'Yes’ campaign for proposed constitution questioned over impeachment and USI referendum provisions

UCDSU Hustings saw Graduate Officer Niall Torris speak in favour of the proposed changes to the constitution. He began his speech by emphasising his belief in the importance of the constitution, calling it the students’ “strongest source of power … and the union’s only source of democratic legitimacy and therefore [its] only source of power in the university”.

He described the referendum on the constitution as “bringing forward changes to make UCDSU better for all,” stating that the proposed constitution emerged as a result of a constitutional review, which was carried out be previous Officers. He also noted that the constitution had not been reviewed since 2014, and since then the “SU had changed massively.” Torris referred to his experience of having been a member of the student council for four years, and having held a sabbatical role for two of those to back up his claim. He outlined three main points the new consitution proposed to change: the introduction of an Entertainments officer, changes to how referendums were held and changes to the Campaign & Communications (C&C) Officer’s role.

Torris also mentioned the introduction of new campaigns coordinators such as a diversity coordinator and the creation of an Ents forum, the group of students who would hold events and would sit on the Union's council.

Following his presentation, Torris was questioned on the reasons behind there not being a “No” campaign. He answered by saying that council members had enough time to oppose the new constitution and propose changes throughout the year. He mentioned that there were 5-6 class reps that did oppose the constitution going to referendum during council. Torris stated he believed that while the proposed changes did not make the constitution perfect, they were still for the best. When asked what the negatives of the proposal were, he answered that “some things [were] being removed”, but noted that “they [were] things that [were] not being used.” He noted a few council roles that were available but had not been availed of, but that there were items being introduced to compensate for the losses, such as bringing in a Diversity and Inclusion campaign coordinator.

Torris was asked why he thought the student body should fund a full time role of an Ents officer when it had previously been removed, to which he responded saying “UCDSU entered a very serious and critical debt a number of years ago and the union needed to dramatically reduce the amount of money it was spending.” He spoke about the disadvantages of combining the roles of C&C and Ents and of the unnecessary pressure that puts on the C&C Officer, indicating that separating Ents and C&C would allow for more productivity within the individual sectors.

Torris was also questioned on the removal of the provision for holding a USI referendum every 4 years from the amended constitution. He responded by saying that referendums should be called when the student body expresses the desire to hold one, not just in accordance with a scheduled time in the constitution.

The Graduate Officer was then asked if the new constitution has any allowances in it to ensure constant review, so that amendments are made bit by bit instead of every few years, as many members of the student body do not know of all the changes being suggested because of their amount. Torris responded by stating that he was  “allowed to stand up here on [his] own and put [his] own position forward”. He also acknowledged that there were problems with the way changes to the constitution were made, but stated that for the time being the SU “need to move away from a constitution that was written for a time of crisis” and move towards one for a "time of growth".