DCU SU Executive voice concern that new internship “contravenes democracy” of Union

Jamie Mc Carron 

The Student Union Executive of DCU has issued a letter to DCU’s Office of Student Life expressing “severe concern” that a new paid internship position they will offer breaches the SU’s Constitution.

The College View has received a copy of the letter, which was sent to the Office of Student Life’s management on the 29th of April, in which the SU Executive states that they cannot endorse the creation of such a position.

Concern stems from the fact that the SU Executive was not made aware of the new Student Engagement Intern role.

The letter states: “Constitutionally this position cannot fulfill some of the duties it is advertising as they are in direct breach. The likes of the outlined responsibilities to ‘Provide effective administration to formal democratic forums such as: Class Rep Council and… Executive meetings’ do not hold up constitutionally and were not voted on by the Union at any point.”

DCU’s Student Union Executive consists of 15 executive officers, five of which are full-time sabbatical officers as well as 10 part-time officers.

The Executive also believes that the creation of this un-elected position “directly contravenes the democracy” of the SU and that having a position in which a person will have direct dealings with Union matters without being accountable to the Class Rep Council is “highly alarming.”

Podge Sheehan, Head of Leadership and Student Engagement at the Office of Student Life will oversee the internship.

Sheehan spoke to the College View to deny the Executive’s claim that the internship was unconstitutional.

“I think there might be some confusion about the role. It does not have decision-making responsibilities and doesn’t contravene the constitution or work of the Union or interfere with the democratic structures. The role is an administrative role involving tasks such as booking rooms and ordering catering for meetings and events such as student staff forums, executive meetings or managing the administration of our student leadership activities to ensure we run smoothly for students,” he stated.

Other issues listed by the Executive were that the internship would impede on mandates for already-existing roles in the SU and that the idea of the successful applicant working with student elections is constitutionally flawed and would impede on the responsibilities of the Electoral and Referenda Committee.

Details of this Student Engagement Internship are available on DCUSU’s website and state that the successful candidate will be expected to work 15 hours a week at a wage of between €11 and €12 per hour.

The person hired for this role will work from September of this year to May 2022, meaning that they would be paid in the approximate range of €4950 and €5400, which the SU Executive takes issue with.

“There is concern as to how this position could affect the nature of the Union in future. Why would a person run for election for a part-time unpaid position, when they could simply apply for this part-time paid position and receive the same level of experience?” the letter stated.

The letter concludes with an announcement that “we would again like to reiterate that as an Executive we do not give approval for these positions, nor do we give approval for them to be advertised on the DCUSU social media. We will be forced to actively discourage applications for this position in its current form if it continues to be pursued.”

The letter was sent on the 29th of April and as of the time of this article’s publication the SU Executive has received no response from Office of Student Life, according to a source on the Executive.

This member spoke to the College View about their outlook on the situation surrounding the internship.

“The job was posted on the Union’s website without the executive team being notified. Members of the executive team were very surprised to see a role that is so closely tied to our work being created without our knowledge.”

“I felt as though it’s crucial that the students elected to run the union are involved in these decisions, it felt like a decision was made without student input,” they said.

“When the executive raises concerns like we did in the letter it’s frustrating to be waiting for a response for a week and counting.”

In response to the College View’s inquiry about the Executive’s letter Podge Sheehan also said that he believes that “this model works brilliantly with the introduction of our Clubs & Socs Events Administrator who supports club and society activity in delivering on their aspirations.”

“This is another fantastic opportunity for a student to get some experience in the operational side of a representative body and anyone interested in furthering their skills and competencies in this area should absolutely consider applying,” he concluded.

Details of the internship and other positions remain available on some DCUSU social media and on the SU website, visible here: https://www.dcusu.ie/student-staff-roles

Jamie Mc Carron

Image Credit: Swiss Facades