Despite the reduction in the cost of class rep training, Katie Hughes questions whether the event’s efficiency levels could still be higher

This year’s Students’ Union class representative elections took place at the beginning of the fourth week of the semester. The first Union Council followed at the end of the same week and the newly elected class representatives took to the countryside of Tullow, Co. Carlow, for their training on the weekend of the 8th, 9th and 10th of October.

In previous years, class rep training was known, to an extent, as an expensive weekend away for members of Union Council during which numerous damages were incurred, a lot of alcohol was consumed and much fun was had – depending on one’s definition of fun, of course. However, a great effort was made to re-establish the credibility of Students’ Union class rep training this year, as previous years’ training had led to the event being given the reputation that everything but a relevant educational experience was had by those involved.

The atmosphere at class rep training this year will remain a mystery to most of us, as the attendees are not permitted to publish photos of the weekend on Facebook. According to UCDSU Campaigns and Communication Vice-President Pat de Brún, this measure was taken so as not to jeopardise the integrity of the weekend.

However, seeing as this year’s training was deemed successful, there should be nothing to hide. Students, who annually pay money to the Union, should surely be allowed to see what their elected representative as well as their Sabbatical and Executive Officers are up to on their cost.

As a part of their training, the elected representatives took a series of modules. These ranged from talks by the five sabbatical officers on their respective offices, to modules on the Union’s history, and current schemes that are in place, such as Quinn Healthcare, the loyalty card and a talk about the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

While these talks could all have been crammed into one, albeit hectic and exhausting, on-campus day, there may be a point in de Brún’s statement that the off-campus, three-day stay may encourage the ‘bonding’ of class reps and their Sabbatical Officers. This would serve well for the reps, giving them the confidence to question Sabbatical Officers on the job they are doing during the fortnightly Union Council.

Credit must be given to de Brún for turning class rep training into a more credible, organised and educational experience. Hopefully this is a precedent that has been set for future years. However, the transformation made in class rep training this year in no way suggests that there are no issues remaining with the annual occurrence.

Whether the event actually merits the €11,000 spent is questionable. Is renting the four-star Mount Wolseley necessary when training could just as well have been held on campus? Renting out the Astra Hall would surely have been cheaper and have resulted in the same outcome.

De Brún defends the weekend away, insisting that due to the “hectic schedule of modules”, keeping a high attendance of newly elected reps is more difficult on campus. Surely these enthusiastic reps, who promise their peers to be so outgoing, attentive and hard working during their election campaign, would want to attend all aspects of the training that would teach them skills required to perform to the best of their abilities.

In a time of recession, the cost of the training must undoubtedly be a bone of contention. It must be kept in mind that the Students’ Union is partially funded by a portion of UCD’s student registration fee. As a student, are you happy to see your money going towards three days training, food and accommodation for your class reps?

The spending of thousands of euro on teaching university students how to set up Facebook groups and organise class parties appears to be a waste in some peoples’ eyes. However, it’s up to you to decide for yourself – question your class reps, ask them for help, make sure they do their jobs. If that’s not done, a whole lot of money will have gone to complete waste.

Despite this year’s training making a €4,000 saving on last year’s extravaganza, €11,000 is still far too much to be spending on a jaunt to the countryside. There are other facilities that could be utilised closer to home, and for a significantly lower cost. Whether future years’ training will remain in line with this year’s process and not revert back to the previously demonstrated layout and style, or lack thereof, remains to be seen.