondly of his time at UCD, but acknowledges that without the support of a scholarship there he would not have been able to consider studying in Ireland. “Everything there is expensive. Never in my life would I be able to pay [by] myself to study there.” Irish students are well aware that a degree here comes at a high price, but for international students who could have easily studied in countries where both fees and the cost of living are often far less costly, an Irish education seems all the more expensive. The ever-rising registration fee would dissuade Jähne from recommending Ireland to others as a place to study, while Schultz is of the opinion that studying in an English-speaking country is an advantage worth paying for: “It’s definitely worth moving or at least spending a year abroad, if not the whole degree.” However both Schultz and Soltys felt that employers in Ireland had a preference for native English speakers, which regardless of their fluency in the language proved a disadvantage when job-hunting. UCD can currently boast an international reputation and a multi-cultural student body. Diversity is a key element of being a reputable university; so let’s hope that UCD continues to offer students an education that is worth travelling for.
The legendary Chinese dragon was one of the many sights on show during International Week in UCD.
Postcards from Abroad: Lyon As he struggles to find pride in being an Irishman in Lyon, Matt Gregg looks at the international language of sport
t’s not been the best time to be Irish in France. The size of our bailout still smarts while not a lecture goes by without Ireland being used as an example of financial or political instability, but worst of all – Sean Cronin knocked it on. Ireland could have had it all. Game day started with electric anticipation. The Italian debacle had been consigned to history and it was now time to face France, both in Lansdowne and Flanagan’s Bar of Vieux Lyon. Certainly the odds were stacked against us. For one, it appeared that despite being in Flanagan’s Bar, I was one of only two Irishmen present. Very quickly, there was three minutes left. We’d turned the ball over 10 metres from the French line. Ireland were going to beat France and the gloating could begin. However, you know what happens next. And we were left with nothing but the bittersweet taste of a stoic defeat. During the match, as we exchanged playful insults and pantomime jeers with the French around us, it struck home how great a connector sport is. Throughout my time in Lyon, sport has provided the best avenues to meet real life, actual French people. The teaching environment in France really doesn’t lend itself to making new acquaintances. 300 odd people in lec-
ture halls are as daunting as those back home and the tutorial layout is even worse. In France, tutorials are not so much a forum for discussion amongst peers, but a platform for tutors to bask in the sound of their own voice. Thankfully, the gym in the Andre Alix residence is far less inhibiting. Because it’s subsidised by CROUS, it’s cheap with membership costing only €24 for the entire year. Perhaps less clean than UCD’s Crunch Fitness and owner certainly of fewer glossy motivational posters, it’s nevertheless got all the essentials: bench press, a squatting rack and a proprietor who devours an entire roast chicken after every session. Ok, maybe that last one is an Andre Alix special. The man himself, Amadou, is perhaps the largest individual you’ll ever see and is comfortably three times as wide as yours truly. He clearly leads by example because there is not a scrawny lad in sight. Your average student serves in a bar or stacks shelves in a supermarket, but these big blokes work as bouncers. This can come in handy sometimes. Just last Thursday we were heading to Boston, an American-style dance bar located near Hotel de Ville. However, when we arrived, our prospects did not look good. It was past midnight and there was a straggle of people trying in vain to gain entry. We were just about to head somewhere else when Karim, another gym member, waved me over through the crowd of onlooking Frenchmen and into the club. I felt about ten feet tall. Suitably impressed, my French football friends insisted I head out to a venue called
‘The Cavern’ with them the next night. As a rather exclusive club, they were adamant I dress up for the occasion so by the time we reached the place I was quite nervous. It was like being 17 all over again, just hoping to get in. Dauntingly, here is no queue for the Cavern. Instead, just a closed door facing directly onto the street. If you didn’t know it was there it would be easy to walk straight on by. A brief moment after we rang the doorbell a man opened the door, steps out and quickly shut it behind him. You could feel him casting his eyes over our party of four, trying to ascertain if we’re the right type of clientele. He starts interrogating us and I was almost sure his French sounded more like a Tipperary accent. “You’re not from Ireland, are you?” I ventured. Pleasantly surprised, he smiles and exclaims that he is indeed. After a quick discussion, we were in. Brian, the doorman, proves to be a good-natured host and even lets us keep our coats in his office rather than pay the extortionate cloakroom charge. He only insisted on one thing – that I come down and train with Lugdunum CLG, Lyon’s premiere GAA club. The fact that I’ve never played in my life didn’t seem to deter his recruitment drive and, eventually, I agree to give it a lash. Monday came and I headed down to my first-ever Gaelic football training. In France. Till then, I thought solos were played on guitars and the hop was an old school dance move. Amazing the things you learn on Erasmus. Matt Gregg is a UCD student currently studying abroad for a year in Lyon.
Ireland’s recent Six Nations defeat to France was all the more galling for our columnist.
Pat de Brún
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1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
Expanding your horizons? UCD Horizons has been in place for just over five years now, but has this scheme been a success? Barry Singleton and Eoghan Dockrell debate the issue Anti-Horizons
orizons is about offering ‘choices rather than constraints’. Choice means freedom. Freedom is fashionable. And the more freedom, the better. But is more choice better? And what is the real choice that Horizons offers? Given the emphasis that Horizons puts on words like ‘flexible’, ‘freedom’, ‘opportunity’ and ‘diversity’, you would be forgiven for thinking that ‘in the vanguard of [a] leading university’ like UCD, you could study anything and everything you wanted; constructing a custom degree module by module, from all that is to offer in every single school. This of course, is not the case. Even those behind Horizons recognise that at least some constraint is necessary; they champion ‘choices rather than constraints’ – but only to a point. So where exactly does that point lie? Some choice is obviously better than none, but it doesn’t follow from that that more choice is better than some choice. We should only have choice to an extent that it is beneficial. I believe that the balance lies in favour of discontinuing the electives programme. Let us not forget that, electives aside, many students can already choose to pursue particular areas within their core course of study whilst avoiding others. Law students for example, can focus on broadly domestic or international law. And since students presumably choose a course that interests them, they should already find enough on offer. Electives add over 900 different firstyear modules into the mix. Not only does this fail to benefit students, but it also leads to greater dissatisfaction. Psychologist Barry Schwartz explains how an explosion of choice actually leads to paralysis rather than liberation in his book The Paradox of Choice. With so many electives to choose from, students find it very difficult to choose at all. In fact it’s so hard to choose, many of us just put it on the proverbial long finger. Before you know it, it’s the last
f you’re reading this article there’s a strong chance you sat the Leaving Certificate. If so, cast your mind back to when you entered fifth year, long before the mocks, graduation, Leaving Cert and [insert memory here]. There, at the beginning, you made a choice. You picked, along with the usual suspects, a number of additional options: most likely a language, a science and two more. You were subsequently stuck with that assortment and a timetable comprising of those subjects for the duration of 5th and 6th year. The process might not have been clear or explained satisfactorily and, consequently, your choices may have been hastily made, but tough luck. It’s already October and the Principal has finally finalised the timetable so there is no-bloody-way-son you’re moving to Geography. In short, two years of your academic life have been set in stone. You know exactly what’s in store and there’s no dropping or swopping to be had. As for change of mind windows that open and close every semester, well that’s just
Whatever our decision, we end up being less satisfied than if we had fewer options to choose from
UCD Horizons boasts of the freedom of choice for students.
day of registration, and with a fine looming over your head for delaying your choice; you just pick ‘something’. More often than not, that ‘something’ is a safe choice, within your core area of study. It’s interesting to note that ‘[i]n September 2007, some 63 per cent of… first-year students opted [for] electives within their own core study areas’. First years of course, are the least likely to be well informed about Horizons. If you do manage to pick an elective outside of your core course of study, your problems are only beginning. Because whatever our decision, we end up being less satisfied than if we had fewer options to choose from. The main reason for this is that with so many options, we feel that one of
them has to be perfect. And it’s easy to imagine that if we had made a different choice, it would have been better. The easily imagined alternatives cause us to regret the decision we made, and this detracts from the satisfaction we get from our chosen module, even if picking it was a good decision. Satisfaction results from a combination of what you expect to get, and what you actually get. Horizons raises expectations. No longer does your degree promise just to be interesting; with Horizons, you should be able to encompass any and every intellectual interest you may have. Ultimately, it shifts responsibility for structuring a valuable and interesting degree from UCD onto you. So when
nonsense. All of this changes when you come to UCD, where the Horizons programme offers every student the opportunity to pick modules from a pool of hundreds and no student is confined to choosing exclusively from their area of study. Unlike the rigid structure of second level, students now have the flexibility to change the make-up of their transcript at regular intervals throughout their degree. Horizons is a significant improvement on the traditional third-level format, as students now have the freedom to either stick with subjects from their core discipline, or, for the many who don’t know precisely what career path to walk down, to branch out and sample subjects from other schools. The success of the Horizons programme is proved by statistics that show a large percentage of students choose to engage with Horizons by selecting subjects that are completely different from their core area of study. It’s also worth bearing in mind that this progressive programme was only introduced as recently as 2005 and is not available in every university. Be grateful that you didn’t end up with your second choice and find yourself enrolled in archaic institutions where restrictive,
straitjacket-style education is still practiced. Horizons has many advantages and for an exhaustive list, I’d direct you to the Horizons page on the UCD website. There you’ll find plenty of compelling arguments in favour of the programme, but I’m going to be selective here by describing my own experience. In my first semester of first year, I thought I’d take full advantage of the Horizons programme and put bluntly, I overreached by selecting Astronomy and Space Science. I was neither an Astronomer nor a Space Scientist, but a Law student. To cut a long story short, I discovered that my maths had not greatly improved since pass-level Leaving Cert and indeed my hopes of discovering extra-terrestrial life and collecting the Nobel Prize for Physics were dashed. Alas, another victory speech consigned to the dustbin. But despite my failings, I didn’t lose heart with the Horizons programme and instead selected electives closer to home and kept a safe distance from anything maths/science based. I soon found the lectures I most enjoyed were my electives. They provided a needed break from the monotony of my core course
students inevitably experience dissatisfaction, they feel the blame lies squarely with them. But what is the real choice that Horizons offers students? How UCD rewards those choices seems to fit badly with what they say they want to encourage. There can be significant disparity in the difficulty of modules, both within courses and across courses. And yet they all contribute equally to a student’s GPA. Given this, the choice students face is not: ‘Which module interests me the most?’ but: ‘Should I boost my GPA and risk diluting my degree, or maintain its purity and make my study more difficult?’ Is this a fair assessment? Consider
Horizons, in a nutshell, gives you more choice and more control over your degree subjects. Furthermore, these history and politics electives are, I believe, eye-catching additions to my transcript, which is effectively part of a CV. As most courses are quite general on the surface, by choosing electives strategically, students can benefit in an increasingly competitive market environment where employers may be focusing
what the UCD Fellows in Teaching & Academic Development have to say: “It may be tempting to take a series of modules which you expect to be ‘easy options’, but you’re likely to benefit little from such modules.” Unless, of course, you consider a higher GPA a benefit. If you’re still not convinced, the UCD Fellows go on to warn students that “every module for which you’ve enrolled will ultimately appear on your transcript” and that we “can expect prospective employers to look for ‘added value’ in […] choice of electives”. I have to ask: what does a GPA become if it ceases to be a reliable indicator of the quality of a degree? Considering the work required in choosing an elective – reviewing the many options, seeing which one fits with a timetable, considering the ‘added value’ – is it any wonder, that after this arduous process, students go for ‘easy’ options? A rock or a hard place? I’d rather avoid the chasm altogether. - Barry Singleton in on specific course choices and trying to differentiate candidates on that basis. That’s why, for example, it is beneficial to study a language through Horizons if you’re planning on being an engineer abroad, or likewise it may be helpful to take US Law modules if you plan on working in the States. Horizons, in a nutshell, gives you more choice and more control over your degree. College is not like secondary school in the sense that it’s not all about results, but rather greater emphasis is placed on the learning experience along the way. The Horizons programme is an instrument for ensuring that students have some level of input into what they’re learning. The student who benefits from Horizons is the one who picks a module as he has an interest in pursuing postgraduate studies in that area, or it’s the student who selects a module in order to deepen their knowledge of a particular subject. Or maybe you selected poster design just to inject some life into your GPA. Whatever the reason, you should support the Horizons programme as it benefits many students in a multitude of ways. - Eoghan Dockrell
THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 1 March 2011
There is a light that never goes out With a new campaign highlighting the vulnerability of those working in Ireland’s sex trade, Bríd Doherty examines the extent to which prostitution is a problem in Ireland
rostitution is the oldest profession in our world. It is also a profession that has brought cruelty, sadness and exploitation to the lives of many. On our own island, prostitution is flourishing. The media is awash with discoveries of brothels in which women are enslaved. Although we may wish to turn a blind eye, the facts show that each and every day women make a living by selling their bodies to those who wish to pay. A group of prominent Irishmen and groups working with prostitutes are seeking to reform the laws as they currently stand. At present it is a criminal offence in the Republic to solicit on the street for the purposes of prostitution. A prostitute can be prosecuted, as can a man trying to buy sex. However, it is not a criminal offence here to buy or sell sex. The new campaign, ‘Turn off the Red Light’, is organised by Ruhama – an organisation working for the protection and safety of prostitutes. It’s a campaign run by a new alliance of civil society organisations with the aim of ending prostitution and sex trafficking in Ireland. The ultimate objective is to inspire the introduction of legislation aimed at criminalising male clients and focusing police attention on them instead of on the prostitutes themselves. Trafficking women and girls for the purposes of sexual exploitation is a modern, global form of slavery. Therefore, the best way to combat this is to tackle the demand for prostitution by criminalising the purchase of sex. This form of legislation has been initiated in many Nordic countries and has evidently deterred men from seeking out prostitutes. The perfect example of this is Sweden. Such laws were introduced over ten years ago and this has dramatically reduced the presence of prostitutes in Sweden, with the number of women
working on the streets now halved. It has also lessened human trafficking into the country. A clear ban on the purchase of sex would not only reduce the demand for prostitutes, it would also greatly aid the Gardaí in prosecuting male clients. Women could still be prosecuted for soliciting, but not for the sale of sex. As it stands, the majority of prostitution in Ireland is conducted in apartments and houses hidden from public view. Most brothels masquerade as escort agencies or massage parlours and this can make prostitution very difficult to stop. Ultimately, Ireland should perhaps consider following in the footsteps of Germany and the Netherlands and legalise prostitution. It seems like a logical course of action to take given the more liberal times in which we live. This step would take prostitution out of the hands of the criminal gangs that are at the forefront of the Irish sex trade. In the hands of the government, prostitution could be properly regulated, making the entire process safer for both punters and prostitutes. In the Netherlands, prostitutes must undergo weekly STI tests, thus protecting their health and that of those with whom they sexually engage. The existence of safe, legal brothels would provide a secure environment for prostitutes to work in. Taking our current economic situation into consideration, we may even benefit from the revenue generated by the sex trade. There is also a need for transparency in our society. Prostitution is a fact of life. Pretending that it doesn’t exist because it’s illegal is pointless. It is not something that can be swept under the rug. Although it is not a pleasant thing to see, it is real and life isn’t always pleasant. It should be out in the open and made safe for those who want to engage with it and make a living from
Prostitution is currently illegal in Ireland, but many people feel that decriminalising it would lessen the degree to which gangs are involved in its practice.
it. Statistics have shown a great reduction in the levels of human trafficking in both Germany and the Netherlands in the wake of the legalisation. Effectively tackling sex trafficking in Ireland will require a response to deal with the demand from men to buy sex. The sex industry, which exploits and harms women, exists because there is a demand from men to buy sex. The alliance is therefore calling on the Irish Government to learn from those coun-
tries that have established good practice for dealing with sex trafficking. Practice shows that this approach reduces demand for prostitution and incidences of trafficking for sexual exploitation. The alliance believes the Irish Government must recognise the need for a modern approach to prostitution that reflects best international practice. It is clear that tackling the demand for paid sex should be central to this approach of combating the exploitation of
women, men and children in Ireland’s sex industry. Such an approach will be most effectively achieved by penalising the purchase of sex, along the lines of legislation that has been demonstrated as effective in Sweden. Irish legislation needs to move out from the grasp of the past and update itself to the age in which we live so that the safety of one of the most vulnerable contingents of society is protected.
Has it come to this? In light of Fine Gael proposing to make Irish an optional Leaving Certificate subject, Matthew Jones looks at the debilitating effects this move could have on the language
he compulsory teaching of the Irish language has been a bone of contention for many years. When people hear the word ‘compulsory’, negative connotations immediately arise in their thoughts. It is often argued that the seven-hour Leaving Certificate paper is a major difficulty for young students as it puts them under too much pressure. But let’s look for a moment at the other lengthy papers. Maths is five hours in total, as is French, whereas English is six hours and ten minutes overall – and that’s not even spread out over two papers, a listening comprehension and an oral exam. Fine Gael plan to change the system of how the Irish language is currently taught in schools. They believe that if learning Irish becomes optional, the scheme would ensure that only the students who truly wanted to learn the language would do so, and that the stress of the exam would be taken away from those who didn’t want to study the subject. This proposal is in opposition to the views shared by the majority of Irish people. As a rule, certain sceptics
believe that if this step is undertaken, then irreparable damage will be done to the Irish language. But it is not just the language itself that will face difficulties as a result of this move. Gaeltacht areas, whose residents depend on the annual economic boost that school summer camps bring, will sink further and further into recession. Teachers too will lose jobs. If there is a drop in the requirement for Irish teachers, schools will have no choice but to let valuable staff members go. In fact, third-level students have traditionally given strong support to the cause of the Irish language. The UCD-based Seachtain na Gaeilge’s ‘No Béarla’ campaign attracts a significant number of participants from throughout the entire student body, not just from those who are furthering their studies in the language. It is true that it was not only fluent speakers who dutifully promised to spend the week speaking Irish and wear the green hoodies associated with Seachtain na Gaeilge. However, the ubiquity of non-fluent speakers was proof of the support for the language; even these people were willing to
Fine Gael have expressed their intention to make learning the Irish language optional for the Leaving Certificate.
openly demonstrate that they want to preserve it. Yet the Irish language is not the only part of our culture that is under threat. Many people will remember the controversial decision to undertake building work near to the protected historical site of the Hill of Tara. As a result of this and several other decisions, Ireland is regarded among the
European community as being a nation that disregards its heritage. Perhaps we can learn from other nations in the European Union. How has making the learning of a second language optional influenced the number of students who decided to study one? In England, the optional learning of a second language after the age of 14 was introduced in 2004. Labour ministers
predicted a decline in the numbers of students learning a second language and a lower standard of learning among those who did, and their prediction has been validated. There has been a reduction (of approximately 33 per cent) in the numbers of students taking languages at GCSE Level in the past seven years, and only a minority of students achieving A+ to C grades in these subjects. A University of Manchester academic, Jocelyn Wyburd, said that after researching the decline of language learning in England: “Students will vote with their feet because they can...make Irish optional and watch it wither.” Many pro-Irish advocates who support an overhaul of the system share Wyburd’s opinion. With the current system in place, students are being put under considerable pressure. In 2004, a commission from the Council of Europe recommended changing the syllabus, with a greater focus on the spoken aspect of the language, as opposed to learning a variety of poems. Surely that is a better way of improving the system, rather than a blanket decision that will undo decades of work to revive the Irish language.
1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
A marriage made in heaven? Despite the uproar caused by Lucinda Creighton’s tweeting, gay marriage will not be seen in Ireland any time soon, writes Philippa White
ucinda Creighton recently became a candidate in an important race. No, not the general election – that is old news – but the race to win the Golden Tweet. The Golden Tweet is a figurine given to people who have the most online responses to a post on Twitter, within a certain timeframe. After having ‘tweeted’ that she is in favour of civil partnership for homosexuals, but is opposed to gay marriage, Creighton has not only also notched up favourable odds for the win on Paddy Power but has also been blasted with an endless array of criticism from the public and other politicians. Without delving into the details of the backlash Creighton has encountered in the real and virtual worlds since her comment on Twitter, the incident has still produced much food for thought. It has brought to the fore an interesting question that will undoubtedly become more pertinent in the coming years: is Ireland ready for gay marriage? Although Fine Gael was swift to distance itself from Creighton’s comments, it has publicly stated that the party has no plans to legalise gay marriage. Fianna Fáil holds a similar position. The Green Party, Labour and Sinn Féin on the other hand, all incorporated the issue of gay marriage into their manifestoes, even promising referenda to legalise it if necessary. Regardless of who forms the 31st Dáil, it will have no bearing on the Civil Partnership Act, which came into effect in January. This provides same-sex couples with similar rights to those of married heterosexual couples in the areas of tax, pensions, property and so on. It also makes legal provisions for the event
of cohabiting homosexual couples separating. An area that remains unchanged is the right for the couple to adopt a child. However, putting this issue aside, what is the difference between civil partnership and marriage? The answer is very little and yet a great deal. From a practical point of view, homosexual couples cannot marry in a venue that is not authorised by the State’s Registration Process (private places, churches, in the open air etc.). From a legal point of view however, the new law affords homosexual couples most of the rights and obligations bestowed upon married heterosexual couples. Alas, the number of people who see life from a legal point of view is small. The word ‘marriage’ conjures in one’s mind an idea that is deeper, more meaningful and naturally, more romantic than new legal rights and benefits. There is nothing romantic or special about entering into a legal contract, which is – in the eyes of the State, Church and Law – all that a civil partnership is. However, the argument for same-sex marriage is about more than just semantics. Marriage is a defining moment in one’s life. It is the most profound act of commitment in a loving relationship and a vital step in our pursuit of happiness and meaning in life. Therefore, to deny a certain group in society this opportunity to find meaning not only in their long-term relationships but also in their life seems unjust. So why would anyone in our enlightened society be against gay marriage? Firstly, cultural aspects must be considered. Thirty years ago, Ireland had a very different social landscape. The majority of the population identified with
Catholicism, which placed marriage as one of the seven holy sacraments, occurring solely between man and woman and for the purpose of procreation. Marriage was a religious conviction that had persisted for generations and was inbuilt into the mindset of the masses. As Creighton has shown in the last week, some convictions do not fade easily. If the new government were to make gay marriage legal in Ireland, then the Constitution would need to be changed. The most likely way this would occur would be by means of a referendum, giving each citizen a chance to vote on the matter. Seeing that Fine Gael has openly stated that legalising gay marriage is not a priority, such a referendum is unlikely to occur in the immediate future. As it stands, only ten countries in the world have legal gay marriage. In the past month, the French Constitutional Court has upheld a ban on gay marriage, whilst Californians overturned Proposition 8 last year, making gay marriage illegal once again in the state. Although civil partnerships are becoming increasingly common in the western world, it must be recognised that Ireland has come a long way for an island nation that still criminalised homosexuality less than 20 years ago. Thus whether you believe that the illegality of gay marriage is unjust or correct does not seem all too relevant at this present time. A referendum does not look likely and the outcome for such a referendum, were it to take place this year or next, would be difficult to predict. This writer, however, does have good money riding on Lucinda Creighton for the Golden Tweet…
Lucinda Creighton tweeted that marriage was “primarily about children”.
The fight for freedom of speech Persuading Hungary to change its controversial media laws was a lengthy but essential progress in their ongoing fight for democracy, writes Kate Rothwell
he first day of Presidency of the Council of the European Union is a momentous occasion Comment Editor for any country. This is the day when all eyes are on the national leader in question: what are their priorities, what will they achieve for the Union, what will they change? For the current holders of the EU Presidency however, this was the day on which it all started to go wrong. Hungary took over the Presidency from previous incumbents Belgium on January 1st, and on the same day the Hungarian Government implemented a set of restrictive and much-contested media laws. These laws gave a state-governed media council the power to impose fines of up to €724,000 on media outlets which, according to the council, caused offence with “unbalanced” coverage of issues pertaining to human dignity and morality, such as violence, sex and alcohol. Concerns regarding the legislation were rightly raised by EU Members of Parliament, who even went so far as to tape their mouths and brandish posters with the word ‘censored’ at Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s first addressing of the EU Council. These MPs echoed the feelings of much of the Hungarian press, as many editors had already published blank front pages or cartoons in their newspapers in order to display opposition to the laws. The reasons behind their resistance are obvious; such limiting legislation would be bound to encourage self-censorship among journalists and editors whose publications would be financially crippled by hefty fines. The World Association of Newspapers and
News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) highlighted a further issue in a letter to the Hungarian Prime Minister, namely the threat that the legislation posed to crucial investigative journalism. “The right to confidentiality, protected by laws in many nations and international conventions, recognises that without a strong guarantee of anonymity, many people would be deterred from coming forward and sharing information of public interests with journalists.” Hungarian journalists were joined in their protest not only by fellow members of the global press, but also by numerous other citizens, as thousands of people poured onto the streets of Budapest in December to voice their outrage at the then-proposed law. The government ignored their cries, but Orbán’s EU peers have had more influence on him than he originally anticipated. He initially defended the legislation by claiming that it was no different to the media laws of many other EU member states, stating that Hungary had “assembled the media law from different sections of European countries”. If this is true, then it was an interesting case of cherry-picking the most backward clauses of the lot. Another governmental argument was that the measures were intended to limit the overly intrusive and undignified reportage of tabloid newspapers and television. The invasive, tasteless nature of reality TV and similarly sensationalist journalism is certainly a pertinent issue for Hungary and also for the rest of Europe, but the answer to this problem must be more a refined solution, and not just sheer censorship. The consternation surrounding the Hungarian media laws has put the country’s capability
of holding the EU presidency in grave doubt, and it was only less than a fortnight ago that the issue appeared to reach some sort of resolution. The warning of potential EU legal action eventually pushed Hungary into stating that they would change the laws if the European Commission deemed it necessary. This, of course, was duly done, and Orbán was forced to quietly eat his words last month as the EC identified problems with rules regarding balanced reporting, the proposed registering of all media services with the national media council and the prohibition of “causing offence”. Hungary’s Communication Minister, Zoltan Kovacs, stated that the Hungarian Government would work to make the legislation “more precise”. This statement is an almost laughably inept description of the essential and ethical re-writing of the media laws that Hungary has been forced to concede to. The entire debacle is a huge embarrassment for the country, so much so that even the Prime Minister himself cannot deny that it was anything but the ideal start to the EU Presidency; “I agree this is a bad start, who would want to start like this?” With the government’s implementation of ‘crisis taxes’ on many business sectors also being critically queried by the Commission, Hungary has been surrounded by controversy for the first third of its short six-month Presidency. Whether or not Orbán will manage to salvage his country’s reputation during the final four months is anyone’s guess, but it’s easy to imagine that he’ll have at least three tips for his successors. The first is not to underestimate the importance of freedom of speech, the second: not to overestimate the power of presidency. And as for the third: start the way you mean to go on.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been criticised for restricting freedom of speech in light of his proposals to fine media outlets.
Time for a change
Enda Kenny has been set the daunting challenge of reinvigorating the country.
The question of whether Fine Gael are well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead in government is still a contentious one, writes Elizabeth O’Malley
s I write this article the count is underway. The exit polls are further evidence of what we’ve all come to expect for a long time now: the next government will be Fine Gael led. What does it mean for us as students? From my point of view, notwithstanding a collapse of government, this government will be in place for the rest of my undergraduate career so this is of some importance to me. After perusing Fine Gael’s five-point plan and their website, this is the impression I got of the future. The main issue in this election has been the economy. At a domestic level, Fine Gael has decided to cut spending in a greater proportion to raising taxes. While specific plans for the cuts in each department have not been outlined, the general theme of the five-point plan has been ‘cut down on the red tape’. Fine Gael say they will require all regulation-setting bodies to publish a plan for achieving a reduction of 10 per cent by the end of 2011 and 25 per cent by the end of 2012. They want to abolish 145 quangos and 20 state bodies. They also want to reduce the public service by 10 per cent, in other words try to get 30,000 voluntary redundancies ‘without undermining key frontline services’. It remains to be seen whether this indiscriminate cutting of state agencies will be a stroke of brilliance, or if it will materially affect people, not just those losing jobs but also those relying on the services. The next government will need to try and renegotiate the EU/IMF deal in order to lower the interest rate. If, as is predicted, Fine Gael will attempt to build a coalition with Labour then this will likely
be a key issue of the negotiations. Labour wants to extend the deadline to meet the IMF requirements to 2016, saying that 2014 date will only serve to depress the economy by forcing the government to put in place further austerity measures. Fine Gael, on the other hand, are firmly set on keeping the specified deadline saying that Labour’s date will require more borrowing and that debt is not the answer to debt. The two plans would have very different effects on the economic landscape. The important issue for students was the cost of university and whether they will have to emigrate after graduating due to a lack of jobs. The party proposes a “graduate contribution” of roughly one third of the cost of their course, to be paid once graduates reach a defined income threshold. This would be about €11,000 for an arts degree. Dental students would face massive debts of around €64,000 when they graduate and other courses such as medicine and veterinary would cost more than the average. This is compared to the average cost for a four-year course currently which is around €6,000, going by last year’s registration fees. However, this could fall by the wayside in negotiations with Labour as it looks like a deal-breaker for them. The plans for graduate jobs include 45,000 training places and new work placements such as classroom and nursing assistant positions and other placements in the private and public sectors. IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland will be explicitly mandated to develop 5,000 work experience placements in the companies that they support. However, if you
are on the dole and under 25 you will be expected to keep a jobs diary with sanctions for unreasonable rejections of training and job opportunities. Fine Gael’s main platform has been “time for change”. A positive aspect of Fine Gael’s planned time for government is tackling perceived forms of cronyism. They want to replace all non-executive bank directors who sat on boards of banks before September 2008. They also plan on closing tax loopholes for the rich, registering all lobbyists and banning corporate donations. Legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act is planned and Fine Gael want to enact a bill to ensure CEOs appointed to state boards are approved by the Oireachtas. The political landscape looks like it will change significantly. They want to extend Dáil sitting times and vouch all expenses. Ministers of State will have a car-pooling system. Fine Gael also plans to cut the number of national politicians by 35 per cent by reducing the number of TDs by 20 and abolishing the Seanad. However both initiatives would need a referendum, as they require a change in the constitution. When the time comes I’m not sure that the country will vote for less representation but that remains to be seen. At time of writing, Fianna Fáil look set to fall from 41 per cent in 2007 to just 16 per cent. The public have spoken. It’s time for change. Ireland under Fine Gael has an ambiguous future, which could be mostly out of our hands thanks to the EU and the IMF. However, this fatigued country needs a jolt awake and if Fine Gael sticks to its word, working for day one, then hopefully we’ll get just what the doctor ordered.
Talleyrand Felicitations fools, Talleyrand can smell the foul odour of ambition and hackery in the air, centred mainly within the Stupids’ Centre, but starting to waft down campus as we enter that most heinous, hated and horrendous of seasons – election time. Clipboards have been procured, nomination forms have been downloaded and printed out, and the cretin candidates have started canvassing already. Superman Shelley has even bought a new three-piece suit for the affair. This of course, isn’t the start of the candidates’ campaigns; they technically started months ago, particularly in the case of Pat “Conflict of interest? Never. Vote Ross Number 1!” de Brún, who began his campaign even before he fell into the Calamitous and Crummy office. His twelve-month campaign seems to have paid off, as now he’ll just fall next door into the office of El Presidente. Talleyrand can’t recall the last time a Presidential election was contested. It now just seems to be a promotion for any sap-bat on the corridor who wants to party for one more year. Now that’s democracy in action. Certainly breaking with recent trends, there’s been an upsurge in women seeking to reach the dizzying lows of a Union VicePresidency. God knows the Horrordor could do with a woman’s touch. It resembles the aftermath of Dirty Disco at d|two more than a suite of offices belonging to a ���professional’ union. Although if Lorna “Is Sweeney here?” Danaher manages to claim the poisoned chalice that is Welfare; the Union’s transformation into a nightclub promotion agency will definitely be complete. Talleyrand suspects she’ll be handing out shots of vodka and Jager to students instead of condoms. Candidate for Ireland’s most perfect and upstanding citizen, Righteous Rachel Breslin, would probably have some idea as to what’s involved in the job, but Talleyrand thinks she may be too goody-two-shoes and not cutthroat enough to survive in Hackdom. And as for Ruinous Regina Brady? Talleyrand reckons she’s not even a contender. Hoping to become the King and Queen of Hackdom, Deadly Danaher’s better other half Brendan “Power hungry” Lacey has set his sights on the C&C office. Taking a leaf out of de Brún’s leabhar, he’s intending to use the year to launch his 2012 presidential campaign. Is this what the ancient Mayans warned us of ? The earth is defi-
nitely doomed if Lame Lacey takes the helm of the Titanic Goonion. Egregious Edel Ní Churraoin wants to step out of Jiant Jonny’s shadow and have a go at running (wrecking?) Ents. She’ll face stiff competition from dogsbody Rob “Always the photographer, never the model” Manning and Stephen “Scaredy cat” Darcy. That is, if Darcy actually runs. Talleyrand first heard his name thrown into the ring back in 2008. Will 2011 be his year? Will he wait another? Does anyone care? The krooked KBC’s love affair with the Edumacation office shows no sign of abating, with another random candidate put forward to follow in Wilkinson’s footsteps. If it didn’t work last year for Logue, it won’t work this time around either. This humble commentator appears to have cracked their pioneering electoral strategy: throw as many random, inexperienced students as possible into the race, and hopefully one of them might win. With such foresight and wisdom, it’s hard to imagine how their party performed so badly over the weekend. Mount Street seriously needs to hire some of these bright young things. Talleyrand has seen a fair share of useless Goonions over the years, but judging from the candidates, 2011 might just claim the award for having the lowest possible calibre of contenders. And considering what little this year’s crop have done, it’s hard to imagine going any lower, but where there’s a will, there’s a way! In a stark turn of events, the suckscieties seem to be continuing their slight upward trend, with LaboriousSoc surprisingly hosting an actual event recently. Not ones to be outdone by their brothers-in-debating, Kieran “I’m delighted this celebrity actually showed up” McCarthy drafted in another famous Sheen for the plebs to ogle. Although hosting it on a Saturday evening isn’t the best studentfriendly tack to take with it, but at least they’re trying. They’re failing, but they’re trying. Speaking of triers, Talleyrand was bemused to read coverage in that lesser publication on campus, the College Tripe-une, ringing the death knell for this inordinately superior organ of the press. Their premature pronouncement on such a matter is by all means a defining characteristic of their style of ‘independent’ journalism, but Talleyrand at least expected them to double-check the date of the founding of the Snobserver on Wikipedia, one of their most trusted sources. Such a thing certainly would never have occurred under the watchful eyes of Faustus, Talleyrand’s poor, absent colleague. Neither, of course, would their abuse of single quotation marks be tolerated. Case in point – ‘editorial independence’ does not need to be qualified by them. Talleyho! Talleyrand
1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
Letters to the Editor
The importance of student media Sir, To be perfectly honest and disdainfully atavistic, it is my opinion that print media is a social catalyst charged with dangerous nostalgia and tickling ambition, ever weaning itself on and off various stories and trends. The fuel that turns the pages of this glorious publication is the fuel that charges the debates in The University Observer’s office. It’s the very same fuel that salvages some people’s college careers. While on the brink of throwing in the academic towel and dropping out of this experimental procedure, a friend convinced me to write a couple of words for a college paper. After having being vehemently ignored by one, I turned to this Union-sanctioned news and opinions outlet. Blasphemy! To work for the establishment? Never. However, I conceded my grand and overtly warped ideas about Marx and all that other good stuff and gave this typing thing a whirl...and godamnit I enjoyed it. I loved seeing my name in type (which I’m sure many of my colleagues and friends can empathise with). I worshipped my own misanthropy in the form of typeface, and I hated being told that something I’d written could not be
printed. Sentimentally, this paper gave me a form of confidence that I previously did not warrant or care about. In that cramped and often questionably fragranced office space, one is goaded, poked and prodded to the point of veritable frustration, and yet is sanctimoniously satisfied therein. The support and mockery of and by the individuals around you gave one a keen sense of the communal: this then is a true space where individuals who excel at being just so can come together to be something for the ethical good. Support, nurturing, anger, debate, bitterness all focused onto a previously blank sheet of paper. This fine product is attached to the Student’s Union in much the same way as I was, and hope I still am, attached to it. In addition, the vast array of miserable and jovial contributors that spew their filth and brilliance all over the pages of this obtrusive rag are volunteers; people willing to set aside hours of their days and weeks to write something in the hope that just one bored student will pick up a conveniently placed copy and catch a glimpse of a name that otherwise would mean nothing to them or
at all. To summarise: yes I am vain in this fashion, and yes, some of the things I have written here are cheesy and potentially lame. Well..I don’t really give a damn about that. If I feel like saying or writing something, then I will and it’s because I can. To allow this paper to creep out of UCD life would have incurred shame of limitless proportions. To disallow me a space to potentially crash-land and pillage anything I feel like...well, that’s just criminal! I love this paper and it has done nothing but good for me, but I cannot say the same for the reverse of that relationship. It has allowed me to decide on what I want to do with the rest of my life, whether I succeed at it or not, at least I know. Yours Begrudgingly, Disdainfully, Jovially, Atavistically, Ideologically, Sarcastically, Sincerely, Fantastically, Fashionably, Filmically, Belligerently, Nonsensically, and all of the above, etc. Jake B. B. O’Brien
The future of youth in politics Sir, Am I the only person who feels that this general election will bring us the same end result regardless of who’s in government next week. Watching the general election debates on RTÉ this week where Michael Martin, Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore were discussing and arguing policies and plans, I turned my TV off halfway through it, disillusioned by what I saw and another blow being dealt to my hopes for the future. My confidence in any of the main parties for renegotiating the IMF deal, creating jobs or fulfilling whatever farfetched and exaggerated promises they made is at a low. Not one of the leaders on show demonstrated any qualities that would see this country through one of its darkest periods economically. Even just to give the country a small lift, even a brief superficial one, are qualities that seem to escape not only these men but also their parties. The parties that were created during the foundation of this state are outdated
in a world that’s evolved past petty squabbles. They are the same old faces, saying the same old things as their predecessors but focusing more on what we want to hear to come across as they’ve changed. And the parties are the same too, there’s very little to differentiate them except the colour of their manifestos and party Each party talks about change and how they will be the ones to solve the problems we face yet how many of these parties has changed over the last six months or year. We hear that young people and students have become more active in politics or expressing an interest, but there’s no end product. Nobody seems to truly think that the problem with the parties is that their changes are purely cosmetic, the older members are still the figureheads for these campaigns while the younger candidates are treated as if they are fulfilling an under 25 quota that Dáil Eireann secretly enforces. The tired ideas and self-centred mentality of those who led or kept silent
as the country stumbled into the abyss are the ones still promoting change and promising that this time will be different. This country is in a state of depression, while there are younger candidates coming through the ranks and throwing their hats into the ring, it feels as if it’s too little, too late. While this election won’t bring about a major change in these ideas, I can only hope that it will be the start of change or progression to new ideals and principals in politics. Unfortunately, for most young Irish people, if it does happen, they, like myself in a couple of months time, will be looking at this change from afar after emigrating to make a living. The next Dáil could be completely different come next week, but I for one won’t be found holding my breath. Yours etc, James McDermot
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THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 1 March 2011
SCIENCE & HEALTH
Old Wives Tales Debunked: The truth behind toad licking
Creature comforts Animals have aided us in the development of new cures and drugs but, as recent reports have indicated, they are poorly treated despite this important role, writes Alison Lee
Mice and rats are instrumental in testing new drugs and products but are neglected due to their status as rodents.
A state of nirvana in The Simpsons would lead to poisoning in reality.
This fortnight, our resident old wife Alison Lee delves into the slimy world of toad licking to see what highs or lows this phenomenon offers
ubstance abuse exists in many bizarre guises, but licking toads to get high has to be one of the weirdest. This practice has featured in both The Simpsons and Family Guy – but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. The toad most famed for its hallucinogenic secretions is the Sonoran Desert Toad of California, Arizona and Mexico, Bufo alvarius. The venom of this animal was analysed in 1965 and contains bufotenine. This is widely considered a hallucinogenic substance, mostly due to one ‘scientific study’ conducted in 1950 when a medical doctor named Howard Fabing injected it into inmates of Ohio State Penitentiary. One prisoner experienced breathing difficulties and nausea. He then vomited, collapsed and reported three minutes of hallucinations. Subsequent experiments couldn’t replicate these findings and it has been concluded that bufotenine isn’t actually hallucinogenic so what component of toad venom is? The answer is simple 5-Methoxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine! Let’s just call it 5-MeO-DMT. This is one of nature’s most potent hallucinogenics, However, licking a toad for a hit doesn’t work, as this compound is inactivated by the digestive system. Another reason that licking toads may be a bad
move is that they are pretty toxic. Children have occasionally been hospitalised after contact with these creatures, and there have been several reports of pet dogs dropping dead after licking or sniffing them. So if you want to experience an amphibious high, you have to smoke the venom instead. Handy instructions on how exactly to do this can be found in the pamphlet “Bufo alvarius, Psychadelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert”, published in 1984 by Albert Most, Founder of the Church of the Toad Of Light. Firstly, take a Sonoran Desert Toad, and hold it against a glass plate. Massage the glands located on its neck, tibia, femurs and forearms until they secrete a milky substance onto the glass. Then wait until the venom dries, scrape it into an airtight container (any standard Tupperware lunchbox should do the trick). Then just keep it until you feel like indulging in a bit of a cosmic hippy high. It’s likely that toads were used in religious rites of the Aztecs and Mayans as they are commonly depicted in these people’s sacred artworks. But the risks involved are considerable, and it’s unlikely the poor toads enjoy it either. Thus this old wife recommends you steer clear of the particular natural high in question. Just because Homer did it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
f you were born prematurely, you were given a dose of steroids to help speed up your lung development. If you’ve been in an accident and lost blood, chances are you were rushed to hospital and given a transfusion that matched your blood type. If you’ve ever had an operation, be it as simple as wisdom tooth removal or as complex as open-heart surgery, you were safely anaesthetised, virtually eliminating all pain and distress. It’s easy to take these lifesaving innovations for granted, but it’s a fact that none of them would exist without animal testing. Research on premature sheep and rabbits has increased survival rates of premature babies. Studies on Rhesus monkeys revealed that human blood cells are either ‘rhesus positive’ or ‘rhesus negative’ allowing us to give safe blood transfusions. Animals are also being used to research currently incurable diseases, and immense progress has been made in understanding conditions like breast cancer, HIV and muscular dystrophy. The vast majority of mammalian species used in these studies are mice and rats. In 2009, 209,903 mice and 16,198 rats were used in Ireland for research purposes. Strains of inbred mice have been created by generations of brother-sister mating, which result in mice that are almost genetically identical – ideal for carrying out experiments on, as there is hardly any variation between test subjects. These are used to create ‘models’ of human disease. Models can be created surgically, for example, mouse models of arthritis commonly have ligaments in their limb joints damaged. Breeding can also create models while mouse genetics can also be manipulated artificially to create models of disease. Such procedures may horrify some readers, but this sort of research on rodents is commonplace in laboratories all over the world. Contrary to what extremist animal rights organisations like PETA would have us believe; scientific research on animals is not necessarily a ghoulish process carried out by money-hungry pharmaceutical corporations. This is because strict legislation governing animals used in research is in place. Ireland’s current legislation was set down by the European Union in 1986 in the (86609-EEC Directive), and Ireland implemented this legislation through the 1876 Cruelty To Animals Act. Thanks to these laws, anyone wishing to carry out experiments on animals must receive a license from the Department of Health and Children permitting them to do so. Applicants for these licenses must use the minimum number of animals possible, they must design their experiments
to avoid any unnecessary pain or suffering and they must use anaesthesia on animals during all potentially painful procedures. In addition, rules have been laid down outlining the requirement for anyone working with animals to be adequately trained, for veterinary care to be available if necessary, and to ensure an adequately high standard of housing and care of experimental animals. Sadly though, there is evidence to suggest that sometimes, animal testing may not be as useful as its made out to be. Many animals’ lives are lost merely to follow protocol and considering how many drugs fail to make it to human trials, never mind to the pharmacy shelves, some animals’ lives are lost for nothing. Take for example, the gastritis treatment Omeprazole. At first, this drug wasn’t allowed onto the market, as it caused stomach cancer in the rodents it was tested on. But due to fundamental differences between the physiology of rodents and people, Omeprazole doesn’t have this effect on humans. Once this was proven, Omeprazole went on to become the biggest-selling drug in history. It’s also important to remember that mouse models only display the symptoms of the disease they mimic. The underlying cause of the disease in humans may be completely different to that in lab animals. Take the mouse models of arthritis previously mentioned – humans don’t develop arthritis by having their ligaments surgically severed – the causes of arthritis in humans are manifold and include ageing, genetics, and exercise. Also, mice are tiny, four-legged creatures who move differently to humans and have differences in their cartilage biology. This is just one example of models that only superficially mimic human disease. And although there is legislation in place to ensure animals are not used unnecessarily or put through extraneous pain or suffering, there is a lack of clarity as to how the animals should be kept. One line in the 86-609-EEC Directive has a particularly depressing ring to it: “Member States shall ensure that…all experimental animals shall be provided with housing, an environment, at least some freedom of movement, food, water and care which are appropriate to their health and well-being.” The term “at least some freedom of movement” doesn’t bring to mind images of particularly stimulated, happy animals. And sadly it tends to be rodents, the most commonly used animals in research, that receive the bare minimum in terms of environmental enrichment and stimulation. This is possibly due to a phenomenon
known as the ‘socio-zoological scale’, a subconscious hierarchy that humans assign to animals. For example, many of us see companion animals like dogs, or valuable animals like horses at the top of this scale, useful animals like cows, sheep or pigs somewhere in the middle, and then creatures traditionally seen as pests at the very bottom. This is reflected in experimental animal legislation, where special protections are applied to dogs, cats, and equids used in research. Dogs, cats or horses don’t feel fear, distress or pain any more than a mouse or a rat, but this double-standard still exists, meaning the species we owe the most to in terms of drug development is the species that is the most neglected. Drug companies and research facilities have responded to calls for less animal testing with the three R’s: Replace, refine and reduce. This means they aim to reduce the number of animals used in research, to replace them with alternative non-animal tests where possible, and to refine experiments, causing less distress to animals. To this end, The European Council for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) was established. This body validates non-animal tests, which can replace tests on animals – but only for cosmetics, not drugs. For example, artificial skin has been developed which can be grown in the lab and used to test chemicals for skin irritancy, instead of applying chemicals to the skin of live animals. These tests have gone a long way in reducing animals used in cosmetic research, but changes are slow, especially since it takes years to ensure “alternative” tests are as valid as their counterpart animal tests. Also, considering the number of mice used in research in Ireland rose from 18,535 in 1994 to 209,903 in 2009, it seems that an excessive amount are being utilised of late. It would be naive to say that animals are unnecessary for drug development. Drugs must be tested in animals before human administration to gauge what organs might experience side effects, or what the correct dosage is. But considering the fundamental differences between humans and rodent biology, scientists need to think long and hard about the reasons behind using rodents in research. Just because they are traditionally seen as vermin doesn’t mean their lives in a lab should be monotonous, devoid of the simple pleasures that owners lavish upon their pet rodents without a second’s thought. They are sentient beings capable of feeling pain, fear, distress and boredom. Surely the least we can do for creatures that have indirectly saved so many lives is to acknowledge this, and treat them as such.
1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
SCIENCE & HEALTH
The rise of the counter-culture Following Boots’ plans to make the morning-after pill available over the counter, Colm MacEochagain looks at the attitudes towards women’s health and contraception
ast month, amid a flurry of media attention, the Boots pharmacy chain announced imminent plans to make the morning-after pill available to Irish patients on an over-thecounter basis. The move marked the first time in the history of the Irish State that emergency contraception had been made available without the prior consultation and consent of a doctor. Despite the vocal disapproval of some Pro-Life and Catholic groups, public, professional and media reaction to the development has been generally positive, with one RedC/Irish Examiner poll showing 81 per cent supporting the measure. Dr. Catriona Henchion, medical director of the Irish Family Planning Association, who had campaigned extensively on the issue said: “This will just make access easier, there will be less of a delay in patients getting it, that’s the bottom line. Everybody is aware that the effect reduces as time elapses. Anything that means people can get it quicker and easier is a good thing.” The change was facilitated by the use of a controversial loophole discovered by Boots in a 2005 amendment to legislation. The legislation appears to allow the sale of certain drugs without prescription, provided they are sold in accordance with the ‘Patient Group Directive’ protocol, a set of internal rules drawn up and overseen by doctors directly employed by Boots. The same mechanism had previously been exploited by Boots to administer seasonal flu vaccinations without prescription. In response to the development, the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) quickly moved to challenge Boots’ interpretation of the ‘Pa-
tient Group Directive’ legislation, publicly claiming that Boots’ actions constituted a wilful misinterpretation of the law, and ordered them to stop all over-the-counter sales with immediate effect. In what the IMB describe as an unrelated development, NorLevo, one brand of emergency contraception, was formally delisted only days later, making way for its unrestricted over-the-counter sale by all pharmacists across the country. NorLevo is expected to retail at around €10. However, many pharmacists seem likely only to dispense it following a private consultation. Such consultations may increase the overall cost by as much as €30. NorLevo is currently licensed for sale in 48 countries worldwide, 30 of which have granted over-the-counter status to the drug. The move to delist the drug brings Ireland broadly into line with our closest European neighbours. In light of those findings, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), which represents over 90 per cent of Irish GPs, have strongly condemned the recent development. Dr. Mel Bates, Chair of the ICGP, said that over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception raises questions about the quality and continuity of care being afforded to the patient. Speaking to irishhealth.com, Dr Bates said: “The ICGP has some concerns surrounding patient consultations. Our pharmacy colleagues just don’t have the same level of experience or training in this area as GPs.” Perhaps GPs are simply worried about their bottom line and the potential this landmark change has for the further ero-
sion of their traditional territory. Likely incoming Minister for Health, Fine Gael’s Dr. James Reilly, has declared himself a firm supporter of “patients being dealt with in the community at the lowest level of complexity possible”. President of the Irish Pharmacy Union, Darragh O’Loughlin, agrees and said: “There are many medicines available from the pharmacist in other EU countries for which patients in Ireland currently require a prescription. These medicines have a good safety record and should be made available in the community from pharmacists who, it should be remembered, are qualified health professionals.” Contraception has only been fully legal in Ireland for the past 25 years. One GP, writing in the Irish Independent, recalled a time in the early 80s when young women were routinely subjected to intense moralising by doctors on the subject of their sexual health and activity. One Dublin based clinic was singled out for employing a doctor who regularly told patients that he “wasn’t going to provide an abortion for a slut”. Thankfully, such proselytizing may now be a thing of the past. The fact that many women choose to visit ‘Well-Woman’ clinics, rather than their own GPs, when accessing emergency contraception, highlights the desire many women share for non-judgemental advice when it comes to their sexual health. NorLevo’s new overthe-counter status simply facilitates that pre-existing demand for impartial advice and discretion. Also studies in Britain and San Francisco show that over-the-counter availability of the morning-after pill does not impact on
Boots began selling the morning-after pill over the counter last January.
a woman’s use of primary contraception, or lead to an increase in the prevalence of STIs. The ability of women to control their own fertility without outside interference has long been touted as one of the great steps society has taken towards enhanced
gender equality. In their sexual health, as in all things, women deserve the right to decide for themselves. The expansion of these rights, even if it steps on the toes of some special interest groups, perhaps especially if it steps on the toes of some special interest groups, can only be welcomed.
Lucky number 13
Are you an Ophiuchan? Alan Coughlan looks into the implications of the recently introduced thirteenth star sign
0 light years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus, there is a diamond 4,000 km across. It is the former heart of a now dead star, known as a white dwarf. The entire piece would be ten billion trillion trillion carats. Closer to home, within the atmosphere of Jupiter, the storm known as the great red spot contains wind speeds up to 618 km per hour. The surface temperature of Venus is so hot (at over 460ºC) that lead would easily melt there. These are three of an unknown amount of facts about ongoing phenomena in space. It is the most fascinating realm in all of science and astronomers continue to reveal more of its secrets daily. The astrologers (not scientists let’s be clear) would have you believe that Mars is a warrior and instigator of arguments, and that Jupiter represents a gentle disposition in people. As Carl Sagan has pointed out, far from being a fringe practice, practically every newspaper in the western world carries daily columns on astrology. Do most, if any, deal with astronomy on a regular basis? As cynical as many may be about astrology, the number of people who consult their horoscopes before going about their day is frightening. The premise being that for someone, their destiny is effectively written in the stars. For this idea to hold water, one would hope for an airtight system that makes predictions that can be tested through to conclusion. With twelve signs of the Zodiac encompassing all days of the year, every person
is covered. However, to my mind, this would mean they are saying there are only twelve types of people out there. Twelve types of people all experiencing much the same as their zodiac brothers and sisters every day. Is there enough good fortune on any one day to be spread to that many people, or indeed, that much good luck in romance? Dara Ó Briain and Professor Brian Cox got into some trouble recently when they openly insulted the practice of astrology live on BBC, by saying: “In the interest of being balanced, we should say that astrology is a load of rubbish.” The Astrological Association of Great Britain got up in arms about these comments launching complaints to the BBC. Their claim is that they have suffered unfair treatment. As Rebecca Watson (ardent sceptic) pointed out, their comments were broadcast on a science program where a pseudoscientific practice should hardly get a mention. The haphazard nature of the practice was brought to widespread public attention quite recently when it was suggested that the constellation Ophiuchus should be included amongst the twelve Zodiac signs. Panic set in amongst Astrologers that the signs would effectively be moved throughout the calendar. I myself would now be a Pisces as opposed to Aries. This idea is nothing new as Stephen Schmidt suggested a 14th sign zodiac back in 1970, which included Cetus as a sign. The internet became awash with concerned followers of the zodiac worried about what bear-
ing this now had on their lives. The logical solution in my mind would be that they could abandon astrology altogether, since technically they had been following the wrong advice since they began their stargazing. A wonderful example of the tenuous nature of astrology was exposed in a small experiment by James Randi and also repeated four years ago by Derren Brown. They got a group of people to submit data about when they were born. They were then lead to believe that an astrologer had written up specific descriptions of each person based on these details. Each participant was issued an envelope with their personality description and asked to rate it for accuracy. An overwhelming majority of participants rated the descriptions as 90 per cent accurate or higher. The ruse was then revealed when they were asked to swap papers with their neighbour and read the other descriptions. Every person in the group had been issued the same character description. Through clever and ambiguous use of language and open-ended descriptions of character, astrologers can appeal to people’s self image and win them over. The reader simply filters out any inaccuracies and focuses on what they feel best describes their character. Space for me remains an awe-inspiring place and not a realm for magic or spiritual entities that influence my life. I for one would rather a column in the daily papers informing me where to look for a meteor shower or when exactly we might be able to go and get a piece of that giant diamond.
Horoscopes are better known for their vague descriptions and open-ended nature in most daily newspapers.
THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER 1 March 2011
The road to Mumbai
Victory eluded them in their opening fixture of the ICC Cricket World Cup campaign, but their face-off with England will surely revitalise the Irish spirit, writes Micheál Halton
he 10th Cricket World Cup opened in spectacular style with a massive opening ceremony in the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Irish team kicked off their campaign against Bangladesh on Friday and held them to just 205 runs after a strong bowling performance from Andre Botha (32-3) and teenager George Dockrell (23-2). Unfortunately Ireland weren’t able to muster up the momentum to overhaul Bangladesh’s total as key players lost their wickets cheaply and Ireland were eventually bowled out for 178, realistically ending any hopes they had of progressing to the next stage. This match was vital to Ireland’s hopes, as they had defeated Bangladesh in the 2007 tournament, and they would have been hoping to repeat the trick this year. The fact that Bangladesh had been comprehensively beaten by India on the opening day would also have boosted the confidence of William Porterfield and co. The manner of the defeat will be massively disappointing as Ireland restricted the dangerous Bangladesh batsmen to just 205 runs, after a threatening start, where Tamim Iqbal and Imrum Kayes moved Bangladesh to an impressive 49-0 after five overs. A change in the pace of the bowling brought an upturn in Ireland’s fortunes and a reduction in the run rate as Botha and John Mooney replaced Trent Johnston and Boyd Rankin, who were getting beaten around the park by Tamim, who hit seven boundaries in his quick-fire 44. Wickets soon began to fall. Botha took the prize wicket of Tamim, as well as Shakib and Mooney took the wicket of Kayes before Siddique was run out for three. Bangladesh looked in trouble at 86-4 after their brilliant opening, before Dockrell came into the attack to put further pressure on Bangladesh, bowling a maiden in his first over. The 18-year-old continuously frustrated the Bangladeshi batsmen throughout his ten overs, claiming two richly deserved wickets. Andrew White ran out Raqibul Hasan before Johnston cleaned up the tail, with Dockrell fittingly catching the final ball off a Johnston
delivery to end Bangladesh’s innings. Ireland started their innings steadily enough with Paul Stirling and Porterfield leading off. Stirling didn’t last long however and the talented right-hander was gone for only nine. Porterfield soon followed as Ireland reached 44-2 after ten overs. Ed Joyce came in and built a promising partnership of 39 with Niall O’Brien but unfortunately, he was bowled by Ashraful just as Ireland looked like they were building some momentum. Andrew White came in and hit ten runs before becoming Ashraful’s second victim of the day. Kevin O’Brien then took to the crease to bat alongside his brother but their partnership lasted just three overs with Niall going for 38, after a superb catch by Tamim. Botha joined O’Brien on the crease and they formed Ireland’s best pairing of the day with 41. O’Brien hit a spectacular boundary in the 33rd over, which looked like it could form the basis in an Irish victory, but it wasn’t to be. O’Brien was caught in the deep off Shaiful Islam in the 36th and this left Ireland needing 54 runs from the last 13 overs with just one recognised batsman remaining. This mammoth task became even harder when John Mooney came to the crease and couldn’t manage a single run before being bowled by Naeem Islam for a rather disheartening duck. Botha followed him to the stand soon afterwards for just 22, this left Ireland needing 37 runs from 9 overs which was made even harder when Johnston managed just a paltry 6 before being bowled by Shafiful. The game was up for Ireland as Shafiful took Rankin’s wicket to complete a Bangladesh victory by 27 runs as well creating a new Bangladesh World Cup bowling record of 4-21. Ireland’s next game will be against England in Bangalore on Wednesday and despite the defeat, they will be able to take a number of positives from this display. Their fielding and bowling were impressive and they will need to repeat that performance against England as well as improve their batting if they are to have any chance of staging a huge upset. England had a poor start to their campaign
Ireland have a lot of work ahead of them if they are to recreate their 2009 exploits.
as they scraped to a six-wicket win over the Netherlands with just eight balls to spare. Ryan ten Doeschate inspired the Netherlands to a figure of 292 runs for the English to chase after. England produced a poor bowling and fielding performance, something that
Ireland will hope to capitalise on. This Irish side should not be discounted, as they have made enormous strides since the last World Cup with all but two of the squad now playing professionally. Ireland will need to continue producing strong performances
against the Test-playing nations if they are to be promoted from Associate nation status by the ICC. A win against England on Wednesday would be the perfect way to promote their cause and a terrific achievement to take from the World Cup.
The Badger: The Bourne Identity Back on his game, the Badger details Arsenal’s mini rise, compares rugby to IKEA furniture and vents about his pet-hate sport: cricket ing the ‘Arscelona’ tie will prove they are on course for that status-quo season where they cement their place amongst the other multiple runners up. (At the time of going to print, the Carling Cup final between Arsenal and Wales was yet to kick off.)
The Badger’s supremacy
L’Arsenal’s new Bourne Identity
This is exactly what we don’t need. A fouryear plan bearing fruit will only give Enda Kenny ideas. Arsène Wenger and those pesky young adults are finally coming to fruition and in the Badger’s opinion it’s about time. French Frog in Chief, Wenger, has been promising for years that this bunch of “kids” would eventually form the basis for his Napoleon-esque all-conquering team. Since their last trophy, many of these “kids” have been discarded from the squad, but the crème de la
crème have risen to the top. Their convincing victory over Birmingham in the Carling Cup final is the end of a baron spell, trophy-wise, and the start of a new era for the North London club. A new dawn is upon the Gunners, they have the youngsters to maintain their second place position in the Premier League and maybe if Fabregas and Van Persie can stay fit, get together a run of form that could see them move into fourth or possibly even third. First in sight for Arsenal should be their mouth-watering clash with Barcelona. That will be the true test of their intentions. Los-
Oval ball discussion seemed to work a treat in the Badger’s last column, so why not keep the trend going? The Badger is going to rant again about the sport played by scumbags and watched by idiots by having a swipe at the very idiots that keep the oval ball rolling. “Why are we idiots?” is the question that rugby fans everywhere are barking at the Badger like a pack of viscous dogs. Simple answer really. None of you actually know the rules to your own sport. So the Badger’s answer to your snarled question is ‘how can you watch a sport if you don’t know the basic mechanisms?’ In a way, it is a typically male thing to do. Men are generally assumed to be construction geniuses, but when was the last time a man
used a set of instructions to make the IKEA chest of drawers? Never. So without having a clue how they actually assembled the piece of furniture, men have an end product. Much like IKEA flat-packed goods, rugby teams usually triumph without actually having a notion of what they’re doing. Some will call the Badger ignorant for maligning rugby fans like this. They’ll say, “you don’t understand” and “you’re ignorant”, but as a very famous Badger once said: “Ignorance is born out of a sense of selfrighteousness and being 100 per cent correct about everything, all the time. So bugger off and shove your opinion, because I’m right.” – The Badger Snr. Back to the topic at hand, rugby fans and players alike are idiots. They don’t know what happens in the scrum, they have no idea how what actually happens in a ruck and some can’t even fathom the notion of catching the ball. So what’s the Badger’s summation? Switch to football. The concept is pretty simple to comprehend. Pass the ball to the non-English or British Isles player, let him run with the ball into the box, watch him dive and get another player to score the penalty. Simplez.
The Bourne Ultimatum...Cricket
Supposedly, somewhere in the world, a World Cup for cricket is taking place. Who knew? Even more surprising for the Badger is that Ireland are actually in it. What’s an even bigger surprise is that the Badger hates cricket. Not like his reasoning for hating rugby, the Badger’s hate for cricket genuinely does stem from ignorance. It is a stupid sport that is so long-winded and exclusively stuck up its own rectum that even the players seem slightly embarrassed by what they’re doing. The Cricket World Cup is pretty much a gathering for all the Protestants that still reside in old Commonwealth countries to get together, laugh about famine and burn money while pretending to play a sport. The exclusivity and mild racism of cricket is defined by the Irish team’s squad selection, which draws on players from the Irish province of South Africa. The Badger never knew that the Cape of Good Hope was actually in South Cork, but then again, most of our football players are from other countries – except Roy Keane, he actually is from South Cork..
1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
Second season syndrome for students? With the Airtricity league kicking off this week, Sam Geoghegan and Daniel Keegan preview the Students’ prospects this season and assess their opposition
Shamrock Rovers are the favourites to retain the title but will face stiff competition in attempting to do so.
CD have a mammoth task ahead of them this forthcoming season. Their one and only goal will be to stay in the top tier of Irish football. UCD exceeded all expectations last season by consolidating their position in the Airtricity Premier Division one year after being promoted. However, the question is can they avoid dropping down a division this season? At the beginning of last season, UCD were hopeful, excited and eager for the new season to commence. The Students bounced straight back to the Premier Division as First Division Champions, overcoming a late surge by former giants Shelbourne. Buoyed by their first silverware in a generation, they started last season brightly and surprisingly well, with the 3-0 demolition of former champions Drogheda United being an obvious example. However, it was impossible to maintain their overachieving form and predictably they began to fall down the table. If it wasn’t for the brilliant results at the start of the season, the Students could have be preparing for life in the First Division this term. Credit where credit is due, Martin Russell and his staff did a fantastic job last season but the task ahead is arguably harder. Will the Students suffer from the dreaded “sophomore slump?” It will be difficult to stay up to say the least; their squad has been completely decimated by player departures and one can only wonder if they have the talent and experience to avoid relegation. Russell’s job is therefore the most important element of the upcoming season. How can they cope with the core of the team departing? The McMillan brothers have gone onto pastures new with St Patrick’s Athletic, while top goalscorer Ciaran Kilduff has joined league champions Shamrock Rovers. Other notable departures include Keith Ward, Greg Bolger and Chris Mul-
hall. With a team so inexperienced and youthful, Russell has a tough job ahead. It hasn’t been all one-way traffic on the transfer front, however, as James Kavanagh, Deen Marshall and Darren Meenan have signed for the Students in recent weeks. One has to ask the question where the goals will come from in the wake of Kilduff’s absence. His presence will be sorely missed and his goals provided the Students with a prolific striker who always seemed to come up with the goods just when UCD needed him to. If a goal drought ensues in Belfield over the course of the season, it’ll be up to the defence to ensure it won’t be leaking too many goals. Former captain, Evan McMillan, will be sorely replaced missed and finding an adequate replacement is paramount. This is a completely new UCD team that, come opening day against Drogheda United, will be almost unrecognisable from the team that finished last year. It is a vastly inexperienced squad. Russell will have to prove why such faith was put in him following UCD’s relegation in 2008. This is his toughest task. He will have to convince his fledgling stars that they have nothing to fear. The Students must play with a certain fearless naivety to overcome their lack of talent, just as Blackpool are doing in the Premiership. But like the Seasiders, a fast start is crucial before the inevitable midseason slump develops and threatens to derail the season. Pre-season form has been encouraging with the goals flowing, notwithstanding the goalless bore draw against Lisburn Distillery in the Setanta Sports Cup. Superior fitness due to a younger squad might be the explanation, although this superiority must be utilised during the early stages of the season. Meanwhile Derry City fans can look forward to a return to the top flight after
a season in the second tier. Despite how impressive they were last year, the northern club will know the difficulties of the step up and will hope not to get bogged down in a relegation battle with the likes of Galway City and Bray Wanderers. Bray have been camped at the bottom end of the table for several seasons and were saved from relegation in 2009 only because of financial problems in Derry and Cork City. They have opted for youth by signing three players under the age of 20, including Ireland U-19 International Conor Murphy, as well as retaining their entire squad from last season. If Bray hope to stay up, they will need a much better start to the season than last year, which saw them pick up just one win from their first 20 games. They kick off their season away to last year’s runners-up Bohemians, in what will be a very intriguing encounter, after Bohs’ off-season from hell. After suffering financial turmoil over the past few months, almost resulting in the club being liquidated, it is difficult to see Bohemians challenging for the league title, as they have done over the past three seasons. A winding-up order was placed in the High Court against Bohs in January, in a dispute over unpaid wages and a debt that they have since cleared. Brian Shelley and Steven Gray were the two players to take legal action against the Dalymount club, after neither had been paid since November. Gray has been released, while Shelley, Bohemian’s sole representative in the PFAI Team of the Year last season, has left for Australian club Ballarat Red Devils. Shelley is just one of a number of highprofile Bohemians players to leave, along with the likes of Paddy Madden, Paul Keegan and Jason Byrne. Despite their financial difficulties, they have managed to recruit seven new faces to amend for the
nine who have left, but still don’t look to have the squad capable of mounting a serious challenge for a league title. Shamrock Rovers rightfully start off as favourites for the league, having retained the services of 2009 and 2010 top goalscorer Gary Twigg. Defenders have struggled to deal with the ex-Derby County man’s aerial ability since his arrival to the league two seasons ago, and he has consequently bagged 44 goals in 63 appearances. The signing of six players during the off-season, including Kilduff, has also bolstered their ranks. Rovers only won the league title on goal difference last season and with Kilduff and Twigg up front, you can be guaranteed that they will have quite a sizeable goal difference at the end of this season. Looking at the squads, Sligo seem the only club capable of challenging Shamrock Rovers for first place. They have steadily improved over the past four seasons, culminating in an FAI and League Cup double last season, and a third place finish, just four points off the leaders. PFAI player of the year Richie Ryan will be central to Sligo’s success. The ex-Sunderland man was outstanding last season, and was unable to play in the FAI Cup final, which he missed through suspension. Overall, the Airtricity Premier League has never been anything short of dramatic, whether it’s action on the field or off-field turmoil. Fans can look forward to a very open season at both ends of the table and they are in for a treat if the last day of action is anything like last season’s climax, which was arguably the most exciting finale of any league in Europe. And as for UCD football fans specifically, intriguing times are ahead of them. Will this be the last year of Premier Division Football at the Belfield Bowl or will Martin Russell direct another masterclass and conjure up the great escape? Only time will tell.
SPORTS DIGEST Basketball UCD Marian have been experiencing a rather dramatic drop in form of late. The National Cup champions had a disappointing double-header weekend, losing to both Bord Gáis Neptune and Belfast Star, to put their playoff hopes in doubt. Since their miraculous victory in the cup final, when they beat 11890 Killester, the Students have struggled. They have dropped to third place in the Northern Conference and currently find themselves two games adrift of the second place DCU Saints, with a disappointing 8-11 record. DCU also have two games in hand. With only one game remaining for UCD Marian, the Students look set to miss the playoffs. What’s more, their next opponent is Killester, who have hit their stride and will no doubt be looking to enact their revenge for their shocking cup defeat when the sides meet in the Sports Centre this Saturday. Canoe Club The University’s canoe teams competed in the national intervarsities last week. They were well represented, with teams participating in whitewater, canoe polo, long distance and freestyle. Unfortunately, they only enjoyed modest success; exiting in the group stages and finishing in sixth place overall. The club enjoyed their best result in the whitewater discipline. The three-person team of Karen Vejsbjerg, Nuala McAuley and Matthew Enright finished in a respectable fourth place – behind UCC in first, runners up UL and only three seconds off DCU in third. The other big event, freestyle, was somewhat disappointing for UCD. The team, consisting of Matthew Enright, Simon Rowan, Nuala McAuley and Maryanne Doyle, placed fifth in a tough and strongly contested competition. UCC took gold in the event but, despite strong performances and excellent results across the board, could only finish second in the overall standings, with an impressive UL contingent taking gold. - Ryan Mackenzie
1 March 2011 THE UNIVERSITY OBSERVER
VOLUME xViI ISSUE 10
1st March 2011
FOLLOWING THE START OF THE CRICKET WORLD CUP, IRELAND’S PERFORMANCE AGAINST BANGLADESH IS ANALYSED.
THE BADGER GIVES HIS FORTNIGHTLY MUSINGS ON FOOTBALL AND OTHER THINGS SPORT-RELATED
WE ASSESS UCD’S CHANCES IN OUR AIRTRICITY LEAGUE PREVIEW
Students on course for unbeaten league campaign Collidge are aiming for a perfect season, and with only four games to go, that dream is fast becoming a reality, reports Gordon O’Callaghan UCD 40 – Ballymena 24
CD have continued their impressive unbeaten run with a comprehensive victory over Ballymena on February 26th. While not enjoying possession for most of the game, the team’s sturdiness and creativity limited Ballymena in their attempts to register tries. UCD’s gameplan from the beginning was to trust in their defence and soak up the Ballymena pressure, waiting patiently for the opportunity to counter-attack. This plan worked brilliantly in the first half with Ballymena enjoying supremacy in both possession and territory. The supremacy was so pronounced that it would not be an exaggeration to say that the only time UCD gained possession and territory, they scored. The first of these scores came through left-wing Tom Fletcher. UCD managed to turn the ball over inside their own 22, outhalf Niall Earls kicked ahead for Fletcher to chase, the winger’s superior pace showed as he beat the covering full back to the ball, collecting to go over in the corner. Earls added the extras to make 7-0. One of the criticisms aimed at UCD this season has been their lack of concentration after scoring. However, they seemed to remedy that problem as they continued to
soak up everything that Ballymena had to throw at them. UCD’s second try again came from a counter-attack, as this time right-winger Terry Jones intercepted a loose pass from Ballymena fly-half Martin Irwin on the opposition ten-metre line to cross over on the right. Earls failed with his second attempt and the score remained 12-0. The Students were the definition of clinical. With minimal possession and practically no territory, they had managed to score two tries. Ballymena began to panic and their decision-making suffered, choosing to kick for the corner when they should have gone for goal. These poor decisions were down to UCD challenging and disrupting the Ballymena lineout throughout the pitch. Collidge inflicted further misery on the visitors when they again manage to turn over the ball in the middle of the park. Earls, realising that his wingers had the defence beaten for pace, choose to chip ahead. Fletcher collected and crossed for his second of the game. He then added the extras to make it 19-0. The UCD defence had put in a memorable first-half display and made a huge number of tackles that were clearly taking their toll. Fatigue started to set in and – despite showing a complete lack of invention throughout the game – the visitors even-
tually crossed the try line. Martin Irwin added the extras to make the half time score 19-7. With the wind favouring Ballymena in the second half, the Students decided to change their gameplan and put greater focus on possession and territory. The benefits were seen within three minutes as full-back Michael Twomey crossed the line after a superb break from the base of the ruck by scrum-half Rob Shanley. This secured the bonus point for Collidge and with Earls adding the two points, UCD were out of sight at 26-7. The Students continued to have a certain amount of possession, although they did not enjoy the same level as their opponents. With this dominance, however, came the mistakes and UCD wasted a few scoring opportunities before Niall Earls added a penalty to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Luckily, the hosts were not be denied for long as flanker Shane Grannell picked from the base of a scrum and barged his way over the line for his side’s fifth try. Earls made it four from six with the conversion. Ballymena reacted well, though, as the UCD defence switched off, perhaps allowing old errors to creep in, and outside centre Ali Fraser broke the defensive line to cross over. Irwin rushed his kick and paid the price, as it went sailing wide.
Captain Andrew Cummiskey led his team on a counter charge by crossing the gain line to feed second-row Mark Flanagan, who showed a good step and avoided three defenders to touch down. Earls made it 40-12. UCD faded in the last quarter and the combination of fatigue and substitutions saw them ship late tries to Ballymena’s
flanker Andrew Kerr and full-back Roger McBurney. Despite the late slump, the Students can be proud of their performance and remain on track for an unbeaten league season. Their next fixture sees them travel to Corinthians – who currently lie in sixth place on the league table and 18 points behind leaders UCD – on March 5th.
UCD consolidated their position at the top of Division 2 of the Ulster Bank League with a win last Saturday. - Photographer Stephen Murphy
Chipping away at the leaderboard Despite the relatively modest success of Ireland’s golfers over the weekend, Stephen Devine suggests that this golden era for Irish golf will only get better
ith two Irish players situated within the top ten world golf rankings, it is a good time for Irish golf. Despite the current financial issues faced by many golf clubs around the country, the standard of players produced is still high enough to compete at the top level. In the past week, Graham McDowell has moved ahead of the legendary, but albeit out of form, Tiger Woods to take third spot in the rankings. The Portrush man reached the final 16 of the World Accenture Match play, eventually losing out to Yang Yong-eun of South Korea. It
marks the culmination of a great year for McDowell, as this time last year he was ranked 50th. The 2010 season saw him being the first Irishman ever to win the US Open at Pebble Beach, ending a 40-year drought for European players at the event. Following on from this, he was also part of the victorious European Ryder Cup team who reclaimed the trophy in October. It was, rather fittingly, McDowell who was left with the winning putt for the European side. At the tail end of last year he even beat Woods in the playoff of the Chevron World Challenge, the event which
Tiger himself hosts as part of his charity foundation. This result coupled with his poor performance in the last week has led to the American’s lowest ranking in 13 years. He is winless from the last 18 tournaments since the Australian Masters, in November of 2009. Woods lost his number one title to Lee Westwood on October 31st 2010, after holding the spot for 281 weeks straight. Many golf commentators have speculated that Woods may never again regain the top spot and that the troubles in his personal life over the past year have signalled the end of his career. However, it would be foolish how-
ever to write off someone with so much natural talent despite his prolonged drop in form. It was McDowell himself who summed it up best in the past week when he said: “I’m perhaps a better golfer than him over the last twelve months, but he’s definitely the greatest player that’s ever lived.” Speaking of natural talent, Rory McIlroy is only 21 and already people are questioning how long it will be until he wins a major. The Holywood native had a memorable 2010, securing his first PGA victory at the Quail Hollow Championship and setting a new course record in the process. Like McDowell, he too
was part of the victorious Ryder Cup team, describing it as the “best event in golf by far”. Despite these victories, commentators (and even Rory himself ) have pointed out that he is yet to reach his potential. Despite his poor performance in the past week, it promises to be a good year for McIlroy with much expected of him. He has recently hit out at criticism over his struggling short game, claiming that it is not the most important area of the game. However, if he can improve his putting, McIlroy will become the complete package and more success will certainly follow suit.