Ninety-four per cent of DCU students voted to remain affiliated with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in a referendum held last week. 2,304 votes were cast, with 2,176 voting Yes and just 128 voting No.
This comfortably exceeded the quorum of 1,560 votes. Polls were open on Thursday and Friday of last week and asked students to choose whether or not to remain affiliated to the organisation. A referendum on this must be called every three years, with Friday’s result showing a stark contrast to 2013, when the yes side passed by just a single vote.
Two Yes campaigns were headed by students Séan Cassidy and Michael O’Connor, who campaigned for a Yes vote on campus and through social media.
According to Cassidy, the referendum yielded a historically high Yes result.
“To go from a Yes win by one vote three years ago to a Yes win by nearly 2000 is incredible. It’s the largest Yes vote in the Union’s history, even more than when we held a marriage equality referendum in the SU.
“We had brilliant campaigners in USI Officer board, DCU Labour, DCU LGBTA, Sabbaticals from across the country, post grads, class reps and ordinary students all got stuck in. For many this was their first campaign.
“I think this shows how important students feel about USI and the need for them to fight for and defend their interests at a national level,” Cassidy said.
The USI acts as an umbrella Students’ Union for all colleges affiliated with it and represents students on a national level, most recently through campaigns opposing a student loan scheme.
DCU is joined by most other universities and institutes of education from around the country as members of the USI. Of the Dublin-based universities, just UCD remains unaffiliated with the organisation.
UCD students voted to leave the Union in 2013 and reaffirmed this stance in a referendum earlier this year, saying they will not rejoin until the USI makes some structural changes.
According to USI President, Annie Hoey, college affiliation with the Union only strengthens their national sway.
“It is important for colleges to affiliate to USI as USI, and the student movement as a whole, is only as strong as the sum of its parts. In order for us to have a strong, effective and vibrant student movement, we need to be united.
“DCU students choosing to remain affiliated with USI not only shows recognition of the work USI is doing both on a national and a local level for DCU students, but also gives a clear indication that DCU students wish to be part of a national, cohesive movement. By having DCUSU as members of USI we will ensure that DCU students’ voices are being heard on a national scale,” Hoey said.
One of the biggest USI campaigns of the year has been centred around opposing an income contingent loan scheme for third level students. In October, more than 600 DCU students marched at a USI organised- protest, calling for publically funded education.
The Union has also been active in the areas of mental health, student accommodation and sexual consent.
Hoey will be joined by other student representatives as part of a delegation addressing the Joint Committee on Education and Skills today, who will make the case for further investment into the higher education sector.
Image Credit: USI