Students are disengaged with University politics

Niamh McGovern

In a recent Twitter Poll,  students were asked about their interest in student politics, providing three options: Yes, relatively interested; Depends on the issue; and No, not at all. 111 people voted, with the majority (56.8 per cent) voting that they were not interested at all. Only 13.5 per cent voted for yes, with the remaining 29.7 per cent voting for issue dependence.  

Commuter students found student union politics inaccessible and felt almost forgotten about. Due to the scheduling of meetings, commuter students said it is difficult to get involved. 

Speaking with NUI Galway Students’ Union (SU) President, Pádraic Toomey, he said, “student politics is where a  lot of movements start”, for example “we have seen our students vote for the likes of abortion and  marriage equality well before it went national”. Now students are rallying behind student nurses, which is becoming a national issue. 

Due to unforeseen circumstances regarding Covid-19, many DCU students said they are less interested in student elections and class representatives. Because they are absent from campus, they do not feel the benefits of the Student Union. 

However, both Toomey and UCD SU President Conor Anderson agree “this year has been the best year for student politics in a long while”.

According to Toomey “students want better, and I think there’s a huge amount of interest right now to make things better.” 

Anderson said “Covid has reunited interest in student politics.” He highlighted how “sometimes we see an issue with students who don’t have to worry about money, and don’t want to get involved with those kind of political campaigns – students who do get involved are those who are worried about finances”.  

In March 2020, The College View announced DCU’s current SU President Fearghal Lynch’s, victory with 2,288 votes. However, only 4,919 people voted in the presidential race from a student body of over 17,000.

Vice President for Education and Placement drew even less interest with only 3,345 votes. However, some interest is indicated as there was a landslide of 1,610 yes votes to remain in  the Union of Students in Ireland, with only 252 no votes. 

Some DCU students explained the only time they ever voted was when someone they knew the person was running for a position. One student said that students living on-campus seemed to be more engaged with university politics.

SU elections draw the bulk of attention from students. However, very few students consider running for positions due to workloads within their courses. Some consider campaigning as a marketing ploy, providing free samples, for example monster, red bull and Fulfil bars. Campaign t-shirts were provided to the campaigning teams.  

Previous students who have left DCU described student politics as a “popularity contest”. Many students view the elections as a popularity vote, with the most “popular” people running having access to more people to help them out with campaigns, handing out leaflets and organising free events for students. 

Niamh Mc Govern

Image Credit: University of Sanctuary DCU