I attended every Class Rep Council last year as a class representative, and I sat on the Electoral Committee. If I can offer my humble opinion, the Class Rep system is a joke. There’s almost no interest. Students mostly don’t care. Around ten reps attended meetings regularly last year.
I’m not pointing fingers. Some people are interested in it more than others, and that’s perfectly fine. But we wasted too much time and money tackling pointless issues.
We can hold all these referenda, but can’t get a microwave. The library is crying out for more plugs, but we’re voting on Reproductive Rights for Clare Daly. I’m all for changing the world. I just wish we’d make a difference to DCU first.
The problem with CRC is that it’s treated like a mini-Dáil. We’re a Students’ Union. We should be helping students above all.
If all we deal with in CRC are these arbitrary political issues, there’s no motivation to engage in the Union. Most reps I saw were completely disillusioned, and understandably so. This polarised us. Most reps lost interest. Those who didn’t, took over on Council. We became a clique. It was anything but democracy in action.
As a Rep I couldn’t get my class remotely interested. I look back now and I see why. They had almost no participation. I’d ask for their opinion, but why would they care? They weren’t going to debate the issues or get to speak on them. Yes, they could have attended CRC (and did once or twice), but they were there as an audience, not as participants.
Our broken system needs fundamental change to bring real change to DCU, but how can we do this?
Every union member, not just class reps, should be given a vote in CRC. It may be difficult to organise, but if we can fit students into the Hub for a Summer Ball, we can organise a meeting about their issues. We have 172 reps at the moment, but I saw no more than 30 at a “good” meeting of CRC. By the end of the year, we rarely made quota.
There’s a simple solution to this. Let the students represent themselves. We can still elect reps. They’ll be needed to meet with Programme Boards and so on. But CRC is elitist and pointless.
I don’t see why our mini-Dáil is necessary. The structure is ridiculous. It alienates most of the reps. It makes CRC impenetrable for students. Electing a dedicated Union rep just makes it more elitist. It won’t make people suddenly interested in these issues. It’ll just mask the apathy problem for another year. The rep system works for programme boards and the likes, when a representative is necessary. But other then that, why not have an open forum? It would allow people who actually are interested in the topics to debate. It would give direct representation to students. The logistics aren’t a problem. It’d be the fairest system for all DCUSU members.
We need to open up the Union to all our members. We need to change the system on a basic level. Only then will we actually be a union of DCU students, versus a mere “Students’ Union”.
Sam Elliott is a second year BCL student. He is a former class representative and former member of the Electoral Committee.