NCAD Student Union Launches Formal Action

NCAD Sit in - Thomas street - Credit NCAD Student Action                            NCAD Sit in – Thomas street – Credit NCAD Student Action

Students in NCAD have launched formal action against the directors board of the college, after it was revealed that cuts are being made to courses and the student union despite receiving substantial funding.

In an open letter from the NCAD student union, it details how certain courses within the college such as glass blowing have had essential equipment taken from them. “Broken equipment is not being repaired or replaced; instead, courses are being rewritten to avoid using equipment altogether,” the letter details. The letter gained attention online from students across Ireland, with a PDF version of the letter going viral on Facebook as it painted just how bad the situation in NCAD has become.

Known as one of Ireland’s most prestigious art colleges, the Thomas Street based college has been surrounded by controversy in recent months as it emerged that accounts to be filed by the college have been consecutively late by upwards of 20 months, so there is no firm knowledge on where the money is being spent by the college. In the last issue of The Liberty, we reported that NCAD received over €140 million in funding over a two year period, which the NCAD Student Action group have also remarked on, wondering where the finances have gone.

In February, half way through the academic year, the budget of the Student Union was slashed in half without warning, despite the union reaching out to director Declan McGonagle. Studios rented by the college for masters students and undergraduates on particular courses also reported how NCAD had not been paying rents, and they were on the verge of ending their contracts in mid-March before students stepped in to save them.

The NCAD Student Action group, which is in no way affiliated with the Student Union, has even gathered the signatures of 40 members of staff who are standing in solidarity with students who have held three sit-in protests in the college. The sit-ins were organised in order to demand information from the board of directors, with director Declan McGonagle set to speak at each one but pulling out shortly before he was due to speak at each one, causing outrage from students on social media, with RTÉ reporting that the students were at breaking point.

Declan McGonagle - St Catherine's Church - Credit NCAD Student Action                    Declan McGonagle – St Catherine’s Church – Credit NCAD Student Action

The sit in protests have been welcomed by the Union of Students, with the protest being formally recognised at the annual USI conference in Athlone last month, with a vote being passed by a majority from representatives from colleges all over Ireland.

McGonagle held a public address at St Catherine’s Church on Thomas Street where it was expected he would address the major issues outlined by NCAD Student Action, but it left much to be desired by the group of students that had gathered. He “neglected to address the issues of the students,” according to the Paper Visual Art journal, but ensured that he had the “wellbeing of NCAD in mind”.

NCAD’s student body has grown by more than a third in the last year, with many students blaming over-crowding for the reason behind the major cuts. “I’ve seen classes grow from 180 to 250 easily,” said an NCAD student who didn’t wish to be named. “I’ve been here for two years, and now it’s doubtful whether or not I’ll graduate at the end of my four year degree. I wanted to do a masters here as well, but by the looks of things, I won’t have a masters course to apply for,” she remarked, commenting on how Masters courses in the college are being drastically cut. A masters programme that was expected to launch at 2pm, was cancelled by 5pm the same day of launch.

At St Catherine’s, McGonagle stated that there was ‘already a variety of mechanisms for those with issues of concern,’ but failed to recognise that he would not directly address the issues raised by both students and the Action group. One of the main concerns raised was the introduction of a €15  doctors fee without the consultation of students, the student union or the doctor himself. “As a senior manager on a six-figure salary, it seems the director struggles to comprehend that this fee is prohibitively expensive,” said the Student Action group in a detailing of the issues that the student body have faced in recent months, with no sign of the conditions in the college improving before the end of this academic year.

An official vote organised by the Student’s Union on April 13 showed that 99.3% of NCAD students do not hold any firm believe in McGonagle’s position as director, saying he does not act in the student’s best interests, while a SIPTU vote amongst senior staff members lead to a unanimous vote of no confidence in the director and senior board of the college.

Protest and action against the board is still continuing, with students set to continue their resistance against the management of their college over the summer break, with NCAD as a college covered in posters stating that ‘The National College of Art and Design is a college, not a business”.

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