UCD’s Students Union has been placed under the scrutiny of those it represents in recent weeks as the current team of sabbatical officers passes the half-way point. At the forefront of this mounting pressure is a group of UCD students, spanning various faculties, operating across a range of social media platforms under the guise of ‘RON for UCDSU’.
The group’s initial criticisms were published as an open letter on their blog on Friday February 5th, and were followed by a lengthy second instalment on Thursday February 11th. In the days following the group’s opening salvo, its claims were dismissed at council as a smear campaign which was ‘too mean’ to acknowledge, according to Thursday’s update.
Discussion of the group was raised at Union Council on February 9th at which the group was labelled as slanderous, though UCDSU president Marcus O’Halloran did concede that points raised on the distribution of funds raised during events such as RAG week had some merit. The possibility of funds from future campaigns being distributed to groups such as the Student Welfare Fund was mooted.
The group maintains that its letter has resonated with a significant share of the student body, having accumulated 578 online shares at the time of going to print. Speaking candidly in an online interview with the College Tribune, RON for UCDSU accounted for their decision to publically call out UCD’s elected representatives.
RON explained to The College Tribune that its social media campaign was a natural progression for ‘a group of students who were upset about the way the SU was working’ and ‘feel that the SU has completely neglected the interests of students’. Whilst applauding the charitable endeavours undertaken by the current SU sabbatical team, the group asserts that the real focus of the SU should be on acting as a representative body in the interests of its members.
Despite the pseudonym under which the group operates, questioning on ambitions to run for office in this year’s sabbatical elections were met with emphatic denial. RON cited their disillusionment with the electoral process as the primary reason not to run.
This disillusionment is rooted in what they say is the impossibility of being ‘in any office as none of us are in a clique’. Factors such as ‘who is the more popular candidate, who has the support of which hacks and also who has the biggest campaign team on the day,’ were also cited as taking precedence over who the ‘best candidate,’ truly is.
When questioned over the decision to operate anonymously, discussion adopted a darker tone. The group has elected not to reveal the identities of its members, citing fears of harassment. The intimidation of a student by the campaign team of one candidate during last year’s sabbatical elections as well as the backlash directed at the group on Twitter and Facebook were cited as specific examples of these fears manifesting themselves on campus.
- Conor Nealon, News Writer
This article originally appeared in Volume 29, Issue 8. Published February 16th 2016.