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Last night: broadsheet on the Telly Tonight
From top: last night’s RTÉ Investigates featuring Former UL president Don Barry ; Aengus Ó Maoláin
Further to revelations broadcast last night by RTÉ Investigates about lack of oversight and accountability in publicly funded universities and colleges in Ireland…
Aengus Ó Maoláin writes:
Last night, higher education institutions were exposed as misusing public money for years, all the while insisting that they were broke, and that students must pay more.
A change in culture, and consequences must follow.
For the ten years I have been working for equality of access to higher education, the Irish university’s representative body has stood in our way.
Expressing the greatest sympathy for our calls, but regretfully insisting that the universities are so strapped for cash that they must call for higher and higher tuition fees. Year on year, that call has been answered by government, and Irish students now pay the second highest fees in Europe.
Strangely enough, in most other countries the universities don’t do that.
Those fees make up one part of university’s funding, the other significant part is direct funding from the Department of Education, through the Higher Education Authority – in other words, taxpayers’ money.
The universities have come crying to government time and again with their begging bowls in hand, on bended knee insisting that the solution to all their financial problems is for the students to cough up more. In other countries, the institutions lobby for more cash from the department, rather than fees.
It was an open secret when I was in the student movement that universities have a mostly free hand to spend their budgets how they will, but that open secret was blown open by RTÉ Investigates last night.
When any body is allowed to become a private fiefdom, corruption is inevitable, and so it is with the higher education system.
The bare-faced nature of crying out for higher student fees, all the while wantonly wasting the money already granted by the state is offensive.
Like Social democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said on the programme last night, I am not disappointed by this, I am actually angry about it.
I served on the governing authority of Maynooth University several years ago, as president of the students’ union. There was at that time a great deal of trust in the financial management of the university’s accounts, and the authority’s audit committee had the full confidence of the body.
I wonder now what we might have missed. I recall clearly a frustration that we never received training on financial oversight, or our corporate governance obligations – but, sure, why would you bother spending that time or money on students?
Now when I see the sums being misspent in the institutions investigated it infuriates me that so much was diverted away from the universities’ core missions – education and research. Remember, this is our money.
Professor Don Barry of the University of Limerick treated the public accounts committee with absolute disdain. His attitude was deplorable – how dare these politicians pry into my financial affairs – but it’s not his money, it is ours.
NUI Galway’s Professor James Browne also refused, point blank, to discuss the financial management of its foundation, insisting that that little pot of money was no business of the people we have elected to make sure our money is being used for the right purposes.
The governing authorities of all the institutions have to be called into question now. The backhander of jewellery bought at Tadhg Kearney’s shop by UL is astonishing, as no conflict of interest was declared, and worse, that he was told he wouldn’t need to declare it despite being a member of the authority himself.
Universities do need a certain level of autonomy, if you examine higher education systems where that autonomy has been badly eroded (Turkey springs to mind) it is clear why. Research and teaching curriculum must be free from political interference, lest we go down a road towards indoctrination over education.
But, when that autonomy is abused, as has been the case here, there is a time to get involved.
Whistle blowers suspended and dismissed, treated with contempt; Executives approving their own expenses; External contracts signed with internal buddies of the management team – this is the sort of thing we got so angry about when it was exposed in the banking system.
There is to be an independent review of UL’s governance, HR and financial practices. I welcome that, of course, but what is needed is a change in culture. Corruption festers, and like a bad apple, spreads to the rest of the batch. We cannot allow universities to continue deceiving us, and misusing our money without consequences.
Our call for an independent anti-corruption agency was opposed by Fine Gael last year, but it is crystal clear to me that something more needs to be done.
Catherine Murphy’s final remarks on the RTÉ programme last night resonate powerfully “There needs to be consequences, or you won’t change behaviour.”
Aengus Ó Maoláin is chair of the Dublin West Social Democrats and local area representative for Castleknock and Blanchardstown.
Watch RTÉ Investigates Universities Unchallenged here
Top pic: RTÉ
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Previously: Broadsheet on the Telly on Broadsheet
Mudhoney (top) the happy grungsters
Last week, with a tasty voucher worth 25 big ones to spend at any of the 14 Golden Discs stores nationwide on offer, we asked you to name the most defining song of the grunge era.
You entered in your dozens.
But there could be only one winner/loser, baby.
In reverse order
Alice in Chains – Rooster
The most outstanding song of the Grunge genre is undoubtedly Alice in Chains’ “Rooster” because the subject is treated with a gentle reverence with the choruses rising to an intense roar. (It’s a brilliant tribute to Cantrell’s Dad)…
Soundgarden – The Day I Tried To Live
Michael Holland writes:
The most outstanding song of the Grunge genre is undoubtedly The Day I Tried To Live because it sums up excellently the depressing cloud overshadowing the grunge scene and how a lot of us feel from day to day and just push on. R.I.P Chris Cornell
Melvins- Honey Bucket
Deadly Calzone writes:
The most outstanding song of the Grunge genre is undoubtedly ‘Honey Bucket’ by Melvins because King Buzzo is a god (Kurt Cobain also co-produced). The video is also absolutely hilarious…
Soundgarden – My Wave
My Wave from album Superunknown was the song I practiced to learn how to play in 5/4 time. Soundgarden’s music meant so much emotionally to loads of different people but to me, they were exquisite musical technicians. they were the ‘bar’ when I was starting out getting halfway decent on drums. Chris Cornell, as well as being an absolutely savage singer was also a criminally under-rated guitarist.
Mudhoney – I’m Spun
I was too young, rural and uncool to see the 91/92 Nirvana (Sonic Youth) gigs but after a lot of negotiation with the mother it was agreed for my 17th birthday I could have a trip up the country and a ticket to their RDS gig. Like so many others here those few years were absolutely central to developing my musical tastes and my attitudes and ideas of the world.
Obviously that gig never happened (so my 1st concert experience was instead Feile ’94 which just blew my mind). After I finished my LC that year I took what is now referred to as a gap year. I lived in a chambre de bonne in Paris and had an absolutely incredible time.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning at about 7am my neighbour used to blare Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You, waking me and adding to my hangover damage. In return I would lean across and press play on my cassette player and reply with the song I had ready and queued up for her; Mudhoney’s I’m Spun.
Over that year I got to see Mudhoney, STP, Beck, Foo Fighters and others live and as now 40 year old it’s impossible for me to hear many of the songs from that period without a shock of nostalgia. I cannot be objective at all to say what is the best of the time but for the purpose of this exercise; The most outstanding song of the Grunge genre is undoubtedly I’m Spun by Mudhoney because nostalgia is a hell of a drug…
Last week: And The Band Plaid On