Last week it was announced that an investigation was launched into Trinity's college Newspapers, The University Times, after an alleged bugging of an initiation ceremony involving an all-male student society, the Knights of the Campanile.
The newspaper published a story detailing the initiation ceremony that took place in the elite society's room on campus. It is reported that unethical reporting practices were used to obtain the information for this story. The two journalists involved in the reporting left a recording device outside the door where the alleged hazing was taking place.
Following this controversy, a petition was launched by Trinity students to remove the funding for the University Times Editor’s salary and accommodation from the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) constitution following the incident. The referendum will allow Trinity students to decide whether to cut funding for the campus newspaper is as a result of this petition which got over 500 signatures.
A statement from the Students' Union President, Shane De Rís, states the following:
A referendum on the amendment of Chapter 10: The University Times of the TCDSU Constitution has been triggered by the collection of 500 student signatures. This cannot, under any circumstances, be recalled and any suggestions to do so are wholly anti-democratic.
The question will be "Do you agree with the changes to Chapter 10 of the TCDSU Constitution?". The proposed changes will be made available at polling stations and online along with independent information compiled solely by the Electoral Commission, and approved by legal advice. The election will be subject to Schedule Three of the TCDSU Constitution.
According to The Irish Times, the petition in question called for the funding of the University Times- which is financially supported by the students’ union – to be cut to €3,000, the current equivalent of a single issue of the newspaper.
The University Times stand-by the article, stating that the story was in "public interest". Speaking to The Irish Independent about the upcoming referendum, Eleanor O'Mahony the editor of the The University Times, stated that she was "obviously gutted" but will "continue to stand up for the paper and for journalism". She also warned that if the referendum passed "it would basically abolish the newspaper".