University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) is asking students to vote, by way of referendum, on what it believes are two important issues affecting its student members. Votes on the topic of abortion and also a smoke-free campus will be put to students on October 1st and 2nd. This is to coincide with the Union Class Representative elections, nominations for which close this Friday, September 20th.
UCDSU currently has no stance on abortion and in light of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill’s publication earlier this year, it was decided to poll students on their views, the results of which will become live Union policy.
Students will be asked to list, in order of preference, whether the Union should (A) support the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, permitting abortion in certain circumstances; (B) adopt of policy of legalizing abortion in Ireland on the request of the woman involved; (C) adopt a policy in opposition of the legalization of abortion in this country or whether (D) the Students’ Union should refrain from taking any stance on the issue and remain neutral.
It is the belief of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill is overly restrictive and will not protect women. USI President Joe O’Connor, has said, “Any further restrictions to what is an already extremely restrictive piece of legislation cannot and should not be tolerated.”
However, due to UCD’s disaffiliation from the national union at the end of the last academic year, it is unclear what impact the national stance will have on the issue within UCD.
The second referendum relates to a proposal, by the UCD Health Promotion Committee to make the campus smoke-free from October 2014. Students will be asked to vote yes or no leading to the Union either supporting or opposing the initiative.
As the Committee is not a product of the Union, a no vote will not halt the plans, but will instead allow the Union to campaign on behalf of students to discourage the proposal. The proposal comes after several areas on campus were made smoke-free last year.
UCD are not unique in this endeavor, as over 1,000 college campuses in the United States work on this basis. Trinity College Dublin students themselves are also investigating the possibility of having a smoke-free campus.
Smoke-free campuses aim to support people who don’t smoke and those who have quit by prohibiting smoking outdoors on college campuses. A college-wide survey was carried out in Trinity College on the issue, and the students involved are taking their lead from the college community to assess the feasibility of the idea.
All current UCD students, as automatic members of the Students’ Union, are entitled to vote in both referendums.