Another week, another referendum...
This week an organisation known as Students For Fair Representation, which is led by a small band of DCU students, has been petitioning for two motions on DCU campus. The motions are 1) for a campus referendum on DCU Students Union stance on abortion and 2) to change the membership structure of DCU Students' Union.
The organisation believes that their opinions on repealing the Eighth haven't been represented by DCU Student Union. The organisation shared why they created SFFR on Facebook:
College is a time when we make up our minds on important social and political issues - like the abortion issue.But why does our Students' Union - our voice - only pick one side of such a controversial issue to represent us and invest our welfare money in?In 2016, a referendum was held on the pro-choice mandate, meaning that our Union time and money is being spent to campaign for a political issue that divides the student body in DCU. However, since then, DCU has expanded to include various extra faculties across the city - a large proportion of students who did not have the opportunity to vote in 2016. Encouraged by similar campaigns in UCD last year and across the entire country this year, DCU Students For Fair Representation are campaigning for balanced discussion forums on campus on the divisive issue of abortion.With a referendum on the Repeal of the 8th Amendment expected by the end of the academic year, it's only right that students are properly informed and that the Students' Union - our representatives - ensure that we are given all the facts necessary to make an informed decision when we enter the polling booth next year.
Instead of voting on another stance on the SU to take on the issue of abortion, the group is asking for the entire student body to vote for the SU to remain neutral. Similar groups have popped up in Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. Students who are not being represented by pro-choice Student Unions want to dissociate from the Unions.
It has now been revealed by SFFR through a post on Facebook that they have received the required 425 signatures and will be submitting the petition today. The group posted the following on Facebook:
In the wake of a debate held by DCU Debate Society last Wednesday (8 November) on the motion, “Students’ Unions should be neutral on abortion”, a conversation on the issue has started on campus. A group of students, forming the new organisation ‘DCU Students For Fair Representation’ have come together to put the question to the students of DCU. Sarah Connolly, a first-year St Pat’s student and spokesperson for DCU SFFR said that “DCUSU have a mandate that predates the incorporation of faculties such as St Pat’s and Mater Dei. These students have never had a say on the matter, and in fact, nearly 70% of the DCU student body has never had a say on the matter. These students have been siphoned into the SU lobby group, without being given a chance to make their voices heard.”
The petition for a change to the membership structure of the Union is prompted by a recent heightened awareness of the unconstitutional nature of the current mandatory membership structure of Students’ Unions across Ireland. “This is a freedom of association issue”, Connolly said. “Students are being deprived of their choice when it comes to joining the Students’ Union on campus. It is unconstitutional and we hope that our Union will recognise that and rectify the matter before we have to take this issue any further.”
The wording of the Constitutional amendment will follow a similar approach as the Freedom Of Choice Coalition UCD Stand Up! (FOCC UCD SU) Campaign, and the TCD SU Opt-Out Project (SUOOP), who are currently running similar campaigns in UCD and Trinity College respectively.
Students commented on the post on Facebook and questioned the motives of the SFFR group. The contention between college campuses, repealing the eighth amendment and the pro-life stance has been rife with controversy. As the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment draws closer, it appears that the student body has been called to action, particularly the pro-life movement. Students in UCD voted to impeach Katie Ascough, former UCD SU President after she removed abortion information from the Winging It freshers handbook.