UCDSU rejects offer of partial rebate of the student centre levy from UMT

Image Credit: UCD Students' Union

UCDSU Council has tonight voted with 60% support to reject a €50 partial rebate of the Student Centre Levy to all students, which was offered by the University Management Team (UMT).

UCDSU Council has tonight voted 55 to 0 out of 77 members attending to reject a €50 partial rebate of the Student Centre Levy to all students, which was offered by the University Management Team (UMT). The rebate was set to be paid for from the Student Centre’s budget. UCD’s current student population is an estimated 34,000, and so the total cost of the rebate to the Student Centre Budget would have been €1.7 million.

The Sabbatical Officers were asked by UMT to provide written confirmation that they “agree to the rebate with the knowledge that there will be an impact on the future finances of the student centre”. UMT also stated that “effectively future students will pay for the rebate one way or another”.

It is understood that UCDSU initially requested a rebate of the full cost of the Student Centre Levy and that the money for this would have been taken from the reported €11 million budgetary surplus that had been reported in The Sunday Times. This rebate would have cost roughly €8,636,000

It is understood that the Student Centre has already lost income this year due to the lack of commercial clients and other revenue-generating activities, but that the operational costs of the centre have also been reduced. At the time of publication, no official figures have been published for the current academic year. 

UCDSU’s sabbatical team chose to bring the proposal to Council as they felt it was a decision “for the whole of Council”. It was brought forward by UCDSU Welfare officer Ruairí Power as an emergency item for discussion, however, an indicative vote was allowed by Council Chair Niall Torris due to the nature of the issue. Changes to the Student Centre Levy can be made with the consent of the UCDSU leadership, as per the constitutional referendum on extending the Student Centre Levy in 2019.

It is understood that the monies lost to rebate may have impacted the ability of the Student Centre’s ability to repay the mortgage for construction (which is reportedly due to be finished by 2023), the current operations, or both. During Council, Education Officer Hannah Bryson stated that “roughly 80%” of the levy goes towards the mortgage, and the remaining money goes towards operational costs of the centre, including the gym and Student Health Services.

During Council, Power stated that there was “absolutely no guarantee” on how the money would be raised. Power described the deal as an “advanced payment”. Large numbers of council members voted against the deal and no speakers spoke in favour. UCDSU President Conor Anderson cautioned that rejecting the deal may lead to UMT blaming UCDSU for rejecting a rebate. However, Anderson did clarify that he agreed and that it was “a bad deal”.

The Student Centre has remained open during the current Trimester in a limited capacity, allowing limited access to offices for student societies, UCDSU, student health services, and The University Observer.