On April 1st and 2nd, you will be asked to vote for a new UCD Students’ Union constitution. The constitution is the document that governs the way your Students’ Union operates and it can only be changed by a student vote. This is the document that places YOU, the students, in control of your SU and decides what it does (and does not) do. As the current Graduate officer of UCDSU, I am taking time off to campaign to encourage you to APPROVE the new UCDSU constitution and to VOTE YES for a better union. It’s vital that we are well informed on what the new constitution will change and why. In this article, I’d like to inform you about what some of the main changes are and a little bit about how this new constitution was drafted then approved by your class rep council to be put to the student body for your approval!
If approved, the new constitution will come into effect from next year. These changes have been worked on by numerous past sabbatical officers and friends of UCDSU from the last number of years. The main changes are that the new constitution will add an Ents officer to the SU sabbatical team (the sabbatical officers are the paid officers of the union who are elected once a year). It will also change the current Campaigns & Communications officer role to the Communications & Engagement officer. There are also some changes to the rules around referendums (student votes to change the union’s policy or structures) and some smaller changes.
The new ents officer would be the face of entertainment on campus. This means that you would have a directly elected student who is in charge of entertainment from next year on, such as RAG week, the end of year gig and lots more. An Ents officer places more control in your hands as you would be able to directly-elect the main person responsible for SU entertainment and events both on and off campus. This person would be part of the SU executive and sabbatical team meaning that entertainments will be put more to the forefront of what the SU does for you.
As the new ents officer will be handling SU entertainment this means the Campaigns and Communications officer role will have to change as they are currently responsible for Ents. The introduction of the ents officer means more time and focus can be given to creating campaigns and engaging students with union activities than the C&C officer can manage at the moment. For this reason, the proposed constitution will change the Campaigns and Communications officer to the Communication and Engagement officer allowing the new C&E officer to focus on these important responsibilities while the ents officer focuses on bringing quality entertainment to you.
There are also some changes to the rules around referendums in the proposed new constitution. The main changes include an increase in the percentages needed to call certain types of referenda and removal of the clause in the current constitution which requires the SU to hold a USI (Union of Students in Ireland) membership referendum every four years. Referenda are a vital part of UCDSU’s democratic structure and keeps power in the hands of you, the students. To make sure these processes are as strong as possible it is vital that referenda are only called with proper backing from students, not automatically.
The way UCDSU works has changed a lot since the current constitution was approved (after the last review) in 2015. This new constitution brings in minor changes to help reflect how UCDSU actually works now. For example, UCDSU lost its partner to maintain a “grinds file” and so we can no longer do this. This is being removed from the Education officers role as it is important that officers have constitutional obligations that can be upheld. The maximum size of a constituency which a class rep can be elected to will also be set at 120 students, this means that certain areas will have more class reps to represent them on the council. Lots of other changes are also included and these can be found in the new constitution. E-mail the SU to get a copy!
This proposed new constitution was drafted by UCDSUs constitutional review group. This review group had seven members. Ciara Reilly, who is the chair of the UCDSUs board and currently works for the department of education. Ciara was previously a Campaigns & Communications officer & deputy president. Gavan Reilly is a journalist and political correspondent who was previously the deputy editor of the University Observer. Morgan Shelley is a practising-barrister and was previously a UCDSU Returning Officer. Róisín Ní Mhara is currently a Masters in Common Law candidate in UCDs Sutherland School of Law and was Welfare officer in 2016/17. Robert Sweeney is an MSc in Management Consultancy student in the UCD Smurfit school in Blackrock and was the Education officer in 2017/18. Deirdre Carr is the longest standing staff member having worked in UCDSU for 7 years, she is currently the Officer Manager and holds an M.Litt in History. The final member of the Constitutional review group is Barry Murphy who was the UCDSU Campaigns & Communications officer (and deputy president) in 2017. He was later elected President in November 2017 and is the current President of UCDSU.
The review group held their first meeting in April 2018. They met 7 times and had their final meeting in November 2018. The draft constitution they created was put to UCDSU council at a town hall meeting that same November where they suggested changes to the draft document. A list of these changes was brought back to a class rep council meeting in February 2019 and was approved by council at that meeting. This proposed new constitution is the document they voted on and is now being put forward for your approval on April 1st and 2nd.
Having been on UCDSU council for four years (two as a sabbatical officer) and having extensive personal experience in the student movement I can confidently say that these changes will make our union better and improve how UCDSU works to represent you, the students of UCD. I am certain that there will be further reviews in the future and that these will bring more improvements for UCDSU. For now, this new constitution will bring things forward. Vote YES to adopt the proposed new UCDSU constitution on April 1st and 2nd, vote YES for a better union.
By Niall Torris – UCDSU Graduate Officer