After a challenging and exciting campaign, I was honoured to be elected President of UCD Students’ Union in March 2017.
It is no secret that I am pro-life and many students do not share my view. Since the day I was elected, before I’d been put in office, some students were already calling for my impeachment.
However, I did not run for election on a pro-life platform. I ran on a manifesto of student welfare, reducing fees, microwaves, bridging the gap between students and their union, and lots more.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the hard work over the summer to live up to my campaign promises, and I wouldn’t change the last four months as President of UCD Students’ Union for anything.
Decision to Follow Legal Advice
A group of students is now calling for my impeachment, and their main argument against me is my decision to not illegally distribute abortion information. Winging It was a publication first produced by last year’s team, and it served as a college-guide for incoming students. Aware that the handbook contained explicit abortion information but not informed by the editors that it was illegal to distribute, I originally delegated the sign off for the handbook to the C&C Officer. After the books were printed and delivered, a staff member pointed out various issues including potential illegality of some of the content. I then sought legal advice from the Union’s long-standing lawyer who advised that it would be prudent to have the books redesigned or cancelled. This legal advice is available online at Facebook.com/Fight4Katie.
The cost of reprinting the handbooks was approx. €7,000. I suggested to the Sabbatical Officers that we publish the amended book online, and not incur this cost, but they insisted to have it reprinted.
Also important to note is the extent of the risks associated with illegally distributing the abortion information. Each person involved in the decision to publish the information and/or involved in distributing the books would have been at risk of up to €4,000 in fines each, a personal criminal conviction and record, and, if prosecuted, the Union could also incur thousands in legal fees. Those at risk could have included the Union’s staff members, sabbatical officers, and volunteers. As President, this was not something I was able to stand over, and so I decided to follow the legal advice offered by the Union’s lawyer.
Another point to note is what changed in the book. The main legal issue with the abortion information was that it was being handed out in an unsolicited manner (that is, most people being handed the book were not asking to receive the abortion information). Therefore, several lines were rewritten so that, instead of showing the abortion information, it directed people to organisations where they could get the same abortion information. That was the alteration that was needed to stay within the law and not put up to two dozen people at risk of thousands in fines and personal criminal convictions and records.
Delivering for You:
UCDSU has achieved many things in the last few months. So far as President, I have worked hard in tackling the student accommodation issue and the cost of college. I have helped bring these issues to the attention of the media, enabling us to secure private meetings with ministers and receive government funding – something never achieved before by the Union. We have also hosted successful events like Fresh Fest and the Freshers’ Ball, and it was a privilege to help present the President’s Welcomes to first year students and introduce so many people to their college and Students’ Union.
Things to Come:
I have detailed on Facebook what is to come, but in short, we are almost ready to install microwaves and I am in the middle of a number of projects about consent, mental health, and campus safety, as well as restarting the Niteline service and fighting the ever-rising tuition costs.
Also, I can’t wait to put in place the plan for Hang Out Thursdays, which I have written out on a whiteboard in my office. We’ll be getting together to hear your ideas for change – and providing a sneaky lunch where we can!
Democracy and Fairness:
In the midst of much achievement, a group of students has called for my impeachment because I chose to not break the law. They have claimed I spent €8,000 to hide abortion information, when in fact I have followed the Union’s legal advice to protect the Union and individuals from monetary and personal risk. While I respect any concerns students may have, I must state that the call for my impeachment is without legitimate cause, and in calling an impeachment referendum without grounds they are using thousands of students’ euro. If successful, the by-election to elect a new President would also cost thousands of euro, and would be discarding a hard-working President who has spent three months of summer preparing for and being inducted into the job.
Another alarming matter is the bullying tactics of a group of students to try and oust a democratically elected SU president. Some members of the Impeach UCDSU President campaign have been posting pro-impeachment Twitter and Facebook posts since the day of my election back in March, before I had the chance to make even one presidential action or decision. It was clear from the outset that some students didn’t want to give me a chance as SU President because of my personal views.
In the interest of fairness, of democracy, and an effective SU, please tackle bullying and use your vote to build a fairer, freer, and more democratic UCD. We don’t have to agree on every issue, but we should be able to respect each other and not endorse unfair accusations.
I would be honoured to continue my hard work for UCD students and build on the achievements we have made at UCDSU so far.
Please Vote No to Impeachment on October 25th & 26th.
Katie Ascough – Fight4Katie/Vote No Campaign