The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) affiliation referendum is set to take place on the 20th and 21st of February, and possibly running till the morning of the 22nd for some of the outlying faculties. The SU had intended to hold the referendum the previous week, on February 13th and 14th, with this move marking the second time this referendum has been postponed. It was originally due to take place in November 2012.
In order to run the referendum in week four, the SU had to turn in over 800 signatures of support to the returning office by 5pm on January 30th. There was a complication in this process, with UCDSU Campaigns and Communications Officer Paddy Guiney explaining that he “collected 805 signatures from students, and handed them into the Returning Officer. The following day the Returning Officer officially rejected the signatures, the reason being because of instead of putting ‘Stage’ on the paper, we put ‘Course’ so the signatures were invalid. Our options were to collect another 800 signatures by 11pm that evening. That wasn’t realistic, it was 8pm that night [at that stage].” A further 800 signatures had to be collected in order to run the referendum in week five.
The referendum will deal with whether the UCD Students Union (UCDSU) will remain an affiliate of the national student lobbying group. UCDSU President Rachel Breslin stated the importance of the referendum: “When I was running for election, I thought that it was important that students in UCD that hadn’t had a vote on USI in my time… particularly as it has been such a contentious issue over the last 24 months with the various national campaigns and differing views on those.”
One of the major talking points of UCDSU’s relationship with the USI is the yearly membership fee, which Breslin says is “such a significant amount of our expenditure; around €110,000-120,000 all-in membership every year goes to the USI, and as a Students’ Union, we are reviewing all other areas of our financial situation. I think it’s important that we review USI and the expenditure that that accounts for.”
No official stance will be taken by the UCDSU in terms of the referendum, as Breslin explains: “I’m putting something to a referendum and asking all students. I think it would be an undue influence as the chief spokesperson to give their opinion, so I welcome the discussion and the debate and I think that it will be a really useful process, no matter what the outcome, to hear the different arguments, to see which arguments resonate with students.”
Representatives from the student body will take the stance of the yes or no sides, with nominations being considered on Tuesday February 5th. Breslin stated in regard to those chosen to canvas: “They are free to canvas as long as they have permission to be on campus, and they do so in a way that doesn’t interfere with the rulings of the University”.