While the UCD Students’ Union is nominally in favour of supporting marriage equality, prostate the organisation currently holds no mandate to actively campaign on the issue. For this reason UCDSU LGBT Officer Sam Blackensee and UCDSU Gender Equality Officer Grace Williams are running the referendum campaign to give the SU that mandate in light of the upcoming national referendum later this year. Both campaigners spoke to the College Tribune about the importance of the vote.
“The referendum is taking place to show that UCD students are in favour of marriage equality” explains third year Arts student Williams: “With the upcoming national referendum, it’s important to try to get everyone involved if we can, we feel like this is a way to get students to engage with the issue”. These views are echoed by third year Veterinary Nursing student Blackensee: “It gives the students a voice, not just the class reps. This is giving every student a chance to get involved with this, a chance for the students who don’t want to sit at council for two hours to get engaged and to get to grips with the issue.”
Blackensee argued that this was also an attempt to “keep up the momentum of the campaign. We managed to run the register to vote campaign so well on campus last semester; we were the most successful campus in the country. The fact that we can keep up momentum with students by getting them to cast a vote, getting them to see just how many people are in favour of this on campus, really hitting home how much UCD is involved”.
The question naturally arises of what would happen were students not to engage and therefore a no vote to happen. Blackensee says that “It would be very unlikely to reach quorum, to reach its quota”. That quota, of 10% of the student population or just over 2,300 students will be an interesting sticking point in the referendum.
Williams would remain sure that the UCD populous would still be pro-marriage equality, even if the university were to cast a no vote, siting previous polling results: “If a no vote did win, I would take that as a sign that more information needed to be distributed. I’m not saying anyone is wrong, but there are a high proportion of students who will vote yes, I think currently it’s estimated at 90% for students in favour. If those students are being polled and not voting there needs to be questions about why they’re not voting.”
“Is it something that the Union’s done wrong, is it something about the referendum being run right? They are the questions I’d be asking rather than why are you voting no because there are high proportions currently who say they’re in favour. If the referendum was to fail I would personally take that as a lack of communication on us running the Yes side or the Union running the referendum. That’s how I would take it.”
On the subject of it both passing and getting quorum, both feel it will be about getting those who wouldn’t usually take part in campus referenda. “You’re going to get your politics students and your law students who are very engaged with these kinds of things, but there are certain areas of campus who are not engaged with the Union”, Williams concedes, “it’s about making people aware that it’s going on.” Blackensee echoes this sentiment, “For me, on a personal level, it’s about getting Vet out to vote, it’s about getting Ag out to vote”.
He feels the same about the national referendum: “In the lead up to the referendum students can make all the difference, because they can speak to the people around them who have a history of voting, they get to speak to the people around them who may not be so sure. They could sway the undecideds to a yes, that’s where I think students have the biggest potential”.