On August 24th a meeting of the Societies Council was held, with only 24 hours notice and in which no vote was held, where UCD Societies Officer Richard Butler described the positive and negative aspects to having in person freshers week recruitment.
Reports from Auditors present at the meeting stated that no vote was held, having been informed that decision making at the Societies Council is made by “consensus building”. The Societies Council has made decisions by a show of hands vote previously. One auditor who spoke to the University Observer stated that the information was presented in a one-sided manner, focussing on the potential costs of in-person orientation. The information on the pros and cons of either option were not disseminated before the meeting.
During the meeting, a general offer to email concerns to either the Chair of the Societies Council or the Societies Officer was made.
The August 24th meeting was announced to auditors with only 24 hours notice, leaving several societies unrepresented. When a follow up meeting was announced for the 5th September, this time with several days notice, Auditors who attended who wished to dispute the decision or question the logistics of it were informed that the decision had already been made by consensus of the societies council.
On the 16th of August, during a training event for the Drama Society and the Musical Society, Butler was overheard telling committee members for those societies that freshers week recruitment would “almost certainly” happen online, a week before auditors had been invited to offer their opinion.
UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) and the Athletic Union Council (AUC) are currently planning on holding in person sign ups during the second week of term, in the marquee that would have been used by societies should in person Freshers recruitment have taken place. The advice given to organisations conducting recruitment in person during this week, which includes the University Observer, state “Each area will be allocated a table and two chairs...The Marquee is regarded as an ‘outside’ area as two sides of the structure will remain open at all times”. In the information provided to the Observer, there is no stipulation that there will be a limit on the number of people manning a stall. In the information provided by Butler to Societies, he stated that should in person Freshers happen, each society would have been limited to one person per stall. It is unclear if this difference in advice is due to stall placement, or different advice being provided by different bodies.
Currently, Societies are being advised that all recruitment will be held either online or at in-person events. Societies are also being advised to keep a second database of society members who are regular attendees of events, so that the revenue lost from online recruitment, where new members of a society will not be asked to pay the usual €2 membership fee per society, may still be recouped.
The University Observer contacted Societies Officer for comment and with questions regarding all details listed above, but did not receive a reply.