At the beginning of March, students in Trinity College Dublin elected 5 women to lead the university’s Students’ Union for the year 2019/2020. Apart from the sole male candidate who was elected to run the embattled University Times, a student-led newspaper fighting for its life following controversial allegations of bugging, Trinity’s women-led Students’ Union is a powerful symbolic achievement which UCD Students’ Union has not seen before, and will not see for at least another year.
In the wake of TCDSU’s election, the University Observer analysed almost 68,500 first preference votes across 25 races in the 6 sets of UCDSU sabbatical elections since 2014. This includes the 2017 presidential by-election which was triggered by the impeachment of former-Union President Katie Ascough. Although not explicitly telling us why an all-female sabbatical team has not been elected, the data, collected by the Union’s returning office and the University Observer, shows students’ voting trends and reveals a positive correlation between the proportion of female candidates to the total number of candidates, and the proportion vote for female candidates.
Overall, since 2014, 57.2 per cent of student voters voted for 33 male candidates and one non-binary candidate, while 22 female candidates received 36.5 per cent of votes. 6.4 per cent of votes cast were to Reopen Nominations (RON). Over this time, 10 women were elected as sabbatical officers, representing 40 per cent of all races held. 15 men have taken the remaining 60 per cent of sabbatical positions since 2014.
Since 2014, there have been 6 sets of sabbatical elections, including the 2017 presidential by-election, which have elected 25 sabbatical officers to one year terms at the UCD Students’ Union. There have been 6 Presidents, 5 Education, Welfare and Graduate Officers and 4 Campaign & Communication (C&C) Officers. Of all elected officers, 10 were women and 15 were men. When those elected are broken down by sex, there have been 5 male Presidents and 1 female President; 3 female and 2 male Education Officers; 4 female and 1 male Welfare Officers; 2 female and 3 male Graduate Officers and 4 male C&C Officers.
33 men and one non-binary person, representing 61 per cent of all candidates, ran across the 25 races in the last 5 years, with 11 male candidates running for both the positions of President and Campaigns & Communications Officer. Of the 7 female candidates who ran for the position of President, 4 of them ran for President in the 2017/2018 academic year’s Presidential by-election and annual sabbatical election. There has only been one non-binary student, Sam Blanckensee, who ran for Welfare (2014) and C&C Officer (2016).
Since 2015, when the position of C&C officer was reinstated, there has only been one female candidate to run for the position. Katie O’Dea, who is the sole C&C candidate in this year’s sabbatical elections, is therefore certain to be the first female C&C officer since the position was added back to the sabbatical team.
Education and Welfare are the only portfolios for which more female than male candidates have run. 5 women have run for Education since 2014, compared to 4 male candidates, while 7 female candidates ran for Welfare compared to 4 men.
How have constituencies voted?
The Arts & Humanities, Sciences, Agriculture and Food Sciences, and Health Sciences constituencies are the four largest voting blocs among the UCDSU electorate, together representing 64.6 per cent of all student voters since 2014. Arts students have made up over 27 per cent of all valid voters, with Science making up 15.5 per cent, Health Sciences at 11.4 per cent, and Agriculture and Food Sciences students at 10.5 per cent.
Proportionally, Veterinary students, who make up less than 5 per cent of all voters, voted for female candidates the least, with 33.3 per cent of all their votes going to female candidates. The Veterinary constituency also represented the lowest proportion of RON votes at 4 per cent of all their votes since 2014.
In contrast, the Carysfort graduate constituency voted for female candidates the most at 44.2 per cent of all of the constituency’s votes since 2014. Carysfort, which is the smallest constituency at 1.5 per cent of all student voters, also had the highest proportion of RON voters at just over 8 percent. Out of all elections in the last 5 years, the Veterinary constituency has favoured male candidates the most, allocating 62.6 per cent of votes to them.
The Arts constituency, as the largest voting bloc, allocated 57.5 per cent of their votes towards male candidates, compared to 36.5 per cent of votes for female candidates and 6 per cent towards RON.
The University Observer would like to apologise for omitting, in the course of aggregating and interpreting the relevant data, the gender of previous UCD Students’ Union sabbatical candidates who identify as other than male or female.