By Marc Morrison
A motion calling for a referendum on the DIT Student Union’s membership of the Union of Students in Ireland will be brought to the Student Council meeting in December.
This comes after a petition proposing to remove article 8.3 (which deals with the unions automatic membership of USI) from the DITSU Constitution, was brought to the Student Council meeting in November.
The petition was signed by 34 student councillors, of which there are 58.
DITSU President Boni Odoemene has told The Edition that the executive council are in favour of leaving the USI.
DITSU will this year pay €85’642 for membership of the USI and this seems the main matter of contention for the council.
“USI do very good things nationally and for the members. What they do heavily benefits the smaller student union’s in comparison to the bigger student union’s,” Odoemene said.
“If you consider the finances and how much were getting back from it and what this union needs to improve itself for the students – USI aren’t giving us that, plain and simple.
President of USI Michael Kerrigan, who is scheduled to attend the December Student Council meeting, said: “Last year, 91% of DIT Students voted to remain affiliated to the Union of Students in Ireland for the next 3 years.
“I am aware of a petition from 25% of DITSU Councillors for a motion calling on another referendum. However, I have not heard a reason for trying to overturn the decision of the student body and no issues have, to date, been brought to National Council.”
In March 2016, DITSU held a referendum on the union’s membership of USI. 2989 students voted to remain in the USI out of 3265 votes cast.
Speaking about that referendum, Odoemene said: “Council had mandated the executive to stay neutral, and at that time I was happy to. I voted in favour of staying in USI. This year the Executive are in favour of leaving.”
Neither UCD Student Union nor University Limerick Student Union are members of USI.
President of UL Jack Shelly believes: “The main benefit of not being a part of USI is not having the pay the €70,000+ cost if we were to be a member.
“Students in UL are already paying a levy for our new student centre and sports facilities that are to be built in the coming years.
Shelly also said, “By not being a member of USI we are hindered because we do not have national representation. Apart from that we see ourselves as a very strong and independent student representative body and we feel like we are doing just fine not being a member of USI.”
“I think our students will need to see a lot of positive reasons for joining USI if it is going to cost us that type of money, and so far we haven’t seen them.”
Shelly wanted to make it clear his team have nothing against USI and said, “we do have a good relationship with the current team in USI and we do stay in touch.”
USI President Michael Kerrigan emphasised the need to ask the question about what effect the result of the proposed referendum could have on DITSU’s merger with Institute of Blanchardstown SU and Institute of Tallaght SU.
“If DITSU were to disaffiliate, they would continue to be paying members of USI until 2019. With the merger planned for September 2018, and a new Union to be established, a referendum across all 3 colleges would be likely next year, meaning students would be asked the same question 3 years in a row”, said Kerrigan.
Odoemene believes DITSU have outgrown USI, “One thing USI do provide is training for officers: our training is far better. Why? Because we have the staffing structures in house to do it ourselves.”
Odoemene sees the Technological Universities bill as the item of most importance for DITSU.
The bill sets out the procedures and regulations to allow for the dissolution of institutes and the forming of a technological university.
“We had to hire our own private lobbyist because we weren’t getting enough from USI. When the deadline for amendments came around two weeks ago, there was aspects of our amendments which clashed directly with USI’s amendments but were paying them to represent us nationally.”
Odoemene went on to say, “The money we have to pay to be members isn’t worth it anymore. It used to be, we have a bigger staff cohort then they do.
It’s not USI’s fault, it’s not what USI is but it’s what it’s become in our opinion. It best serves the small SU’s.”