Maynooth University students are to stage a walk-out of lectures this morning in response to the decision to abandon the construction of a new student centre.
The university decided not to proceed with the centre due to spiralling construction costs, despite students saying they have been paying an increased levy since 2015 to fund the project.
Maynooth Students’ Union President Niall Daly told thethat the referendum in 2015 to increase the levy incrementally — from €112 in 2015 to €150 in 2018 — was contingent on funding three main projects, including the new student centre. However, the university has disputed the union's claim.
In a statement, the university said: “When the students endorsed the levy rising to its current €150 a year, it was not contingent upon this specific student centre project.” 7
In response, the Students’ Union said: “The university’s claim that the levy was not contingent upon a Student Centre project is disingenuous and misleading.
"The University gave several guarantees as to what would be funded by the levy in order that MSU would be able to support the recommendation of a levy referendum to the student body, one of which was a new Student Centre.”
Written communication by Maynooth University to Maynooth Students’ Union seen by theappears to show an agreement that the funds collected from the levy were to specifically fund several projects including the new student centre.
In one letter from 2015, which started by reiterating guarantees already given to the Students’ Union, ahead of the planned levy increase, a former university president wrote: “The University and the Students’ Union agree that the purpose of the levy is to fund a specific set of projects.”
The former university president stated that the levy increase was to fund the envisaged new student centre among two other primary projects which were then listed.
Of the three main projects outlined in the letter, the first noted was in relation to the new student centre. It read: “A new student centre in a central and prominent campus location to provide accommodation for Maynooth’s Students’ Union, Clubs and Societies, a wide variety of leisure and entertainment facilities including a new bar and venue.”
A copy of referendum promotional material from 2015 which was agreed upon between a former President of Maynooth University and a former President of Maynooth Students’ Union was also seen and stated that if the levy was to increase to its current amount, Maynooth University will provide a “state of the art SU run student centre.”
The university responded that they have no further comment at this time.
Today's walk-out is expected to see a large turnout, with Mr Daly saying they also have the support of some lecturers.
In addition to calling for a statement of commitment to delivering the student centre, the Union is also calling for the student levy to be frozen, with no further increases over the next five years.
They are also calling for transparent communication as to how to levy is being used by the university.