Maynooth Students’ Union ‘WheresmyLevy’ protest shows that people power works 

Christine O’Mahony 

Students were outraged when Maynooth University announced that construction on a new student centre project had been terminated on 26 September

Maynooth University claimed that this was due to the rising costs linked to technical construction issues. 

Maynooth University promised the building of the first new student centre since 2015 and asked all students to pay €150 a year student levy to pay towards the student centre and student facilities. While the student levy had been in place since 1992, students agreed with the raising of the levy to €150 in the hopes that a student centre would be built. 

Maynooth Students’ Union condemned the announcement, saying “we work in partnership with the University at all levels to deliver the best facilities for students. However, while we understand the difficulties faced by the project it is important to state that we did not support this decision and dissented from it at every forum where we are a member”. 

On the 6th of October, Maynooth Students’ Union, organised a walkout after listening to the concerns of students, alumni, and staff. Their demands were 

1)Maynooth University must publicly state their commitment to delivering a student centre, and ensure its prioritisation over other capital developments on campus 

2) The Student Levy must be frozen, with no increases to the charge for a period of at least 5 academic years beginning in 2023-24

3) Maynooth University must be transparent in its communication as to how the student levy is being used, prove their commitment to joint oversight of the fund, and work in good faith with Maynooth Students’ Union and the students of Maynooth to regain their trust 

While students walked out of their lectures at 11:11am, Maynooth Students’ Union also launched their petition with many staff members also joining the protest. Despite a big turnout, there was still no response from the University. Alongside this, many students and SU officers took to social media to show that there was a lack of car parking spaces, and many had to work on their casework in their car. Maynooth University Student, Liam Kennedy, said, “I thought it was disgraceful that the University weren’t transparent to us about what they were doing with our money, it kind of reflected what they see us as”. 

A former Maynooth University student Eleanor Smith, said “it is incredibly frustrating to see Maynooth University basically steal €450-600 from each student for the last 7 years. As a former student, I paid €600 to Maynooth so they could build this student centre to improve the student experience even though I would not get to use it as someone who graduated before it was planned to be built. Maynooth has taken so much away from students over the past few years to make room for a student population they cannot accommodate. To see this happen, is unfortunately unsurprising and deeply upsetting”. 

On 25 October, Maynooth Students’ Union organised a march from the John Hume Building to Riverstown, where the President of Maynooth University stays. Thousands of students marched, and were joined by the Union of Students Ireland, TU Dublin SU, DCU SU, Alumni and Staff. The petition was handed to a staff member in Riverstown, but MSU President, Niall Daly, revealed that Maynooth University President, Eeva Leinonen was not present, and was instead at a book launch about the housing crisis. 

Current students have complained that Maynooth University has a habit of accepting many CAO places, but there is no room to house these students nor is there room in the college itself for these students to study or spend free time. 

On the 11th of November, Maynooth Students’ Union announced that Maynooth University responded to and made significant and welcome progress in meeting the demands of its’ students in the #WheresMyLevy campaign. Maynooth University Governing Authority committed to the formation of a Student Facilities Project Action Group, which will provide recommendations on the development of student facilities, including a Student Centre, in the short and long term. 

The President and Bursar of Maynooth University have also both affirmed that the initial plan to increase the student levy by 2% per academic year starting in 2023-2024 will no longer happen. Lastly, the Bursar of Maynooth University has made several commitments to Maynooth University’s Governing Authority and Maynooth Students’ Union regarding the transparency and joint oversight of the student levy fund. 

Maynooth Students’ Union told members that they “reaffirm our commitment to you that we will continue to work to deliver much needed student facilities for our members and the critically important student centre”. 

USI VP for Academic Affairs, Clodagh McGivern told us, “I congratulate all of the officers in Maynooth Students’ Union and all of the students that were involved in the #WheresMyLevy campaign. It was amazing to be present on campus the days that the protests were on, collecting all the signatures and informing people about the campaign.”

“I think the importance of the campaign shows that there needs to be serious oversight into how third level institutions collect students’ money, especially when it is in the form of students’ levies. Whenever students do vote for that in referendums that may take place on their campuses, it is essential that the institutions follow through with those commitments.” 

Maynooth Students’ Union VP for Welfare and Equality, Kealan Hilley: “Before we were notified by Governing Authority that the student centre had been cancelled, we assumed that we would have had to escalate a great deal further before the University would adhere to its commitments but now we have gratitude and relief that the university will commit to something, that both students and alumni have redirected money to for the past several years. We are equally grateful that WheresMyLevy as a collective campaign and as collective action was also an outlet for the aims and an outlet for student disillusionment and solidarity” 

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