Semester one is in full swing, we are four weeks in, and getting adjusted to campus life again. This is an exciting time and we welcome all the new first years and new developments, like Subway opening in John Hume and new Education building. However. many students mourn the passing of what was once an essential facility on campus, the Bunker.
Outside the Arts block to the right, across from the Eloas building there is a level ground of pavement where the prefab “The Bunker “once stood. This was given by the SU in 2005, and was introduced by former President of Maynooth University John Hughes. It was a tea/coffee space for Mature students.
Over the years after it became a second handbook store, this ended in 2013 and became a full space for Mature students. The Student’s Union managed it until 2014/15 when the Mature society took over management of the building through the society’s membership. They introduced an “honesty box” which was the kitty for items such as milk, tea, sugar coffee. While it was managed by the Mature society, the door was open for any student.
It is common knowledge that 62% of our student population is commuters. The bunker was consistently used by commuters. It was also a place that was specifically helpful for students with dietary issues which made up approximately 10-15% of those who used the Bunker daily. Overall it’s facilities were used by students about three times a day. The Bunker featured a microwave, kettle, washing machine, and Harvey Norman couches.
The Bunker served as several things: it was an excellent spot to nap on those long tiring days of college when you just wanted an hour to chill, a comfortable place to kill time when Mature students with children were waiting to pick them up at the Crèche on campus, and a service for commuters, especially since eating on campus every can be extremely costly. It also served as a place for several societies. The Omega society had their own library where they had all their DVDs, comics, manga and anime stored. As well as a meeting space for societies when the SU meeting rooms were full. The mature society also used it to help students, for example during exams last on a Saturday they gave out free BLT sandwiches and hot dogs. Some birthdays of students were even celebrated there. Yes, the Bunker had a special place in students hearts on this campus.
One graduate student had this to say on the Bunker “I just wanted to say that I didn’t really get around to using the Bunker until my final year, which is a pity, because it definitely became home base on campus for my friends and I for a while. It was like North campus’s best-kept secret.” Unfortunately, this home base was knocked down over the summer. The prefab was old and damaged with several serious maintenance issues.
Mature Student Rep Maryann Thunder admitted “The Bunker had to go, the prefab the bunker was in had to go”. However, while it was agreed the prefab was no longer sufficient. Students became concerned when they learned that there was no immediate replacement to be put in place once the Bunker was knocked down by the University . This echoes the same type of issue among students when the campus pool was closed down, without an immediate replacement in mind for the students that used it. The Mature students attempted a petition which they had 187 sign ups in only two days. In April they sent a heartfelt letters to President Philip Nolan, begging to reconsider keeping the Bunker. One student admitted to having a two hour commute in the morning and the Bunker was the only place they could go to heat up their premade meals from home.
In Nolan’s response to the letters he stated that “the University as a matter of policy, is always very reluctant to provide such dedicated spaces and facilities”. He believed that the bunker was counter to the University encouragement of “students of diverse circumstances and backgrounds to learn, live and socialise together, rather than reinforcing distinctions and divisions by providing separate social spaces”.
Thunder responded to this that “The letter that we received from President Philip Nolan had lost the meaning of what the Bunker was, it was a fully integrated space”.
Gerry Martin, current Chair of the Mature society stated “The Bunker was for everyone matures and non matures. The facilities of tea and coffee making together with microwaves was used by everyone. There is so many things I can say about the bunker all of them very good…. so many friends I met have met there…… and so many laughs” .
Eoin Hoey Omega Convention Director stated that since the demolition the omega “library is now homeless”.
The loss of the Bunker is a passing felt by many students. You may walked passed the funereal service that was held on Wednesday the 21st of September at what is now being referred to as “Bunker Ground Zero” as a form of protest to the university.
Since first semester started many questions have been asked by students; where they can heat up their lunches? Where can mature students go to relax? Where can you make your own cup of tea? The Common Room was rumoured to become a temporary Bunker replacement.
On October 6th an online petition to have microwaves on campus was made. It reached over 500 signatures in one day. Efforts were to help the situation were already being made by members of the SU since last May. This goal was achieved, as of this week there will be 4 microwaves in the common room, along with the water boiler and fridge. There will be a Common Room committee of students who will manage it by the hour.
Despite the Loss of the Bunker there is a happy ending with having some of it’s facilities in the common room.
Still we at MU Times want to find out what University thinks is the immediate replacement. We have contacted both President Dillion Grace of the MSU and President Philip Nolan on the matter to see if there are any plans to in place to help rectify the situation further. We are still waiting on a response.
For now enjoy the new microwaves and other facilities in the Common Room.