Trinity College students will vote to secure or disaffiliate their relationship with the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) from the 1st to the 4th of October.
Following months of uncertainty and heated debate the college will take to the poles to make the decision. TCD students have been at the forefront of the USI movement since its establishment in 1959.
Trinity Students’ Union President, Rory Dunne refused to comment on the issue, saying “Unfortunately, our Union’s constitution binds us into a neutral stance on the issue”.
From the 15th to the 21st of May this year, Irish Students voted online to define the USI’s position on the funding of higher education taught programmes. The choices included graduate tax, one hundred percent exchequer funded, one hundred percent upfront fees, student contribution (registration) student loan scheme or none of the afore mentioned.
Following the vote the most popular option was announced as the current funding system of student contribution fees.
However in February, TCD students who attended a debate in the college voted in favour of a motion to disaffiliate from the USI. The debate, hosted by the Students’ Union and the University Philosophical Society passed the motion by 59 votes to 32.
Convenor David Byrne led the attack against the USI, saying it failed to meet the needs of students, questioning their allocation of the annual €77,000 funding given to the union.
He went on to criticise their “no fees, never” beliefs as opposed to negotiating a grant scheme for students as successfully practiced in other countries like England and Australia.
USI President, John Logue commented on the referendum saying: “USI are working alongside a group of Trinity students to make the case for continued involvement with the national representative body. We are confident that the students of Trinity understand the importance of continued engagement at this challenging time in Irish higher education.
He continued, saying “USI continues to be a major stakeholder in higher education and is recognised in law as the representative for Irish Students”.
He also commented on DCU’s disaffiliation with the organisation saying, “On behalf of all of our members I would also urge DCU to engage with USI so that together we can build a truly national student movement”.
DCU Students’ Union welfare officer Neil Patrick Collins also commented on the disassociation saying it has its disadvantages. “Not being affiliated with the union has disadvantages…it cuts ties with some training services and networking contacts.”
A vote on whether or not DCU should be affiliated with the USI will be held in DCU during semester two, after a petition for one to be held was handed in to DCUSU last week.
Gill Fitzsimons is our Deputy News Editor