The University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) have voted in favour of lobbying the Returning Officer to extend voting rights in sabbatical elections to Access Students. In their final council meeting of the semester and the current academic year, the UCDSU voted in favour of the motion which was brought forward by Gary Ward and Darryl Horan.
As it stands, mature students registered through the Access and Lifelong Learning (ALL) programmes are not eligible to vote in UCDSU sabbatical elections, and are therefore not represented by the SU, despite the SU’s activities affecting them. The council heard, as part of the motion, that it is understood that the Access courses are intended to act as a first year of sorts for mature students, and as such they should be given the opportunity to vote for the sabbatical positions during their first year at UCD.
Speaking for the motion, Stage Two Politics Class Rep Gary Ward said, although Access courses are not diplomas or degree, Access students still fall within the constitutional definition of what makes a member of the union. “In the Student Union constitution it says that anyone under a degree or diploma is a member of the union, but currently Access students who are mature students… don’t have voting rights,” Ward told council. “[Although it is a progress award] it is technically a diploma, and the constitution does say ‘all recognised degrees and diplomas’, so that is a question for the Returning Officer. It is something that will improve engagement with the union from mature students, which I believe is a real benefit to the union.”
The eligibility of students to vote in sabbatical elections is a decision that can only be made by the Returning Officer can make, and as such the mandate is focused on lobbying the Returning Officer to include ALL students on the voting register. “Who can vote and who can’t is a decision for the Returning Officer,” UCDSU Council Chair Niall Torris told the council. “The motion is setup in such a way that that discourse happens with the Returning Officer and then, pending their agreement that this could be done, they would go ahead.”
Currently, UCD Access includes Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Law (AHSSL) and Access to Science, Engineering, Agricultural Science and Medicine (SEAM) programmes. Although there are no business courses available through the Access programme, should they become available and the Returning Officer agrees to extend the voting rights, Access Business students will be granted voting rights along with all other ALL students.
Stephen Kisbey-Green – Co-Editor