Constitutional referendum to adopt an amended constitution

The UCDSU Constitution provides details for how the Students’ Union is to be run on a daily basis, from how often the executive is to meet, to the duties of each sabbatical officer. Proposals for amendments were first brought to Union council on Monday 19th November, by the Union’s Constitutional Group, where they outlined their recommendations to the proposed constitution.

The referendum was called at an extraordinary council meeting on Monday 4th March, after the majority of members voted to pass the motion, brought forward by UCDSU President Barry Murphy. UCDSU Graduate Officer Niall Torris is set to take annual leave to campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum, with no formal group of students having contacted the Returning Officer by the 15th March to campaign for a ‘No’ vote.

While members of the Union council have seen and discussed the amendments proposed to the constitution, the general student body had to contact the Union’s sabbatical officers to view the new document, as it had not been published on the Union’s website or social media accounts prior to the mid-term break.

Under the new constitution, the role of Entertainments (Ents) Officer will be made a full-time sabbatical officer position. The Ents Officer will be the chair of the Entertainments forum, made up of a Production Officer, a Promotions Officer, a Non-Alcoholic Events Officer and a RAG (Raise And Give) Committee Coordinator. The forum will have seats on Union Council and therefore will be required to regularly attend council meeting; submit reports to council and have the ability to vote on motions broad to council. When asked over the cost of an additional sabbatical position to the Student’s Union, members of the constitutional review group said that although the new addition is a direct cost, it is preferable to hiring a staff member to run the Union’s events at a greater cost. The University Observer previously reported that Union expects to post a surplus of €27,000 for the end of the year 2019, and an estimated spend of €1,030,601, over half of which is payroll costs for Union sabbatical officers, office staff and the staff of The University Observer.

UCD Students’ Union’s ties to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) will be cut further if the proposed constitution is adopted. The new constitution would remove the article 26 requirement to hold a referendum on USI membership every four years. The last referendum on USI was held in March 2016 following the 2013 USI-UCDSU split, meaning that the next referendum on USI membership would have been held in the next academic year, 2019/2020.

Campaigns and Communications Officer, Tom Monaghan spoke in favour of the referendum at the extraordinary council meeting that the Entertainments Officer role was “sorely needed”, as he believes that “there should not be a crossover between the three campaigns, communications and entertainment.”

Changes to the proportion of signatures required to trigger an impeachment referendum, increasing from 5% to 7.5% of the total registered membership of the union. This means that approximately 2,000 student signatures must be submitted to the Returning Officer before a referendum is called. The number of members required to vote in an impeachment referendum has also been increased to “at least 12.5% of Union membership” for the vote to be considered valid.

Besides an impeachment referendum, the threshold to call a referendum will be “no less than 3.5% of the total registered membership of the union,” as outlined among the proposed amendments. The group told council that this was ““seen as a healthy balance of a feasible threshold while also lowering the prospect of vexatious or otherwise cumbersome and expensive referendums for which there may not be broader support.”

The role of the Campaigns and Communications will be altered in the new constitution to be renamed “Campaigns & Engagement Officer,” with their duties updated to contribute to the input of all union publications (with the exception of the editorially independent publications) and be responsible for the day-to-day running of the Union’s website. Under the draft constitution, sabbatical officers will be required to run at least two campaigns a year related to their portfolio in conjunction with the Campaigns & Engagement Officer.

There will also be a new “Diversity & Inclusion Officer” and “Student Residences Coordinator” to the Campaigns forum, and will replace the Sports and Societies Coordinators which have often been left vacant in on the forum.

Although there is no formal ‘No’ campaign for this referendum, six Union council members opposed the motion to call for a referendum on the proposed constitution. Speaking at the extraordinary Union council meeting, Engineering and Architecture College Officer candidate Joshua Gorman Climax said that there are several matters in the constitution that are not currently done correctly, and that “changing it does not necessarily manifest change.” Climax also told council that proposed constitution was drafted by past students who are unable to implement it, reminding council that many things that seem promising may never manifest.

Current International Students Coordinator, Andrew Grossen, spoke in favour the referendum, stating that it was the perfect debate for the student body to have.

Should voting on this referendum result in a ‘Yes’ vote, the Returning Officer will call for a by-election to fill the role of the Ents Officer, for the new sabbatical team.