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AS a member of FEE (Free Education for Everyone) in Maynooth, and as a concerned student, I would like to respond to Ryle Dwyer’s column headlined ‘Did highly paid academics object because Bertie would do it for free?’ (November 28).
This question is clearly trying implicitly to ascribe some cynical ulterior motive to the opposition to Bertie Ahern’s appointment as honorary professor. However, when one dissects it, this position makes no sense.
Clearly, academics are not motivated by self-interested concern for their pay, as the handful of lectures Mr Ahern will be giving will have no effect whatsoever on the pay or conditions of academic staff.
Nor can it be an expression of opposition to the concept of an unpaid lecturing post, since the concept of an honorary professorship is commonplace in universities across the world – Maynooth included. One imagines the purpose of such a question was to get the phrase “highly paid” into the column, presumably on the basis that if you can charaterise your opposition as overpaid you win, which is facile at best. The fact of the matter is that students and lecturers are united in taking a principled stand against an appointment which we find morally offensive. The policies enacted by Mr Ahern during his time as Taoiseach directly precipitated the economic crisis which is currently crippling our country.
Furthermore, as a sitting Fianna Fáil TD, Bertie Ahern is part of a government which imposes cutbacks in education and other vital public services, as well as the pension levy which attacks the living standards of students and our families.
To welcome him into an institution which he is an active part of attacking makes no sense. In addition, the substantial ambiguity surrounding Mr Ahern’s personal finances and his inability to give consistent answers when pressed by journalists on the issue have profound implications which cannot be dismissed or ignored.
Ryle Dwyer also claimed the decision of academic staff to strike was “in defence of their privileged positions”. This is factually inaccurate. University staff were on strike in opposition to cuts being made across the public service. They stood in solidarity with students, bus drivers, nurses, firefighters and others who are facing savage incursions on their living standards. To project the strike as having been solely self-interested is disingenuous at best.
Finally I would just like to clarify something Ryle Dwyer failed to pick up on during his exhaustive research: the petition with 1,000 student signatories was initiated by students, not by staff. This is because there is substantial and justifiable anger felt throughout the student body (as well as among staff) at this appointment.
Prof John Hughes’s decision to ignore the views of concerned students and staff is wrong and should be reversed.
FEE (Free Education for Everyone)
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