In addition to going to the polls to vote in the Student Union election this Tuesday and Wednesday, DCU students will also have to decide on whether or not the Student Union will continue its membership within the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
The USI is a national representative body for students in Ireland, essentially a student union on the national level or a trade union for students. The USI combats issues affecting students and lobbies on their behalf for change. The USI prioritises objectives that student unions do not have the time or resources to do, this allows student unions to focus more on issues immediately affecting their students, with the USI dealing with collective and national issues.
Recent successes of the USI include advocating for 50% off fees for student Leap Cards, free contraception for under-25s, doubling of the SUSI fees and the once of €1000 reduction in fees. Closer to home the USI played a key role in preventing rent increases in Shanowen and organised last year’s “walk out” protest.
DCUSU has come out strongly in favour of continued USI membership with VP for Community & Citizenship Nathan Murphy highlighting how the USI “help out student with their lobbying” and allow DCUSU to “help students on a regular daily basis instead of lobbying”.
On the flip side the “Vote No” campaign, which has been largely championed by Young Fine Gael, have focused in on fees paid by students to continue USI membership and are falsely claiming that should DCU students vote to leave the USI, DCU students would be financially better off. The Vote No campaign has also claimed that leaving will save either €76000 or €152000 for DCU.
Even if these figures were accurate, they are contextless and ignore that the USI needs funding to continue their work on behalf of students nationwide; from paying their staff to be able to work full- time on students’ issues, training Student Union officers and organising events like their national congress or Pink Training (Europe’s largest LGBTQ+ event).
While there may be some legitimate concerns with the USI not being democratic enough, one has to wonder how its critics would remedy this by leaving?
If they are really interested in students’ rights then surely they would recognise the use of the USI and attempt to reform it, rather than giving up on it and leaving students with even less power and resources.
Across the Liffey UCD, who voted to leave the USI a decade ago, provide an interesting case study. After voting to leave – with claims similar to those put forward by the Vote No campaign – they are now attempting to re-join on the basis that they have not benefited as expected and are worse off with regards to political power and resources.
I urge all DCU students to vote Yes to continued USI membership on Loop this Tuesday and Wednesday. The USI does a lot of great work for students, much of which goes unnoticed. But also as the example of UCD shows, the grass is not always greener on the other side and contrary to the Vote No campaign’s claims there is not much to be gained from leaving, only losses for students.
Voting for DCU’s membership of the USI takes place from 7am Tuesday to 7pm Wednesday on Loop.
Image Credit: usi.ie