We posted our annual #UCCVotes straw poll on Saturday the second of March, two days before polls were due to open on a number of satellite campuses. Last year our straw poll, with a sample size of over 400, correctly predicted all but one result (Oifigeach Gaeilge). Due to the limitations of Google Forms, we had to only allow people to put their first preference vote. Other alternatives to Google Forms, we felt, were not appropriate, or lacking in other key aspects.
We closed the poll at 10:30am on March 5th, the first day of voting on main campus (Boole Basement, ORB), the Kane Building and Brookfield, with 652 total votes, approximately 12.7% of the total valid poll for the elections last year, and would be regarded as a significant sample of the electorate based on that number.
We first asked people if they were UCC students, and if respondents said they weren’t they were excluded, removing 14 people (who stated that they were recent graduates or, inexplicably, CIT students). We then ask respondents what year they were in, with 31.7% being in third year, 29.2% in fourth year, 18.5% in second year and 12.4% in first year. The rest (8.2%) said they were in fifth year or Postgrads. We then asked respondents if they intended on voting, with people who selected ‘no’ being unable to answer the succeeding questions. 96.1% said they did intend on voting, with the remaining respondents feeling that they didn’t care about the elections, that they wouldn’t be in Cork to vote, that they felt the SU was unrepresentative of them & they didn’t see the choice, that they didn’t feel right voting for a Union they wouldn’t be students for (e.g. that they’re graduating at the end of this year) or that there wasn’t enough info about the elections or candidates for them to make an informed choice, among other reasons.
While our questions summarised the referendum questions, respondents were presented by a graphic published by UCCSU with the full wording before filling out their responses. For all polls regarding referendums respondents were given the options of ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Unsure’, and ‘Will not vote’, as in the past a number of people who intend on voting in the elections do not vote in the referendums.
Full Time Ents Officer
We asked people if they believed that the Entertainments Officer should be made a full-time sabbatical officer of the Students’ Union. At present, under the UCC SU Constitution, the Ents Officer is a part-time officer who may take a part-time paid sabbatical. Since this was introduced the Ents Officer has always taken the paid leave option, and in recent years their pay had been raised to a comparable level of other Sabbatical Officers. In this context, many would say that the Ents Officer is a Sabbatical Officer in all but name, to the point that most people don’t know or realise that they aren’t.
75.2% of respondents supported the motion, 12.2% stated they would vote no, 11.7% said they were unsure and the remaining 0.9% saying that they did not intend on voting in the referendum.
Gender Neutral Constitution
The current UCC Students’ Union Constitution has six cases where it uses the words “he/she” instead of using a specific term (i.e. Officer’s title) or the neutral term ‘they’. He/She is generally considered clunky phrasing for such a document, as ‘they’ is a cleaner way of phrasing essentially the same term while also being inclusive of non-binary or non-gendered people. The specific mentions of gender (he/she) can be found under the descriptions of Education Officer (6.4), Welfare Officer (6.5), Clubs Officer (6.10) and Societies Officer (6.11). Multiple motions to this effect have been passed at Student Council over the years, though any change to the SU’s constitution must be passed by referendum.
58.4% of respondents supported the motion (yes vote), 31.3% stated they would vote no, 8.5% stated they were unsure and the remaining 1.8% saying that they did not intend on voting in the referendum.
Postgrad & Undergrad College Reps
Currently UCC Students’ Union is supposed to elect four undergrad college rep (SEFS, Arts, Med & Health and Business & Law) as well as four Postgraduate College Reps. To date, UCC Students’ Union has not, that could be found, ever elected Postgrad college reps, whereas the undergrad reps have been elected every year in the March SU elections. The motion as proposed by the referendum essentially states that the distinction between Postgrad & Undergrad reps should be removed, with four overall college reps being elected instead. Presumably the candidates elected on March 4-6th this year will be these college reps for next year, or the distinction shall be introduced for elections starting in 2020/21.
45.4% of respondents supported the motion, 27.7% stated they would vote no, 22.7% stated they were unsure and the remaining 4.2 % saying that they did not intend on voting in the referendum.
Capitation Increase of €5 for Common Room & Student Media
As stated by UCC SU on Twitter, €10 of the €165 is collected by the SU, with €5 going to pay for USI affiliation fees, €3 going towards the upkeep of the Common Room, and €2 for the funding of student media, the last of which is split between this publication, Motley Magazine and UCC 98.3fm radio station. The proposition put to students asks to allow an increase of capitation of €5 to allow for the establishment of new common rooms on satellite campuses, and further funding of student media. While the question posed in the poll was not leading, it is important to note for the sake of transparency that this publication has been supporting a Yes vote in this referendum, and may or may not have had an affect on results.
64.8% of respondents supported the motion, 25.6% stated they would vote no, 7.5% stated they were unsure and the remaining 2.1% saying that they did not intend on voting in the referendum.
Drug Decriminalisation Campaign
The last of the referendums is one supported by the UCC Students for Sensible Drug Policy Society. Campaigns have been ran by UCC Students’ Union in the past regarding harm reduction, and stocking drug testing kits have been a point of contention for the SU in recent years, so this proposal takes the Union another step forward in asking for it to campaign for decriminalisation of drugs for personal consumption for adults under 18 in Ireland. Drug decriminalisation, as opposed to legalisation, would possibly maintain punishments for selling or dealing of illegal drugs, but would remove the threat of imprisonment for people taking drugs themselves. Proponents of decriminalisation see this as a positive step, as any legislative or policing focus will be shifted to larger criminal elements of drug trafficking, dealing, production etc. rather than individuals.
60% of respondents supported the motion, 27.6% stated they would vote no, 11.1% stated they were unsure and the remaining 1.3% saying that they did not intend on voting in the referendum.
Predicted results for the referendums: all votes to pass, although the ‘unsure’ voters in the College Rep referendum could easily swing the vote towards no.
Part-time Officer Elections
Respondents were asked what college they were a member of: CACSSS (College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences), SEFS (College of Science, Engineering & Food Sciences), B&L (College of Business & Law, also known as CUBS) and M&H (College of Medicine & Health), with the poll being split as follows:
- College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences (CACSSS/Arts) – 31.8% (195)
- College of Business & Law/CUBS – 29.5% (181)
- College of Science, Engineering & Food Sciences (SEFS) – 25.3% (155)
- College of Medicine & Health – 13.4% (82)
Compared with last year all categories received a bump as overall participation numbers in the straw poll is up, but Medicine & Health, SEFS and Business & Law received massive increases, while Arts’ increase was gradual in comparison.
College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences Representative
There is only one candidate for Arts Rep this year. Initially, by the original deadline for candidates, there were no candidates for CACSSS Rep. Nominations re-opened and Jessica Dalton was announced as the sole candidate (other than RON). Dalton is a first year Arts student from Waterford.
81% of respondents from CACSSS stated that they would give Dalton their first preference.12.8% said they would vote to re-open nominations (RON) and 6.2% said they will not vote in the CACSSS elections.
PREDICTION: Jessica Dalton will be elected as the Representative for the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences.
College of Business & Law Representative
There is only one candidate for Business & Law Rep this year. Eoin Collopy, who is in final year Commerce, last year ran for President of the SU, coming third behind current-President Alan Hayes and Tommy Cahill.
71.8% of respondents from B&L stated that they would give Collopy their first preference. 20.4% said they would vote to re-open nominations (RON) and 7.7% said they will not vote in the B&L Rep elections.
PREDICTION: Eoin Collopy will be elected as the Representative for the College of Business & Law.
College of Science, Engineering & Food Science Representative
There are two candidates for SEFS Rep other than RON this year. Stephen O’Riordan, a first year physics & astrophysics student, is a current class rep, while Mahrukh Rose, a second year biological science student, last year ran for SEFS Rep, being runner-up behind the incumbent rep Jack Hickey.
45.2% of respondents from SEFS stated that they would give O’Riordan their first preference, with 37.4% opting for Rose, 10.3% saying they will not vote in the SEFS Rep elections and 7.1% saying that they would vote to re-open nominations (RON). Should O’Riordan not reach the quota on the first count, Rose would need all of the RON’s to transfer to her, or a portion of RON transfers and a sample of the ‘will not votes’ to come out in support to stand a chance. While O’Riordan should win (based on the straw poll prediction), it’s still too close a call to be a foregone conclusion.
PREDICTION: Stephen O’Riordan will be elected as the Representative for the College of Science, Engineering & Food Sciences.
College of Medicine & Health Representative
Similarly to CACSSS Rep, at the deadline for nominations no one had come forward as a candidate for Med & Health Rep. Following the extended deadline Brídelle Cronin, a second year pharmacy student & former class rep, came forward as the sole candidate (other than RON).
89% of respondents from Med & Health stated that they would give Cronin their first preference, with 7.3% opting to re-opening nominations (RON) and 3.7% stating that they will not vote.
PREDICTION: Brídelle Cronin will be elected as the Representative for the College of Medicine & Health.
There is only one candidate for Oifigeach na Gaeilge, or Irish Officer, this year. Eimear Cronin (Eimear Ní Chúrtáin), a second year Arts student, is a Gaeilgeoir studying Irish in UCC. As mentioned, she is the sole candidate, other than RON (re-open nominations).
84% of respondents stated that they would give Curtin their first preference, with 10.6% saying that they will not vote in the Oifigeach Gaeilge elections, and the other 5.4% opting to give RON their first preference.
PREDICTION: Eimear Ní Chúrtáin will be elected as the Irish Officer/Oifigeach Gaeilge.
As with Med & Health and CACSSS Rep above, Equality Officer initially went uncontested by the original deadline, but after the extended deadline two candidates came forward. Kelly Coyle, a final year law student and former UCCSU Welfare Officer & current Deputy President & Campaigns Officer, and Beth O’Reilly, a final year arts student & IR Society committee member, are the two candidates (other than RON) for the position. It’s typically quite hard to unseat a current Union rep, and Coyle has two years in high-profile SU positions under her belt, so O’Reilly has an uphill battle ahead of them – though of course, anything can happen in politics.
57.9% of respondents stated that they would give Coyle their first preference, with 27.7% opting for O’Reilly, 10.4% saying that they will not vote in the Equality Officer elections and 3.9% intending to vote for RON (re-open nominations).
PREDICTION: Kelly Coyle will be elected as the Equality Officer.
PREDICTED PART-TIME OFFICERS FOR 2019/20: Kelly Coyle (Equality), Eimear Curtin (Irish), Brídelle Cronin (Med & Health), Stephen O’Riordan (SEFS), Eoin Collopy (B&L) and Jessica Dalton (Arts).
Full-Time Sabbatical Officers
There are two candidates for Ents Officer, other than to re-open nominations (RON): Barra McClean, a final year arts student, and Sophie Sullivan, a final year commerce student. We spoke to them earlier this week about their experience & reasons for running for the position. McClean highlighted his proposal of a Buddy System, or reintegration programme for students who defer for a year or are returning from Erasmus, and Sullivan highlighted non-alcoholic daytime events during RAG and Freshers weeks as a key point of her manifesto.
48.5% of respondents stated that they would give McClean their first preference, with 45.5% opting for Sullivan. 3.3% opted for RON while the remaining 2.8% stated that they would not vote in the Ents Officer elections.
PREDICTION: Barra Mclean will be elected as the Entertainments Officer.
Commercial & Communications Officer
There is only one candidate for Comms Officer other than RON. David Condon, a third year law student, is running for Comms Officer this year. Speaking to the Express earlier this week, Condon highlighted building an online community for students, and reassessing the university’s alcohol sponsorship policy as key parts of his manifesto. The latter of these points has been a point of contention for some, with some students organising an officer-specific RON (re-open nominations) campaign.
Something similar occurred two years ago, when a targeted RON campaign was organised as Barry O’Shea was the only candidate – in that scenario O’Shea was easily elected. Also worth noting is that in the recent Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union elections sole Comms & Marketing Officer candidate Muireann Kane defeated RON by a slim margin – a margin smaller than the number of votes spoiled in the election.
54% of respondents stated that they would give Condon their first preference vote, with 37.7% opting for RON (re-open nominations), and 8.3% stating that they will not vote.
PREDICTION: David Condon will be elected as the Commercial & Communications Officer.
Vice President for Education (Education Officer)
There is only one candidate for Education Officer other than RON. Catherine Dawson, an applied mathematics & physics student, class rep & DAA Society committee member, is running for VP for Education this year. Speaking to the Express earlier this week, Dawson highlighted the importance of the upcoming academic strategy & ensuring a smooth transition between officers as key points of her manifesto.
73.2% of respondents stated that they would give Dawson their first preference vote, with 16.3% opting for RON (re-open nominations), and 10.4% stating that they would not vote in the Education Officer elections.
PREDICTION: Catherine Dawson will be elected as the Vice President for Education / Education Officer.
Vice President for Welfare (Welfare Officer)
Welfare is the most contested position this year, as three candidates (again, other than RON) are in the running. Noel Brennan, a fourth year student and the current Medicine & Health Rep, Naoise Crowley, Commerce student, and Róisín Hussey, final year BA International student, are the three candidates for VP for Welfare this year. Speaking to the Express earlier this week, Brennan identified accessibility in the counselling service & housing as a key point in his manifesto, Crowley highlighted his UCC Food Bank initiative and Hussey picked her proposed changes to the counselling service as her key goal from her manifesto.
39% of respondents stated that they would give Crowley their first preference vote, with 27.2% going for Brennan, 22.3% going for Hussey, 7.2% stating that they will not vote in the Welfare Officer elections and 4.2% said they would vote to re-open nominations (RON).
If the turnout this year is the same as the turnout last year, Crowley would not receive enough votes (going by this poll) on the first count to pass the quota, so this may be one to watch for a position the straw poll calls wrong as this poll did not ask respondents for second, third etc. preferences.
PREDICTION: Naoise Crowley will be elected as the Vice President for Welfare / Welfare Officer.
Deputy President and Campaigns Officer
Deputy President is another contested full-time position, as two candidates are fighting it out for the job. Ciara Kealy, a final year arts student, and Amy Meagher, final year arts student as well as the current SU Gender Equality Officer & Chair of UCC SVP, are the two candidates, who both spoke to the Express earlier this week. Meagher identified student isolation as a key issue to tackle from her manifesto, and Kealy highlighted the campaign side of the job in general as her goal.
Just over half of respondents (50.1%) said they would give Meagher their first preference vote, 25.8% indicated that they would vote for Kealy, 16.8% said they would not vote in the Deputy President election and the rest (7.3%) said they would vote to re-open nominations.
PREDICTION: Amy Meagher will be elected as the Deputy President & Campaigns Officer.
The main event, if you will, is definitely the one to watch, as two former UCC SU Entertainments Officers (and one nap pod) battle it out for the UCC Students’ Union presidential chain. Ben Dunlea, Ents Officer for 2017/18, and Bea McCarthy (Ents Officer 2016/17) are the two non-RON (re-open nominations) candidates.
Ben Dunlea received the most first preference votes according to the straw poll, receiving 53.7% of the vote. Bea McCarthy received the second number of first preference votes with 38.2%, followed by RON with 5.1% and ‘will not vote’ with 3.1%.
PREDICTION: Ben Dunlea will be elected as the President of UCC Students’ Union President.
YOUR PREDICTED SU EXEC FOR 2019/20:
Ben Dunlea (President), Amy Meagher (Deputy President & Campaigns), Naoise Crowley (Welfare), Catherine Dawson (Education), David Condon (Comms), Barra Mclean (Ents), Kelly Coyle (Equality), Eimear Curtin (Irish), Jessica Dalton (Arts), Stephen O’Riordan (SEFS), Brídelle Cronin (Med & Health), Eoin Collopy (Business & Law).
The above will be joined on SU Exec by the Presidents of the Clubs & Societies Executives respectively, which are elected at their own AGMs, the Chair of Student Council, who will be elected at the last council of the year, and the Postgraduate Officer, who is elected in October. The officers of the Equality Working Group, who do not sit on the SU Executive, will be elected at a by-election in March/April.