UCDSU President Pat de Brún explains the proposed constitution and tells Donie O’Sullivan why people should vote in favour of it.
-How many hours did the group meet to put together the proposed text?
I would estimate that the group spent a minimum of 60 hours preparing the final draft.
-At the beginning of semester one, look students were asked to send their suggestions for a new constitution to the group. How did the group deal with these suggestions? Have m/any of them been incorporated into the proposed constitution?
The level of input that the group received from these submissions was fantastic. We studied each of them carefully and many of them have been incorporated into the constitution, particularly the suggestions which came in from several different people.
-If ratified, what do you think would be the most beneficial element of the proposed constitution?
For me, all of the changes in the constitution will prove to be hugely beneficial. If I have to choose some of the most important aspects, I would have to say the the better financial controls would be right up there. In addition, the professionalisation of Ents will bring in huge savings, while maintaining and improving the quality of service on offer. Finally I would highlight the addition of both ‘Class Reps’ & ‘Union Council Reps’, which will mean that the Union will be reaching out to more people and encouraging more involvement.
-Why does the new constitution propose to abolish the sabbatical position of Entertainment Officer?
The new constitution does not have an Ents Officer for a variety of reasons. Of all the Students’ Union’s in the UK & Ireland, Trinity & UCD are the only ones who retain a full-time elected Ents Officer. There has been a trend to professionalise the position by replacing the elected officer with a hired professional. The main reason behind this is that people generally believe that there is too much financial risk being put in to the hands of an elected student. The hope is that UCD Ents can run at a profit as opposed to a loss.
-“23.5 The President may invite any Union staff member that they deem appropriate to be a member of the Entertainments Forum.” – does this mean an Entertainment manager will be appointed?
I believe it is highly likely that an Entertainments manager will be hired. This could take several formats, e.g. full-time staff member, part-time staff member, or external company. I would favour the full-time staff member option.
-If so, why does the constitution not explicitly state this and outline how this manager will be appointed, for how long their contract will last, how it will be renewed etc.?
No constitution would ever stipulate the terms and conditions of employment of a staff member. It isn’t the correct place for such details.
-Why will the new system of college councils work better than the current system of one student council?
The proposed system is one which recognises that he class rep who likes organising parties may be a very different animal from the rep who enjoys matters of Union policy. This system will allow for far more people to get involved and it will make the Union much more inclusive and representative. The College Councils will be for discussing matters pertinent to that particular college only. It means that Union Council’s time can be devoted to policy and officer accountability.
-How will Union Council work differently? Will all class reps be expected to attend?
Union Council will take place less frequently, with meetings of College Councils in between meetings of Union Council. The majority of the business of council will be taken up with policy formation and keeping the executive accountable. There are also much harsher penalties for non-performance of sabbatical officers and execs, and Council will have a large role to play in this. Class Reps will not be obliged to attend Union Council as only the Union Council Representatives (UCR’s) will have a vote. They of course will be welcome however and will be encouraged to attend.
-Will there be a change in how class reps are elected?
The UCR’s will be elected in a manner broadly similar to the current class rep elections. Once the UCR’s are elected, the class rep elections will take place. These elections will take place immediately after UCR elections and they will be carried out on a much more informal basis than the UCR elections. We wanted to deformalise this process in order to involve as many people as possible without getting tied up in the bureaucracy of strict quotas etc.
-Do you think the possibility of taking on seven part time staff member (Conveners) may be contentious?
It might be contentious I suppose. I would remind people however that huge savings are being made throughout the constitution, for example professionalisation of Ents, Belfield FM, less sabbatical officers etc. The total maximum cost of paying the conveners collectively would be less than the cost of a sabbatical officer’s wages. The CRG felt that it was very difficult to hold people to account and to demand a certain level of work when there are no wages involved. These small payments would introduce that additional control over the work output of the executive.
-Do you think the proposed sabbatical team structure will be more effective than the current structure? How so?
I believe the new sabbatical team will be much more effective than the current structure. Having been in the Campaigns & Communications role myself previously, I am confident that the duties can be more effectively transmitted to other area. I believe that Welfare & Equality go hand in hand and so it was an obvious change to make to welfare in my mind. I believe the President chairing the Entertainments forum is the only sensible way to do things becuase of the levels of financial exposure involved. Finally I think it’s about time we work harder at representing the interests of our graduate members and for me the addition of the graduate education officer was a no-brainer. The particular focus of that role on graduate opportunities and careers is also a positive move, and one which students will benefit greatly from, in my opinion.
-The current SU constitution mentions the word “finance” once, the word appears almost 30 times in the proposed text. With this and the current SU debt in mind, do you agree that the constitution currently in place failed to establish structures to ensure fiscal stability for the Union?
Yes I believe that it is fair to say that there is not enough emphasis on finances ad fiscal responsibility in the current constitution. That being said I don’t think the drafters of that constitution could have foreseen what was to come with regard to the finances. I believe the are of finances is extremely well covered in the new document and I believe it will provide a stable and robust financial future for the SU.
-Currently, a financial administrator, a university employee, is appointed to the Union. Will this still be in place if the proposed constitution is put in place?
The proposed new constituion removes any reference to the ‘Union Administrative Officer’ so I do not imagine that this would continue. The Union is hiring internally to make up for this loss.
-Does the proposed Constitution have to be passed in order for the SU to be able to create companies?
No, the Union can form companies regardless.
-24.4 states any person holding an elected position shall not use that position for personal or financial gain. Why was this included in the new constitution? Has there been suspicion of this in the past?
We felt that it was prudent to put this in. I have no specific evidence that his has happened in the past but I believe that there could be scope for it to happen.
-If the constitution is ratified can we expect a referendum on UCDSU’s affiliation with USI in the 2012/2013 year, as a referendum has not been held within the past four years? Or how is the constitution suppose to be interpreted in this regard?
I believe that there will be no obligation for the referendum to occur next year but I still think it would be prudent to do so there is a noticeable appetite for it amongst students.
-If the IADB upholds an appeal against any elected officer of the Union, it may impose penalties on such an officer. The penalties may include:
16.12.1 A formal reprimand; and/or 16.12.2 A deduction from the remuneration of such officer.
-Can you elaborate on this? Does this mean an elected officer can effectively have their pay docked by the IADB?
-Does this section comply with employment law?
This has been taken directly from the current constitution and there is no change at all. This is how the ssytem has operated for years and there have never been any problems. It does comply with employemtn law as it is effectively prt of the terms of employment as it is contained in the constitution.
-If the constitution is passed, what will be the relationship between the Union and Belfield FM?
The Union will continue to financially support Belfield FM until such time as it can gain society recognition.
-Could Exec. approval of funding for the University Observer compromise the paper’s editorial independence?
I don’t believe so. This vests what was a power of the President alone into the executive, making it a fairer and more balanced process. There will be no change to the editorial independence.