President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) John Logue has stated that the departure of UCDSU from the USI would be “a major blow to the organization.” In an interview with the College Tribune this week Logue said that “If UCD were to leave…it would be to everyone’s detriment, but particularly UCD who would lose their voice at a national level.”

Students are set to decide whether UCDSU should remain affiliated with USI in a referendum that is due to take place in the coming weeks. The referendum is to be held in tandem with a referendum on the reinstatement of an elected ENTS officer to the UCDSU constitution.

The referendum,  which was postponed from last semester,  is a follow on from one that took place in Trinity College last year, in which students voted to remain affiliated with the organisation.

When asked about the failure of the USI to halt the increase in the Student Contribution Fee in Budget 2013, Logue defended the organisation for the work it did in the months before the budget, “if that’s all people see I think people aren’t looking at the full picture, I completely stick my hands up and say yes the result in the respect of fees isn’t the one we got. But I think we have to look at the overall scheme here, we’ve over 40% of students in UCD for example on the maintenance grants. 97% of students on the maintenance grant were protected in that budget, so they weren’t affected at all by the fee increase because it’s paid on their behalf… so that was as a direct correlation of the USI’s work with the Department and ensuring the issue of maintenance grant was to the fore of conversation, not just in the lead up to that budget but for months beforehand.”

As UCDSU continue to deal with financial issues, which led to two full-time staff being made redundant along with some shop workers taking a redundancy package during the Summer, many have questioned the cost associated for UCDSU with membership of the USI and how USI would be affected if students were to vote in favour of

leaving the organisation. Logue stated that  ‘if we were to lose that amount of funding from an organisation as large as UCD and a student base as large as UCD, over 22,000 students that would be a blow to the organisation, we wouldn’t be as effective on a national level, we would continue on, but I think for example Trinity College realised, there’s much more to be gained inside the USI rather than being outside it and I think that is the crux of the issue”.

When asked if UCDSU is getting value for money from the USI, Logue stated that, “every student in UCD, if they’re a full time student, they’re paying is €5 towards USI and if they’re a part time student they’re paying €2.50. The question on the ground for students is; is my €5 I pay to USI worth the money, and the answer to that in terms of the service that they get back is a resounding yes. If you take an example as I said previously there has been a €317,000 extra went in this year alone to UCD Student Welfare fund on account of USI’s work. We have more than tripled our payback to UCD students this year alone… we provide the training to your sabbatical officers to ensure they’re working for you. We run a number of campaigns for students throughout the year, whether it’s in LGBT rights for example, whether it’s ensuring the that quality of your degree is sufficient, whether it’s to ensure rental prices are in any way equitable and fair for you to pay”.

With a perception by some that the USI is a stepping stone for Students’ Union activists to further their career Logue counters stating “USI officers do not have a life, and I wish I had, but I can guarantee you that the nine people in my office certainly don’t, we work 13/14 hours a day and I don’t know anybody in my office who thinks they are gaining anymore than gray hairs and a waistline because of what they’re doing, but they’re doing it because they think they can do a damn good job and they know they’re making a difference.”

-Ronan Coveney