Deconsecrating the constitution

 
 

With the SU constitution set for an overhaul, Emily Mullen explores what changes the Constitutional Review Committee are considering.

In his election manifesto, current Students’ Union (SU) President Pat de Brún promised that overhauling the SU constitution would be a priority. Now in office, he chairs a review committee tasked with creating an entirely new document. The current constitution has been a source of discord for many union members who argue that its technicalities are too
The SU are mandated to review the constitution every five years but de Brún chose to do so during his period in office, just three years after it was last reviewed. The review involves not only revaluating the student body’s opinion of the SU, but exposing the positions held by many in the union to scrutiny. Brendan Lannoye, a fellow Review Committee member and a candidate in last year’s presidential election, believes that “it is the willingness of the current SU President to propose such a new constitution that will cause change”. The committee has placed strong emphasis on collecting ideas from a wide a range of sources, and de Brún states that they have received feedback “from every sports club, from ten years of the past sabbatical officers and from all the students.” However, Lannoye does add that the committee have not yet looked at these replies but remains hopeful that “a lot of new ideas will come to the table”.specific and restrictive, while de Brún maintains that the current document fails “to represent our students in all walks of student life.” It is hoped that the proposed new document will rectify the presently overlooked members of the university, as well as review the SU.

With the role of the SU constantly shifting, the main area where de Brún and Lannoye highlight the need for change is the system of representation. De Brún asserts that the old constitution served its purpose but feels that it was directed towards a very different university, a university “geared towards traditional students which would be young, Irish, male”. He continues by saying that the number of mature, post-graduate and international students are increasing and he does not feel that these groups “ are well represented”. His sentiments are echoed by Lannoye, who feels that “parts of the current constitution just don’t make sense for the modern student and the modern SU” and can lead to some students feeling “decisions are made above my head so the [SU] doesn’t matter”.

De Brún believes that “there could be a person in each of those courses who really wants to represent their class and they actually can’t under the current constitution”. This increase in reps will involve a new system being put in place that will expand the number of class reps and break up some of the larger constituencies. “We’ve a really strict quota for class reps for elections but there’s one rep for languages, literature and music when there could be a person in each of those courses who really wants to represent their class,” de Brún adds. Though the expansion of the Class Reps system is likely to increase financial burdens and may not be universally popular, Lannoye believes it is a positive move, commenting that he “would rather have far too many voices and students feeling included, rather than the alternative”.

From the outside, it may appear unnecessary to revamp the entire document and de Brún does agree that, despite having “plenty” of weaknesses, “the [current] constitution is in many ways fine.” Lannoye suggests that the introduction of an entirely new constitution is also a technical issue. He explains that many of the “big changes” the committee hopes to make will have ramifications in other areas of the constitution which means it’s easier to introduce an entirely new document rather than a raft of smaller amendments that could lead to an overly complicated document.

Nevertheless it must be asked if this constitution will be as groundbreaking as we are led to believe.   Until this document is presented, this question cannot be answered conclusively. Nonetheless, de Brún maintains that at the end of the day our core principles are will always remain the same … those things I don’t see changing but it’s just how we go about it and how we do it better.” Lannoye, likewise, seems confident that the committee will produce a document that will be “vastly different from the last one”. More conclusive answers will have to wait until the new document is presented to the SU council on the 19th of January.

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