Apathy tops the poll as USI referendum passed

DCU student representatives were dismayed by the apathy shown in voting for last week’s Union of Students in Ireland re-affiliation referendum, which was one of Ireland’s first university-wide ballots to be carried out online.

Just 12 per cent of students exercised their vote in last Wednesday and Thursday’s Moodle poll. The motion for DCU to rejoin the national student representative body was passed by the narrowest of margins, with 726 ‘Yes’ votes and 725 ‘No’ votes cast.

Students’ Union Education Officer, Ciarán O’Connor feels many were unsure of who USI were, while it was also difficult to motivate students on a topic that didn’t immediately and directly affect them.

“If it was the price of a chicken roll on campus you could have students up in arms on the yes and no side,” he highlighted.

Three official ‘yes’ campaigns registered ahead of polling, however there were no official ‘no’ campaign.

Although no physical ‘no’ campaigns were held on campus, ‘yes’ campaigner student Rónán O’Dálaigh wasn’t surprised by the tight margin of victory, given the perceived lack of knowledge about the organisation.

A referendum debate was due to be held following last Tuesday’s Class Representative Council meeting, however there were no official speakers present to argue against the motion.

Student Ross McCarrick felt vital questions needed to be asked and was one of two to stand from the audience and put forward the case for a ‘no’ vote.

Despite voting no, McCarrick feels DCU students ought to experience USI membership before passing judgement. “Looking back on it now I’m just annoyed there weren’t more voters… it’s not your right to vote, it’s your job to vote,” he said.

McCarrick isn’t supporting talk of a petition to demand a re-run of the poll or arguments put to O’Connor and the SU online, including that Moodle voting is deemed invalid by their constitution as it doesn’t involve producing student ID or a registry letter proving identification.

O’Connor faced down such arguments stating “Moodle isn’t mentioned in the constitution and neither is a paper ballot. It’s determined by the returning officer… if you can log onto Moodle that means you’re a registered student and you can vote.”

“The students have spoken. As far as I’m concerned DCU SU is now a part of USI.” the sabbatical officer said, outlining the SU’s intention to bring 40 delegates to the body’s National Congress, which takes place in Athlone in April.

Responding to the tight result, USI President Joe O’Connor told The College View that while the body would be strengthened by DCU’s presence, they would also work hard to convince ‘no’ voters of the merits of membership.

“The USI presence on campus will be seen immediately by DCU students on campus and we hope that visibility will lead to a situation where they will want to be a part of the national student movement for years into the future,” he said.

The body are currently campaigning for improved conditions for student nurses; are in favour of equal marriage; and support a publicly-funded, accessible-to-all third-level education model.

First year Returning Officer Jack Butterly organised the smooth running of the referendum and told The College View: “I can’t thank the people who helped me out enough, whether it be for 2 minutes or 2 days”.

DCU will become official members of USI from September of this year, while a number of motions regarding the university’s membership will be addressed at next week’s Class Rep Council meeting.

Sarah Bermingham

Image Credit: Viktorija Drozdova

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