Among the votes taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday is a vote to rewrite the current UCDSU constitution. Arts convenor Conor Rock, healing who is leading the campaign for a yes vote, try sat down with the College Tribune to talk about the changes being proposed.
The financial affairs of the UCDSU have always been a worry for students, medicine especially after the one million euro debts were revealed three years ago. While the organisation appears to be on more stable ground now, second year Arts student Rock feels that the new constitution, which would solidify the position of the SU Board of Directors, would greatly alleviate fears of a return to times of overspending: “There’s going to be a better overlook of the finances of the Union, not necessarily an invisible hand directing everything but something there looking at the spending, which I think is good considering what’s happened in the past. There are good, well capable people on the board at the moment”. Rock claims that this is a rewrite rather than a new constitution, mostly minor wording changes and adding legal jargon. “We’ll make it clear to people what is actually changing, so when they go in and vote they know we’re not trying to screw people over, this is actually something that can benefit long term”.
Among the other major decisions taken in this new constitution is the proposal to bring back the Campaigns and Communications sabbatical officer position that was gotten rid of when the constitution was first voted through in 2012. The costs of paying this individual a full time salary would be off-set by removing the provision for convenors like Rock to be paid for running Union events in their respective faculties. “The reason that the pay was implemented was because convenors were basically doing the job of the Campaigns and Communications (C&C) officer, the job was to be spread out over eight convenors” Rock explains.
“It’s not that we’re not doing a good job, but there’s only so much you can do when there’s eight people running a campaign, eight full time students. That’s why bringing back C&C will be good, it alleviates pressure on convenors. We’re trying to organise campaigns and that takes away from student engagement. So I could give more lecture addresses or meet more people and see what they want to do, which we’re limited with at the moment because we’re running other stuff. Plus if the C&C works well then it should improve the image of the Union”.
However memories are still recent of the position of C&C, seen by many as a “doss year” that one could use to increase one’s profile on campus while gearing up for a UCDSU presidential campaign. The most recent holders of that position were often criticised for varying reasons over the last few years: “The problem with the C&C is that your face is out there so much that if you do a bad job, people know. I think you’re more open to scrutiny, which is a good thing but if there’s a really bad one then people can blame the position, which I don’t think is right”.
“I think the position is actually needed. I don’t think it’s fair to assume there’s going to be a bad person going for it. If it stays in the Union, it’s inevitable that someone bad is going to get in, but you could say that about any position. If this new constitution passes, the structures will be put in place so that there won’t be any mad spending of money”.
The changes also allow for online voting which Rock believes will help engage students on placement or students who aren’t going to be in on the day of the vote. There will also be provisions for what are known as “preferenda”. Rock explains that “When we did the abortion referendum last year, it forced the Union into taking a stance. What a lot of people would have liked was that the question was put out there. That’s what happens with preferenda. We’re not going to take a definite stance that will divide the student body; we’re putting the question to people saying ‘what do you think about this issue’. I think it’s a lot better than a referendum, which can be too divisive”.