With tensions running high in UCD Students’ Union after Kimberley Foy’s resignation and allegations made against Paddy Ryan, Bridget Fitzsimons asks why the SU is not attempting better relations
It has been difficult to ignore the recent fractions within the Students’ Union. The Union’s Postgraduate Officer, Kimberley Foy, has felt the need to step down from her role, after a motion of no confidence in her was raised by her SU sabbatical colleagues at Union Council.
Issues arose when Foy failed to seek election to the postgraduate seat on Governing Authority, as she is mandated to do by the SU constitution. However, citing a heavy workload between her academic programme, her UCDSU position and her job as Environmental Officer with the Union of Students in Ireland, Foy maintains that she had asked the SU Campaigns & Communications Officer, Paddy Ryan, to keep her informed on the matter, a matter Ryan concedes he may have forgotten.
Questions have also been asked of Ryan’s ability to carry out his duties. In advance of a recent protest at Wicklow County Council, class reps reported only being made aware of the event, and being asked to attend, late the previous evening. It has also been reported, though since denied, that Executive Officers have met to discuss asking Ryan for his resignation. With this level of infighting and problems within the SU, shouldn’t students ask for a better and more cohesive service?
UCDSU has seen great progress this year, with more class reps than ever and the defeat for now of third-level fees. However it seems as if, at ground level, basic student needs are not being met, especially from a campaigning point of view. Surely for a protest to be successful, the vast majority of class reps must attend, as well as encouraging other students to accompany them.
When a Campaigns & Communications Officer decides that sixteen hours’ notice is enough for a student to drop everything and attend a protest that has been planned for days, something is very wrong. Students must question whether those they elected are, in fact, doing the jobs they are mandated to do. When organisation of protests is so obviously haphazard and sloppy so far into the sabbatical officers’ terms, something has to change, either in work performance or in the people filling the roles.
Similarly, it seems as if communication has broken down within the SU itself. Foy’s case only serves to highlight this. Her work within the SU, her role in USI, and her postgraduate programme undoubtedly made for a busy schedule, and it cannot be said that she was wrong in asking Ryan, whose position is his full-time job, to help her. Foy expressed shock at the fact that no one had spoken to her prior to the motion and it is not hard to see why. In a mature and official society, officers and colleagues speak to one another and raise problems and issues in a calm manner.
It is not too much for students to expect their representatives to work with each other in a professional manner, so as to ensure the SU provides the best representation and service for its members. Communication and help must be available to all officers within the SU, especially from the sabbatical officers whose job it is to serve students, and to further the Union and its causes.
Witch-hunting and bullying cannot be condoned, but if an officer is not doing their job, it is in the best interest of the students for them to be removed. Students must be vigilant to make sure that their SU does not allow inept people to remain in office simply due to camaraderie on the Union corridor. The Students’ Union is not, and should not be, somewhere for overgrown students to wait out their UCD tenure and avoid graduation. It is a place where students can go for representation and help; for people who want to affect change.
It is our Union; we pay the wages of these sabbatical officers, and we are completely within our rights to stand up and demand a high standard of support and representation. We cannot allow infighting and petty politics to stand in the way of the work a students’ union is supposed to do.