The news that Dublin City University Students’ Union’s (DCUSU) senior officers bypassed class representatives to trigger a referendum on membership of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) may seem like the pinnacle of students’ union drama. But in recent years, the move has become something of a go-to stratagem in the playbook of student politics.
Last year, Dublin Institute of Technology Students’ Union (DITSU) officers pushed a referendum on USI affiliation in an unusual closed-door meeting that saw then-President of DITSU Boni Odoemene make the case for exiting the national union.
In the case of DCUSU, however, it seems that President Vito Moloney Burke is largely unconcerned with students knowing his position on disaffiliation, telling the College View: “From our own personal perspectives, as a collective, we think that the organisations just aren’t really compatible.”
Moloney Burke derided the value of events that USI hold, said the national union was “stretched too thin” to provide quality support – and implied that other larger unions had similar frustrations.
These criticisms might all be valid, but seem disreputable from a president who has showed a complete disregard for the democratic processes in his union.
But if last year’s DITSU debacle has taught us anything, it’s that sabbatical officers with oversized egos tend to overestimate their influence on representatives and students more broadly.
It’s been ordinary students, involved in societies that represent minorities, who have flagged the anti-democratic methods of DCUSU officers and lauded USI for its services and representation – a more reliable assessment of the effectiveness of the organisation than the whims of the most senior officer in DCUSU.
If there is indeed that much genuine engagement between the students of Dublin City University (DCU) and USI, it’s a feat for an organisation that is often heavily criticised for its irrelevance to the students who pay for it.
Students – however disengaged they may seem – are too astute to be duped by a union executive into a referendum they never asked for.