Out of 32,000 students who study in UCD only 303 chose to stand for election in the recent Class Rep elections held on the 7th and 8th of October. 303 candidates make up less than 1% of the student body. A clear lack of engagement from the student body was evident from these elections as more often than not candidates were returned uncontested; only 79 reps were elected after voting from their peers while 87 reps were returned uncontested. To be elected without competition is not representative of the student democratic system these elections should epitomize.
An even more alarming and shocking figure to come out of these elections is that there are still vacant seats in 80 constituencies meaning many students are left unrepresented at a class rep level. The least represented course is most certainly physiotherapy were there remains to be vacant seats in all four stages. Other courses where disengagement prevails include Nursing & Midwifery, Veterinary and Medicine. Making the Health Science and Ag, Food and Vet constituencies the most underrepresented. The least amount of vacant seats lie in the Law constituency where representation is high and only two seats of many are left unfilled. However, candidates wishing to run for these vacant seats can still do so and the full list of such occupancies is available on the student union website.
Amongst such apathy from the wider student body I question the motivations behind those who actually ran to be a rep. Sarah Akerberg, who ran uncontested for stage 1 BComm International class rep and is an international student from the US, says she ran due to the interesting structure of the student union and also in order to jump straight into social life in Ireland after her move from the US. She also thought that organizing social events for the class was an excellent way to put herself out there as an international student.
Voting involvement was also alarmingly low as the vast majority of those I talked to had the opportunity to vote but chose not to. The issue of representation seemed to hold no concern for them; this nonchalant attitude was particularly prevalent amongst first years where representation, arguably, matters the most and organization within a course for social activities and student issues is critical. But for those who actually voted, what were they looking for in a candidate? Many told me they were voting based on the promise of unique and exciting social activities or exotic trips abroad, while few told me they were voting based on friendships. This at least shows that existing friendships play no part in these elections but rather what one can deliver to ensure their class has a good time.
Perhaps the student body of today holds little interest in democratic systems or maybe the role of class rep lacks seriousness for them, however, I believe a more democratic and student-influenced university will empower the whole student body and the class rep system is a way of achieving that goal.
Adam O’Sullivan – Reporter