This past week, the anonymous Instagram gossip account @ucdconfessions posted a number of criticisms of the way in which the Students Union is structured. 

This article runs down some of the major claims made by the account in its posts from March 24th and 25th. It reviews the hard facts associated with each (when relevant), before providing a separate, subjective analysis (again, where relevant). 

  1. 5 of the 6 candidates are in the same two courses: Law with Social Justice or Sociology
    1. This claim is disputable. 
    2. Facts: Three candidates are in/graduates of Law with Social Justice, and one is in Pharmacology. The disputable area is whether Social Policy & Sociology and Economics & Sociology are considered distinct courses. 
    3. Background/Analysis: Hair splitting aside, the real issue being targeted by this claim is a perceived lack of educational diversity in the coming UCDSU Executive. It may be unsurprising to some that student government is dominated by those in courses relevant to politics and activism. Whether voters consider this relevant to their choice will remain to be seen. 
  2. You are automatically a member of the Student Union, and that your union fees “directly” fund 6 full time SU Sabbatical Officers
    1. This claim is technically true.
    2. Facts: Upon registration at the University, every UCD student is automatically a member of the Students Union. The cost for this membership is automatically incorporated into your existing registration fees. A student can request to withdraw from the Union in a process called “disaffiliation”. 
  3. You are not allowed to hold a UCDSU Sabbatical position and actively attend UCD in the same year. 
    1. This claim is true. 
    2. Facts: the UCDSU Constitution does state that Officers “shall pursue their duties on a full-time basis”. 
  4. Current SU Sabbatical officers are primarily graduates, and therefore “don’t have the same accountability and can just coast”. 
    1. This claim is misleading, or at least highly subjective.
    2. Facts: Any member of the UCDSU can be elected to a Sabbatical post. As each position is constitutionally a full-time commitment, current students must take a year out from their degree, and graduates cannot hold another full-time job. This is not unique to the UCDSU: a number of society and student media positions are also sabbatical, although these, as a general rule, are unpaid. 
    3. Sabbatical officers are held accountable internally through two processes. First, and most regularly, they are required to give a report at every SU Council meeting outlining their progress on certain issues. At this point, they are required to answer questions based on their report. Second, in the event that the IADB upholds an appeal or formal complaint against an Executive officer, the officer can be suspended, reprimanded, and/or have their remuneration deducted. 

They are also held accountable externally by-elections. Even if an officer is not running for reelection or election to another post, they can be impeached and removed from their position by a majority vote of the Union’s membership (i.e. the student body). 

  1. Background: 

Much like Section 2, this criticism is an example of selection bias. Candidates who are qualified enough to successfully secure nomination and run for a position on the SU Executive have been involved in University politics for a long time. Naturally, it follows that these persons would tend to be final year students and graduates. It is unclear why these traits would make them less effective as officers.

  1. The current UCDSU executive failed on campaign promises to lower rent, host huge festival style events, and to get microwaves in all buildings. 
    1. This is a mixture of false and true. 
    2. Facts: 

-the current UCDSU executive did not outright promise to lower costs for students. When running for his position, current SU President Ruairi Power said to the College Tribune that “I can’t promise anything with regards to fee reductions. I don’t have control over it, but I can promise campaign”. The SU has organised a number of demonstrations on this issue. 

-The Executive also did not promise “microwaves in all buildings”, as the @ucdconfessions account holder himself admitted to in a comment underneath one of his posts. 

-Until just a few weeks ago, Covid-19 restrictions prohibited “huge festival style events”. Since then, a number of society balls and other social events have taken place both in and around Belfield. Relevant as well is the scheduled return of Trinity Ball. Ents Officer Sarah Michalek kept her manifesto “purposefully vague”, which makes verifying both her work somewhat difficult.

  1. Students who are not EU citizens cannot become Sabbatical Officers due to “current SU rules”. 
    1. This is mostly false. 
    2. Facts: There is nothing in the UCDSU constitution that requires Irish or EU citizenship to be held by a Sabbatical officer. Furthermore, the SU has previously had non-EU Sabbatical Officers. 

Although it depends on the citizenship of the particular student, graduates of Irish universities who are not Irish citizens can generally apply for a one-year extension on their student residency without the need to secure an employment permit. This is called “Stamp 1G”, and it is a 12-month extension where the person is allowed to pursue a full-time job (student residency only allows for part-time employment). However, such residency permission for a current student at an Irish university is not provided for in the law. Furthermore, those in Ireland on other permissions may have a significantly more complicated path to securing residency stability. 

  1. Analysis/Background: While immigration status does complicate a person’s access to Sabbatical participation, these restrictions are a consequence of Government policy, and apply universally to any form of paid employment in Ireland. The only alternative to this would be making Sabbatical positions either unpaid or part-time. 

Because of the 1G Stamp, those on Stamp 2 permissions can participate in UCDSU Sabbatical positions once they have graduated from university. However, they cannot take a “year out” from their studies to do this. 

  1. The UCDSU could effectively be run by splitting down sabbatical positions into a number of part-time paid positions. 
    1. This is untested, but likely false. 
    2. Facts: See section 3. 
    3. Background/Analysis: It is unclear how splitting sabbatical positions into a number of lower-paid positions will make the UCDSU any more effective. This is true whether you make the position a rotational one (i.e. one person takes each trimester) or a split one (i.e. three people take the same job). 

A rotational model would severely overwork the person holding the position, even if it were to only be a temporary arrangement. Each UCDSU Sabbatical position is a full-time job and is associated with a significant level of responsibility. It cannot effectively be performed by someone whose time and energy is split between that and another pursuit. Providing the compensation associated with a part-time job for a full-time position would likely only make it harder for those from low-income backgrounds to take on this work. Constant turnover would also make the Union’s messaging less clear, and undermine the Union’s ability to deal effectively with individual student cases. 

A split model would overcomplicate the working process of a Sabbatical officer to a prohibitive degree. The sensitive student information often dealt with by Sabbatical officers would be placed at significant risk by having it shared between multiple people. Splitting the roles would also likely mean that the SU would lose its control over a number of board seats, which are critical for the Union’s oversight of University affairs and advocacy for student issues. Like the previous approach, it would also muddle the Union’s message and simply incorporate more red tape into proceedings. Furthermore, considering the current level of student engagement with the SU, securing multiple officers for each position could be difficult. 

Jack McGee – Head of Investigations