Concerns about the abolishment of the university’s student media outlets have been raised by prominent figures in national journalism.
The motion, which was put forward at Students’ Union (SU) council on February 8th, proposes to remove Article 16 of the UCDSU Constitution, which guarantees the running and production of student media outlets within the university. If the referendum is passed, it would mean that various student media outlets on campus would cease to exist.
Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Seamus Dooley, expressed his disappointment at the news and felt that it would have serious repercussions if it went ahead.
“I would think that this could be a blow to media diversity and I think that a lot more thought would have to go into the proposal,” said Dooley. “I think that a referendum in the absence of wider consultation [is wrong] and also I would want to see the wording and very strong assurances. That you cannot have is a situation where the existence of diverse student media is dependent [on a single motion]
Education editor for The Irish Times, Sean Flynn, also expressed his concern at the potential referendum and referred to The University Observer’s success as a reason for rejecting it.
“It sets the standard for student journalism,” explained Flynn. “You just have to look at the progress made in terms of journalists that will tell you the story of the quality of The University Observer and how highly it’s regarded, not just across colleges, but in the media in general.”
Despite expressing his opposition towards the proposed motion, Flynn could see a potential benefit behind its existence. “The problem is that student media is sometimes taken for granted and they [students] accept that it’s there”, said Flynn. “The hope will be that something like this will galvanise people and make them realise what a useful resource student newspapers are.”
The motion also proposes that the SU president would look into the possibility of setting up a ‘Student Media Committee’ that would work outside of SU influence. The committee would be governed by the Student Consultative Forum, to which all forms of student media could apply for funding.
This would mean any society within UCD that wishes to produce any type of media outlet would be eligible for the fund. However, the motion does not have a guarantee in place to ensure that this fund would be created if students vote in favour of the referendum.