Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Dublin City University (DCU) will vote on their affiliation with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) by mid-October. TCD will vote on whether to stay affiliated with the USI in two weeks, while students in DCU are lobbying for their SU to rejoin the USI.
“Students are evaluating their relationship with USI again and I welcome that,” says USI President John Logue. “It gives us the opportunity to engage with students on campus and talk to them about the various ways that USI works for them and their Students’ Union.”
While DCU and TCD’s future in the USI will be decided in the coming weeks, UCD will wait to vote on affiliation until November. The decision to hold the referendum was initiated by UCD Students’ Union President, Rachel Breslin, and it was first highlighted in her manifesto.
UCDSU Campaigns and Communications Officer Paddy Guiney says: “USI do need to be held more accountable so that’s why we are holding the referendum… Students wanted a USI disaffiliation referendum. If students are informed enough, whoever has the better campaign will win. That will be the outcome for Trinity, and obviously Trinity’s outcome will have a direct impact on us.”
Guiney believes that the main problem is that students don’t think that the USI works for them. “Students don’t think the USI does anything. They don’t think that they are not doing anything either, they just don’t know about them,” Logue believes the TCD results will be in favour of the USI, stating: “We have received significant support from students on campus, and we will work hard over the coming week to further convince them that leaving the national union would be a regressive step.”
The USI President sits on the Boards of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Agency, and the Higher Education Authority, the latter of which decides the funding which is received annually by the college. Affiliation with USI gives UCD representation in these forums, as well as in the media. A national council is held every six weeks, allowing each college to get involved with national campaigns.
“We have a national lobbying group that is representative of every single college here and every single student. That’s what USI membership means to students,” says Guiney.
Currently, membership fees for USI stand at €132,000. The fees are calculated on the amount of students registered to each particular college. With approximately 23,500 students, UCD’s membership currently amounts to just over €5.60 per student. At the moment, €23 of students’ contribution charge goes to UCDSU. This charge incorporates SU services, USI membership, student centre charge, and other costs of the Union. It is undecided whether this charge will be decreased, were UCD to disaffiliate from the USI.
When questioned about reconsidering the current fees, Logue states: “As regards affiliation fees, no consideration has been given to that matter. Our attention and energy is focused on winning these referendums and planning the national campaign strategy for Budget 2013.”