Students Can Effect Change

Our Student Union President, Kenneth Browne, recently engaged in negotiations to extend library opening hours for DCU. His success in these talks is an example of what effective advocacy from the students’ union executive can achieve.

However this process and outcome is in direct contrast to the anti-democratic culture that has been entrenched in our SU in the recent past.

Measuring our SU against the criteria that reveals an organisation to be a democratic one – such as self-governance, representation, engagement, accountability and transparency, would not have yielded favourable results in previous years.

It is encouraging however that this dysfunction appears to be dwindling with the passage of time. In fact, we have been making steady albeit slow progress.

We adopted a democratic, legal and grass roots constitution in 2011. We held referenda to actively seek the opinion of the wider student body. We made executive officers accountable by making the reporting of their work to each Class Representative Council mandatory. We joined the Union of Students in Ireland and became active participants in the Irish student movement.

These are clear signs that the anti-democratic culture of our SU is fading and being replaced with a culture that values debate, discussion and the democratic process. This reform was fostered under the ethical leadership of Aaron Clogher and is bolstered by the fact that our current SU leadership has its head firmly set on its shoulders.

Case in point, our SU Education Officer has planned in-depth training for class representatives. Our SU Welfare Officer has built a strong first campaign (Mental Wellbeing Week), that invites us to challenge mental health stigma and empowers students to effect change by signing up to the petition featured on mentalhealthreform.ie.

However, their leadership and our student union’s progress will evaporate if it is not supported. Change is never a certainty. If a real commitment isn’t made by students then hard fought progress will be lost. Essentially, we could be back to square one.

The fact of the matter is this: It is in your best interests to participate in your students union. As a student you are affected by the hikes in student fees and the cuts in student grant supports. When you become a graduate you leave university with two stark choices: enter a job market which has financially devalued your potential due to an internship culture, or make the tough decision to emigrate in the hope of better opportunities.

Our students’ union and the wider student movement offers a financial and organisational tool to help us in our efforts to effect change and fight for a better future for our generation. While there is no guarantee that participation equals success, indifference and apathy will ensure automatic loss.

All students are entitled to participate at Class Representative Council. Attend, learn, engage and participate! If you are still reading this article, you are no longer disengaged, uninformed or powerless.

So, if you want to be part of progress, effect change and ensure that you are proud, in the truest sense of the word, of your time spent as a student, then take responsibility for your generation’s future. ‘If not now, when? If not you, who?’

Sean Cassidy

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