The incidents that occurred at the Accounting and Finance AGM at the beginning of this semester disappointed students and staff at DCU, but can anyone really say they were surprised?
First, let’s consider the viewpoint that what happened was an abuse of power. Yes, the young people who were running to be first year representatives were conscious of what they were doing and had the chance to back out of the ridiculous tasks they were faced with. However, these were likely 17 or 18 year olds with very little experience of college so far. They could easily believe these kinds of things happen all the time and pressure themselves to go along with it in order to be socially accepted, to be included in the pack. The role of first year rep also vastly increases a person’s chance of being part of a society’s committee for the rest of their university years.
Not only was there the social prize of inclusion, but there was a physical reward to complete these tasks of a €160 Mystery Tour ticket. “They were basically jumping on top of people, they didn’t seem to really want to do it.” said A&F student, Charlie Kinsella, who ran for first year rep at both EGMs as reported by The College View. Alongside this, there was a room full of tipsy young adults cheering on the competitors, a committee of experienced society members setting the tasks and the SU Vice President for Engagement & Development who previously chaired A&F, silently observing the mayhem. You can imagine the pressure.
The process that these first years went through strongly resembles a tradition known as hazing that is used to test the commitment of new members of a fraternity. It’s something that a lot of young people are familiar with through American TV shows, where college fraternities put young students through ridiculous trials to get in or be accepted. Hazing had caused 40 deaths in the US in the decade before 2017 according to an article in the Economist. It’s also something that isn’t as far away from Irish culture as we may think.
In 2017, Rosita Boland for The Irish Times wrote about the secret fraternity in Trinity that has been in existence since 2012. Theta Omicron is a chapter if the international organisation Zeta Psi and was mostly unheard of in the University until the story broke. It is the only fraternity in Ireland so far that is publicly know, but shows how Ireland is heavily influenced by American culture.
However, this culture of abuse of power is not something new in Ireland. We know that the Catholic Church has been abusing its power over people in Ireland since the creation of our 1937 constitution. The sexual abuse scandals and the Magdalene laundries are prime examples of how Irish people knowingly allowed people in power to do as they pleased.
It is clear that Ireland is no stranger to the abuse of power and A&F have now taken their place on that long, long list of the abusers of power throughout history.