By Aishling Phelan
A DCU Sinn Féin petition could overturn the Class Representative Council’s decision to donate €10,000 to the labyrinth project.
At the last CRC meeting, class reps voted in favour of the SU giving the donation to the project by a majority of 24 votes to 14 votes.
However, shortly after word spread that council had approved the donation, DCU Sinn Féin organised a petition calling for “a referendum on whether or not the Students’ Union should donate €10,000 towards building a labyrinth”.
According to the petition, DCU SF believes that “in the current economic climate, whilst employment is scarce and student registration fees are rising, it is unacceptable to spend so much money on a project like this. There are many better ways in which this money can be spent, ways which would greater benefit DCU students”.
A referendum on any issue may be called for if 200 union members (students) sign a petition and submit it to either the SU President or Chair of Class Representative Council. The petition secured 231 signatures.
There is now major confusion as to when the referendum on the donation will be held.
Speaking to The College View, SU President Ed Leamy initially insisted that the referendum does not have to be held this semester.
“The way council have passed it, we will give the €10,000 to them once the project is complete. But the promise of the €10,000 is there all the time. Now when will the labyrinth be complete? We won’t have to have [the referendum] this semester but it will probably be held in the next, we’ll say, three semesters.”
However, according to the Students’ Union Constitution, Article 9.1.5, “A referendum shall be held not less than two academic weeks, and not more than four academic weeks, from being called.”
DCU SF Secretary, Dave Clougher told The College View: “From reading the DCU SU’s constitution, my understanding is that the referendum must be held within four weeks.”
After he was given this information, Leamy was reluctant to confirm whether or not the referendum would be held this semester.
“I remember reading that before but the nature of every referendum is different.”
He added: “We’ll be having a council this week and we’ll have a look at things and if that’s the case, that’s the case. It could technically be tied in with the SU elections.”
According to the SU Constitution, the petition “must be submitted to either the President or Chair of Class Representative Council”.
DCU SF had intended to hand the email to SU President, Ed Leamy but he was not available when they visited his office last week.
The petition was handed to Welfare Officer, Collie Oliver, but copies of the petition were supplied to Leamy and Chair of Class Rep Council, Sean Cassidy.
It will be these constitutional technicalities that will determine whether or not a referendum on the €10,000 donation for the labyrinth project has to be held this semester. Although plans were not being put in place to hold a referendum this semester, the constitution could dictate that class reps must call for the referendum to be held within four weeks.
If this is the case, the referendum will more than likely coincide with the SU elections which will be held on April 2nd and 3rd.
The issue will be discussed at this evening’s CRC meeting. If a referendum is held this semester, class reps’ initial decision to give the donation could be overturned. The power will be put into students’ hands and they will decide whether the SU will donate the €10,000.
For the results of a referendum to be valid, at least 10% of the student population in DCU must cast valid votes.
The idea of a student petition was initially sparked on a thread on boards.ie.
When gathering signatures for the petition, DCU SF said many students were unaware of the proposed €50,000 labyrinth construction and were not aware that class reps had made a decision to allow the SU to give €10,000 towards it.
On a post on Boards.ie Clougher said: “From just talking to fellow students the consensus seems to be that this project has seemingly come out of nowhere and caught many by surprise, the first many heard of this was that the Class Representative Council had voted in favour of donating €10,000. Anecdotally, everyone I have asked about this so far has been dead set against the notion of donating this sum towards building a labyrinth.”
Only 40 class reps attended the last CRC meeting. This could be the reason so many students are unaware of the €10,000 donation. The SU didn’t send out an email to all students to inform them that a decision on the donation had been made. This was the responsibility of class reps.
One student posted a message on Boards.ie under the username DGRulz stating, “The idea of spending 50k on this is ridiculous. What’s worse is my class rep e-mailed us about it with her reasoning for it being that it’d be fun to run around after Toxic Tuesday. What happens when someone falls and wants to sue DCU?”
The idea of building a labyrinth was first proposed back in 2009. The most recent figure the Interfaith Centre received in June 2009 put the total cost of the labyrinth project at €63,000 including VAT. However, Fr Joe Jones has said the estimate still remains at €50,000.
“I hope to have a new quote in the next two weeks. We are waiting on the architect to give us an update. The last quote we got was June 2009 and so we expect it to be less now with the economic downturn,” he said.
If the SU can give the donation, the money will not be handed over to the construction company until the project is completed. If construction has not begun within two calendar years, the sum of €10,000 would be returned to the SU.