Should DCUSU consider leaving the USI?

Jack Redmond

This Tuesday and Wednesday, DCU students will be asked whether the DCU Students Union should remain members of the wider Union of Students Ireland (USI). Those in support of DCUSU remaining as members of the USI will vote yes, while those in favour of leaving will vote no. The USI describe themselves as “the national representative body for the 374,000 students in third level education on the Island of Ireland”.

In preparation for the USI vote in DCU, the advocation for voting to preserve USI membership have primarily been from the DCU Students Union team and with strong support amongst the two current candidates for DCUSU President, the incumbent Thomas O’Dowd and candidate Brandon Perry.  

Evidently, a specific campaign calling for students to vote to leave the USI has indeed been established, with posters found throughout the DCU campuses and a persuasive presence on Instagram. But so far, no full-time or part-time candidate in this election has openly supported DCU students voting to leave the USI.

While support for this vote is rightly up to the individual in any election or referendum, one could be justified in deducing the ‘vote no’ reasoning has been overlooked in the conversation for whether the DCUSU should remain in the USI.

The issue of fees and the added cost placed on students should the DCUSU remain part of the USI has played a central role in campaigning for ‘voting no’, with an Instagram post from the Vote No campaign stating, “student fees should be spent on students not wannabe politicians.”

The USI was founded in 1959, and yet sheer justification for the organisation’s existence appears to be the prime purpose in persuading students who are undecided to vote to remain as members.

The higher purpose of the USI as a national body, appears to consist of managing ‘major issues’ on a national level. But for many students in DCU, the USI has been a chiefly unknown national student body.

This lack of a clear presence and unfamiliar process contradicts the intended purpose for uniting and lobbying on behalf of student issues across Ireland and not operating behind a convoluted structure.

But whether one views a union as a mere ‘social club’ or a genuine collective body for representation, the lack of a direct presence and communicative inspiration for students across Ireland is an evident factor for considering leaving the USI.

The USI may be the national facilitator of student campaigning and advocacy for those Universities who are current members. But the DCUSU doesn’t need uniformity, rigid cooperation, or the extra USI student costs to find commonality to cooperate and campaign with student unions in other Colleges and Universities to underline issues facing students nationally.

To conclude, if one opposes the highlighted added fees and how such funds are spent by the USI, this fiscal opposition is one devoid of serious persuasion for voting to remain as members of the USI. While the USI’s lack of an immediate student presence, the concerns with not facilitating a clearer democratic process and the added costs, should be at least considered by students who may find themselves uncertain which way to vote presently.  

Voting for DCU’s membership of the USI takes place from 7am Tuesday to 7pm Wednesday on Loop.

Jack Redmond

Image Credit: Pixabay