A group called Freedom of Choice Coalition UCD (FOCC) have launched a petition to change conditions surrounding UCD students’ membership of UCDSU.
Currently, UCD students automatically become members of UCDSU when they are registered students of UCD. Students can opt out of union membership by writing a formal letter to the UCDSU President, who would then reply with a formal letter informing the student that they are no longer a member of UCDSU, but can still avail of the support systems and services provided by the SU.
The petition launched by FOCC calls for a referendum to change to the SU constitution such that students can choose to be members of UCDSU by providing “written consent.” Additionally, the group want an amendment to the constitution to provide instruction for details of how a student can terminate union membership.
Speaking to the University Observer, group member Charles Crowley explained: “The main reason for starting this coalition is essentially choice, individuals being able to choose to be part of something that works for them. It’s an incentive for the union to work for you.”
“Quite clearly this year [UCDSU] has been a farce…In terms of what it’s achieved. Granted the Union has done some good things, but recently it hasn’t achieved any of its real goals.”
Discussing the current procedure for opting out of union membership, Crowley believes the procedure is not clear enough to students. It is “not clearly defined by union documents so we’re just trying to give a bit more definition to it, to give students the choice.”
The importance of student’s unions in providing representation for students is outline in the Universities Act of 1997. In accordance with this legal ruling, UCD Students’ Union receives funding from the Irish government and the Student Contribution Charge, which is paid by students themselves. The contribution charge is paid to the state and provided to universities through defined channels, with certain amounts allocated towards different areas of the universities.
Crowley says that the FOCC hopes to see students being reimbursed. “Hopefully the union will repatriate the students who do not want to pay for them and do not want to contribute towards [the union].”
The group have not shown their petition to the Returning Officer of UCDSU, but they “can’t foresee any issues with it. What we have done is [received] personal advice from UCD students and professionals… Once we have the necessary signatures we shall bring it to the Returning Officer.”
At the end of the day, Crowley says the group “want to reform the union and make it work for students: For students, by students.”
The group will be collecting signatures around UCD campus during the week.