The word of the week is referendum. As if we had all died and gone to democracy heaven, there will be a total of four referendums for UCD students to vote in this week; two on campus and two for the real government. In fact, one of them is even better than just a boring referendum with two boring options. The abortion preferendum has a whopping four options. That’s like two referendums for the price of one.

Unfortunately for me, I am not actually a student anymore, so I can’t actually vote on whether or not UCDSU will use their immense national influence to push a pro-choice or a pro-life agenda. Who knows, I keep hearing that student apathy is at an all time high, so maybe the students will vote to not take a stance.

As for the proposed smoking ban, a lot of people don’t seem to be aware of the fact that even if the students vote against the ban, that will merely determine what suggestion the SU make to the University. UCD can still turn around and ban smoking on campus, even if 100% of students vote against it.

Of the two, the smoking referendum is the more interesting one. It will be interesting to how many people vote in favour of the Union adopting a pro-choice stance in order to support the idea that women should have complete control over their own bodies, but then turn around and vote against the smoking ban, despite second hand smoking being a thing.

By smoking in a public place, you’re pretty much telling everyone around you that your desire to poison yourself is more important than their desire to not be poisoned. Still, you’d think that the smokers will be more passionate about the issue than non-smokers, so the anti-ban vote should be a little stronger.

On a national level, very few people seem to be aware of the fact that we are voting on two issues this Friday. Everyone knows about the Seanad referendum, but there has been almost no mention of the one concerning the Court of Appeals. It’s also interesting that you can vote to abolish the Seanad, even if you’re not eligible to vote in the Seanad elections.

If you’re still unsure of what dissolving the Seanad would mean for the country’s political structure, Elizabeth O’Malley, has written a helpful piece about the differences between the various forms of government on page 5 so that you can have some clue as to what you’re voting for on Friday, assuming you are registered and intend on voting, of course.

Unfortunately, abolishing the Seanad won’t fix the mess that is the Student Universal Support Ireland programme. As you can see from the front page, more than half of all applicants have heard back about the status of their grant.

Last Friday, Caroline Erskine appeared on RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime to talk about the situation. At one point, she called on the children of self-employed workers to send in their parents’ tax details at the beginning of August, despite the fact that self-assessed tax forms are not returned until late September.

How exactly are the children of the self-employed supposed to send on their parents’ tax details almost two months before they know what the details are? This is just another example of the terrible communication that goes on between different parts of the government.

Allowing me a perfect segue back to what’s in the paper, Robert Nielsen examines the importance of language and communication as he talks to some speakers of what has been dubbed “the neutral language”, Esperanto, on page 8.

In Science, Michael O’Sullivan dives head first into the topic of panda poo, with input from the appropriately named Dr. Brown, while Tony Flynn takes a look at UCD Marian’s chances this year in the basketball.

The opinion page is particularly interesting this issue, with the LGBT Outreach column focusing on the power of words and how the context of who is saying them can change everything, while Conor O’Toole does his own thing that I don’t pretend to understand.

Otwo is filled with fun content, including an interivew with the dreamy Robert Sheehan by the just as dreamy Jack Walsh, while Rebekah Rennick previews the Hard Working-Class Heroes Festival, which boasts the likes of Hozier and So Cow.

So far, the response we have gotten from the incoming first years who want to write for the paper has been amazing. It is such a pity that UCD don’t carry a journalism course, as there is clearly the demand for it. It really is great to see so many great young writers coming through already this year.

If you would like to write for us but haven’t actually gotten in contact with us yet, don’t worry, we’re always looking for new writers, photographers and illustrators. If you’ve got an interesting idea for the paper, we’d love to hear it. Just look at Cathal Nolan, our chief meteorologist who got the weather right every day for issue 1 after pitching the idea to us this summer.

The point is, the University Observer is a student newspaper and we want to get as many of you involved as possible. If you feel like you might want to write something or learn how to correctly take photographs, don’t be afraid to drop me an email. Or better yet, pop into the office and have a chat.