UCD students have voted against re-joining the USI today with an overwhelming majority opting to remain independent of the umbrella students’ union. The campaign and referendum comes three years after UCDSU’s split from the national body in 2013.
In the referendum, polling for which took place on March 8th and 9th, 26% (760) voted Yes to re-joining while 74% (2161) voted to maintain UCD’s current stance. The total number of voters who took to the polls was 2, 921 excluding spoiled ballots.
Reports from both camps during polling suggested that a low turnout, caused in part by the large number of uncontested races for sabbatical positions, may have seen the referendum fail to meet quorum, the minimum number of votes required for a referendum to be considered binding.
However, the turnout of 2,921 was deemed by the returning officer Hugh O’Connor to be in excess of quora.
The strongest showings of support for the No side were in Sutherland (Law) and Newstead (Landscape Architecture/Engineering) buildings with 84% and 82% of the vote respectively. Ultimately, 12 of 13 constituencies voted against re-joining the USI with a vast show of support for the no side.
The Yes campaign managed a win in one building on campus, taking 73% of the Veterinary Science vote.
In a statement released to The College Tribune, the No campaign expressed its satisfaction with the result. It also stated an awareness that UCD students will again be asked to vote on USI membership in four years’ time and has set out a list of reforms it hopes to see enacted before students will consider re-joining.
The five reforms are that the USI make its annual accounts publically available, that democratic elections for the USI’s President take place, that longer sabbatical terms for its officers are instated, that voting structures the USI’s annual congress are amended to allow for more robust discussion and that an internal review of costs and membership fees is undertaken.
The No campaign team also invited the USI to come to UCD to hold a “townhall” meeting at which a dialogue can be established on how reform might be undertaken. Their statement finished by thanking students for their support through the course of the campaign.
Also speaking after the result, a member of the Yes campaign’s organising team expressed disappointment, adding that students may not necessarily have voted no to the USI as an organisation and suggesting that the no campaign had engaged in a degree of mis-selling with regard to precisely what the USI is and does.
The Yes side also cited the absence of an impartial information campaign run by UCDSU as being problematic and something which should be addressed ahead of future votes. Despite the defeat, the Yes side remain optimistic that the quarter of UCD students who wish to see the university represented nationally are deserving of recognition and that this remains a good base from which to grow.
- Seán O’Reilly, Editor