USI Congress Breakdown: Congress passes motions in areas of welfare, academic affairs & Union organisation

Delegate, Marz Keane, pictured on the second day of the USI Congress.

A number of motions were passed on the second day of the annual USI Congress in Ennis, Co. Clare. They related to problems in the areas of welfare, academic affairs and Union organisation. 


Congress debated 27 different Welfare motions this morning, with delegates presenting ideas for and against each motion. Some of the motions passed included:

  • Gambling- A campaign to educate Union members on the prevalence of the problem of gambling for students
  • Consent- To conduct a survey similar to the “Say Something” survey carried out in 2013, to research the instances of unwanted sexual contact and levels of reporting
  • HIV- Lobby the HSE to make pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) available in Ireland. PrEP is a safe and effective way of preventing HIV
  • Cyberbullying- to repeal and replace the current USI cyberbullying policy with a new one
  • Student Bereavement- To find out the best practice of institutions when dealing with student bereavement and then developing a uniformed policy to use in cases such as this
  • Drug Testing- That VP for Welfare would provide a workshop for SU Welfare officers on how to use drug testing kits, so they can take that knowledge back to their respective campuses
  • Cervical Cancer- To lobby the Government to decrease the age of free smear tests from 25 to 21

PrEP availability

PrEP is a preventative medicine taken by people at a very high risk of contracting HIV, which stops the infection from spreading throughout the body. It is currently unavailable in Ireland.

A motion was passed that mandates the USI VP for Welfare to lobby the HSE for the availability of PrEP as part of the National Sexual Health Strategy.

Speaking on the issue, outgoing Trinity SU President, Kieren McNulty, said; “HIV, it’s real it exists. It’s not a relic from the 80s.” 

“This prevents HIV, it saves lives.”

Smear test age restrictions

The motion to lobby the Government to lower the age at which free smear tests are granted was passed by a large majority today. It was proposed that the USI lobby for the age to be reduced from 25 to 21. Outgoing Humanities and Social Sciences faculty rep, Caoimhe Ní Mhaolagáin, told the story of a friend who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and urged congress to pass the motion.

“This affects far more people than you would believe,” she said. “If this motion fails today it’s an utter disgrace.”

Student Survey of attitudes to consent

A motion to carry out a new survey gauging the opinions and experiences of students in relation to unwanted sexual contact was passed. Jessica, a delegate from Queens University Belfast, spoke in favour of the motion.

“If we want to do more work with regards consent we need to gather more information,” she said. 

“The more informed we all are on consent, the easier it will be to raise awareness in the future.”

Academic Affairs

Congress then debated 11 motions relating to the area of Academic Affairs. The most contentious was the proposal to grant accreditation to class reps in a scheme similar to the Uaneen module, which gives credits to students heavily involved in clubs or societies.

Some delegates argued that by creating a module out of class rep work, it would limit students with heavy workloads in full time courses. Others argued that credits should be granted based on the student’s performance as class rep over the year.

After almost an hour of debate, the USI VP Academic Affairs was mandated to work with the HEA and QQI to look at the feasibility of such a scheme.

Union Organisation

Congress debated 30 motions in relation to Union organisation, with topics ranging from SU autonomy, USI on campus and part-time officer training.

Several students spoke on the issue of SU institutional autonomy, which means independence from the institution the Students’ Union is a part of. The motion was passed by a landslide majority and the USI President was mandated to lobby for an amendment to the Universities Act 1997 and Technology Act 2006. The Union will strive to ensure that HEIs or Governing bodies cannot use their power to undermine the autonomy of Students’ Unions.

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Rebecca Lumley

Image Credit: Rebecca Lumley