An Emergency Class Representative Council (CRC) voted to mandate the DCU Students’ Union Executive’s position on Union of Students in Ireland (USI) affiliation to be neutral, should a referendum be called.
On February 28th, the CRC voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion: “Council mandates in the interest of fairness that the current Exec position be neutral on USI affiliation.”
The Emergency CRC was called after concerns were raised over the fact that the SU Exec voted on their position and opened a petition, collecting signatures to bring the matter of USI affiliation to referendum, before bringing it to CRC.
It followed the publication of two open letters from DCU societies. DCU LGBTA Society and Feminist Society published the letters on social media, expressing discontent with how the SU went about calling a referendum.
DCU LGBTA Society’s open letter stated that it was it was hard to imagine the actions of DCUSU “were done in good faith”.
“This is a slap in the face to all class representatives, a slap in the face to students in general in DCU, and a slap in the face to our integrity.
“We urge DCUSU to immediately cease any work towards a referendum on our disaffiliation from the Union of Students in Ireland until the stance of the DCUSU can be decided upon through Class Representative Council.”
FemSoc’s open letter read:
“It is appalling that DCUSU has acted with secrecy and underhandedness to engage in a disaffiliation campaign without prior consultation or input at any level from students or class reps”.
The petitions were subsequently paused.
The Emergency CRC was called by third-year Psychology class representative Dean O’Reilly. Unable to attend, he argued in his speech read by Ailish Keating, that Exec went against precedent by not determining a stance through mandate by the CRC.
“Class reps have been left in the dark for far too long,” O’Reilly’s speech read.
DCUSU President Vito Moloney Burke argued that the process that the Exec took was “entirely democratic” and that an Exec needs to be in agreement before bringing a matter to CRC.
Under the DCUSU constitution, a referendum may come to fruition by one of three methods; by way of Exec through CRC, CRC itself, or by way of a petition comprising of 2.5 per cent of SU members, 425 signatures in this case.
“If you didn’t plan to bypass CRC why did you go about collecting signatures?” Keating asked the SU President.
Moloney Burke said they opted to collect signatures as they were in a rush to align the referendum with the SU elections which sees students voting on March 5th-7th.
The SU was criticised for lack of transparency by a number of class reps.
Fourth year Education and Training (Further Adult & Continuing Education) representative, Emma Tunnicliffe, said she has seen “no transparency and zero to little engagement” from this year’s SU.
Tunnicliffe said she felt as if the Exec were “taking a stance on [their] behalf”.
Moloney Burke said that he felt the matter of USI affiliation needed to be brought to referendum as a “large portion of students were unaware of what USI does”. However, when asked, Moloney Burke said that no survey was carried out to support this.
Moloney Burke previously told The College View that he planned to take the matter to CRC, whose vote would trump their stance as an Exec.
Bryan Mulry, who attended the CRC, said he would like to give the SU the benefit of the doubt. “I honestly don’t believe there was anything malicious,” he said.
Moloney Burke said he was “taken aback to hear” the disapproval from the student body and that he looked forward to “reaching an outcome that satisfies” the student body and class reps.
He said affiliation with the USI is costing the student body and the DCUSU financially and opportunistically.
USI President Síona Ní Chaithal said that it’s not possible for local unions to focus on national issues if they branch out on their own.
A referendum has yet to be called on USI affiliation.
DCUSU has been a member of USI since 2014, when they re-affiliated, having left in 2002. USI affiliation is voted on every three years by the DCU student body. In 2016, 94 per cent of voters voted in favour of remaining affiliated. The next referendum was scheduled for the academic year 2019/2020.
Image Credit: DCUSU and USI