Last week marked Women’s Week, the Students’ Union’s annual week dedicated to issues pertaining to women. The usual events took place. There were collections for charities such as the Marie Keating Foundation, coffee mornings, a table quiz and Miriam O’Callaghan was invited to preside over the launch of the week.
However, calling three days a ‘week’ is something of a stretch. It does not say much for UCDSU’s representation of women when one of the quietest weeks on campus, Reading Week, is selected to highlight women’s issues. In addition, events only seemed to happen on three days of the week, with a little-publicised nightclub event occurring on the bank holiday Monday and nothing happening on the Friday. Health Week was given a full week, so why not women? Given that women make up over half of UCD’s population, why has their week been sidelined?
Given that feminism has been granted more of a spotlight in Irish media and in general discussion this year, why did this year’s Women’s Week completely neglect the topic? Women and men should be invited to come together to discuss important and relevant issues pertaining to women and gender equality, instead of being forced to engage in the same tired activities that seem to make up almost every campaign week that UCDSU runs.
While the charity work that Women’s Week does must be commended, the week could be utilised in a far better and more efficient manner to encourage discussion of women’s issues around campus. We should be discussing informative and salient matters and organising new and exciting events for Women’s Week.
Gender quotas, reproductive choice, and pay gaps – these are the issues that an exciting and relevant Women’s Week should be discussing. The women of UCD should not be left with half a week, which does both them and the Women’s Officer Regina Brady, who has worked diligently in organising this week, a disservice.
UCDSU has too long allowed women’s issues to slide by the wayside. Given that this is the third consecutive all-male SU, women’s issues are more relevant than ever. Where, for example, are the workshops encouraging women to run for sabbatical positions? The SU’s responsibility is to provide proper representation of students, so Women’s Week should be prioritised.
Perhaps next year’s Women’s Week will facilitate a proper discussion of women’s issues that we direly need, instead of a bland representation that does not even encompass a full college week.
Recent questioning of the Students’ Union budget is to be encouraged, as it is a relevant issue. The SU is our biggest representative body and should be completely transparent in regards to budget and conduct. The SU budget is published annually and available to whoever would like to view it on their website, but can we say the same for the other institutions that use students’ money?
As well as demanding full accountability from our Students’ Union, it is important that we demand the same from our clubs, societies and other campus groups that use students’ money to provide a certain service. There are countless societies that simply do not publicise their budgets and overheads as the SU do.
Societies usually provide budgets at the end of the academic year at their Annual General Meetings, but their budgets are not analysed and subjected to the same scrutiny as the SU.
Last weekend, for instance, the Literary and Historical Society (L&H), hosted an intervarsity debating competition. The competition was not advertised hugely around campus, yet €1,210 was spent on the hiring of a catering unit to supply the debaters with food.
Of course, a society as big as L&H will have more disposable income than most other societies, but no one is questioning their income and expenditure in public forums. These societies are supposed to exist for the benefit of students, so students should question them just as aggressively as they do the SU budget. After all, societies exist for students, not for their own sake.
Societies and clubs do not exist in ivory towers, and so should be active in making students aware of their inner workings. As well as being more accountable and transparent, this will allow a greater number of students to ascend the ranks of societies and open them up from the same tired cliques. Accountability should be a top priority for everyone and should be actively enforced by each body on campus that takes money from students.