This post is a short take on the new constitutional reforms. In summary the new constitutional reform presents a move back to some of the real strengths of the pre-2012 constitution, while tightening up the currently strong financial safeguards of the current constitution. UCDSU’s constitution is a long document with 28 articles over 30 pages. There are many subtle changes between the 2012 (current) constitution and the 2015 (proposed) constitution, but here’s my take on the 5 biggest changes in the proposed constitution:
1) Campaigns & Communication (C&C) Officer-
The 2015 constitution will see a return to a C&C Officer which existed pre 2012 constitution but with expanded roles. This will be facilitated by removing the provision to pay the 7 part time executive officers (Convenors). The Convenors themselves will be reformed into “College Officers” which will change according to both representative need & to reflect UCD’s changing structures. Communicating with students has been one issues that has come up and again in the past two executive elections, and this reform is one that will hopefully address this issue.
2) Fresh Take Campus Entertainment-
A move to have an “interviewed” Entertainments Forum is a radical departure from traditional SU structures but one that I feel will work well. The President, C&C Officer and Entertainments Manager will recruit at the end of each academic year for candidates based on skills and abilities – as opposed to an ability to win elections. There’s even a provision that allows SU Council to change the roles to any combination between four and ten coordinators. This is new innovative thinking from UCDSU to tackle a long standing issues of how to curate the best entertainment on campus.
3) Reform Of UCDSU Sabbatical Officer Roles-
With the number of sabbatical officers going from 4 to 5 there will be a reshuffle of responsibilities.
The President will have much of the entertainments and campaigning responsibility supplemented by the C&C Officer, who will take over as the chair of entertainments forum. The enables the President to focus on overall operations of the UCDSU Ltd / SU Shops, while also keeping up with heavy representative timetable (University Finance Committee / Governing Authority etc.).
Welfare & Equality Officer will be renamed Welfare Officer, with the C&C officer taking over the equality brief. I know from personal experience of working alongside a C&C Officer in 2012/13 who chaired the campaigns forum that this is a smart move which allows the Welfare Officer to focus on more immediate issues such as student emergency finances and mental health support.
The Undergraduate Education Officer will become the Education Officer reflecting the focus of the position on the many important academic committees that they sit on such as programme boards and registry.
The Graduate Education Officer will become the Graduate Officer, taking a more holistic approach to the role, also taking on welfare issues for graduate students.
4) Better Corporate Governance-
Incorporating the UCDSU Ltd. Board of Directors into the Union’s constitution strengthens the governance structures of the organisation. The proposed constitution will for the first time bring the company structures of UCDSU Ltd / UCDSU Commercial Services Ltd. under the constitutional framework. UCDSU will now have multiple layers of governance, from Students’ Union Council to the Independent Appeals and Disciplinary Board and ultimately the Board Of Directors.
5) Full Online Voting Provisions-
The current constitution allowed for online voting for class rep elections. The new UCDSU constitution will allow it for all elections, including executive elections. Online elections means potential to engage with students overseas on Erasmus programmes as well as part time and Smurfit students with UCDSU decision making and wider structures. UCDSU will be finally mirroring UCD’s “Global University” status with election provisions to vote from anywhere you happen to be in the world. The additional provision for “consultative referendums” means that for further decisions for controversial policy issues (such as the smoke free campus) will be able to gauge student opinion without creating binding policy which doesn’t allow for flexibility.
I recommend a yes vote – it is a more representative constitution and will place the union in a strong position for launching its strategic plan for where it wants to grow over the next number of years. Have a look at the video below for some voices and opinions from current students: