By Conor Brummell
I’m in my third year of college at NUI Galway, and currently out on placement in the Gaeltacht doing Erasmus through Irish. I consider Galway to be like a second home to me at this stage, and NUI Galway the hearty fire in the middle of that home. I’ve made friends for life there; I’ve joined the SIN writing team; I’ve had two different shows on Flirt FM, and I’ve learned so much about both myself and others throughout the last three years whilst attending the University. It’s a beautiful place to be – it’s scenic, lively and full of passion. I’ve been on campus at most three times this year, due to being on placement. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and that I can confirm is true. However, something I’ve realized from these three short trips is this: although a lot has changed since I was in first year, NUI Galway has very much stayed the same.
You see, the same problems that were in the University when I was in first year are still there today. It only takes a brief walk down campus to see where the improvements that have been talked about for years haven’t been made around campus. The Concourse is still barren of seating as people eat lunch on the cold orange tiles, as others push and crowd around whilst trying to go into lecture halls. The green area in the Bialann still closes early for clean-up, meaning there is even less seating on campus. Lockers remain dented and broken on the way down to the IT building; some without doors, others without locks and some that are full of stuff that looks like it has never been used nor never will be.
The bathrooms downstairs near the reading room have been out of order for as long as I can remember, despite being some of the nicest looking bathrooms on campus. Other bathrooms, such as the ones in the Library remain bleak and downtrodden, floors and ceilings stained as if they haven’t seen a lick of paint in years. The bathrooms in the Arts Millennium Building are worse than I remember with graffiti on the condom machine and sinks that are crusted and dirty looking. Caifé na Gaeilge was also shut down, limiting, once again, the social spaces on campus for students, especially Irish students who have no place to comfortably speak the language and receive services through that language around the college.
Parking on campus is also a bane of many students’ and I’m sure staff members’ lives. There is such a lack of parking that most people decide to park at Dangan and walk into college instead of driving around for an age to get a space. There are broken seats in lecture halls, too, so even if you were lucky enough to get a parking space first time around, you mightn’t get a seat in a lecture seat either if it’s too full. The library was also granted money for improvements last year, and they installed plugs, but not much else seems to have been done. I recently saw at a tweet to the Library asking them to turn off the air conditioning (at the end of September) and turn on the heat. I’ve heard reports since the library is actually too warm nowadays, bringing forth the question of simple moderation. Membership for the Kingfisher Sports Centre for NUI Galway students remains at €250, despite much discussion throughout the years about fighting to lower it.
Yet, when I walked through campus, I realized many things. The Arts Millennium Building has been given a brand-new television studio, for journalism and cumarsáid courses to make use of. This is a brilliant asset and I’m delighted, but the taste is bittersweet. Not near as bittersweet as the fact that instead of making much-needed improvements around college, the college has prioritized the Quadrangle’s structural integrity and has spent nearly four months on refurbishing the stone walls. I’ve never been in the Quadrangle’s actual building, and the fact that my fees are going towards its upkeep is outrageous when I can’t even find a seat on campus to sit on. The bottom line, unfortunately, is that you wouldn’t place a furniture suite that costs four grand into your sitting room at home without painting the walls, so why are we building up a structure that is not of use to our students whilst we disregard the basics?