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Report: First Student Council of the Year

The first UCCSU Student Council of the year was held last Wednesday 26th of October. The Student Council is the primary decision making body of the Students’ Union, meets on a minimum of 6 times a year and is an opportunity for elected Class Reps & students to meet, discuss issues and to mandate officers to pursue a particular course of action. This year the Student Council is being chaired by Seán Ó Riabhaigh and ran by the Council Team: Seán, Secretary Mike O’Keeffe & PRO Chelsea Cunningham, who were all elected at the final Student Council of last year.

Council opens with the officer’s reports, detailing what work the sabbatical officers have done since the previous Council, upcoming events/issues and priorities they have outlined for the coming months. It is also an opportunity for students and Class Reps to ask any questions they have for the officers either on a specific issue or on their reports. There were four motions up for discussion on the night: the first related to vegan food options on campus, the second to access to wheelchairs for students with temporary mobility issues and the final two motions related to the Student Community Support (SCS) group.

The first motion noted that there are currently no vegan food options available on campus, in contrast with vegetarian options, which are facilitated. The College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences (CACSSS) Rep Aaron Frahill pointed out that the issue had already been raised during the summer, and also that the restaurant committee meets very irregularly, so it is difficult to get a vegan option in place quickly. The motion mandated the SU to lobby for a source of affordable vegan options on campus by the start of the 2017-2018 academic year. The motion proved to be non-contentious, and was passed unanimously by Council.

The second motion related to students with temporary mobility issues, and was calling on the Students’ Union to source or purchase wheelchairs for students with temporary mobility issues, which should then be available from the Students’ Union offices. This proved to be a far more contentious issue than the previous one, with members of the SU Executive raising concerns over the cost of the wheelchairs, the insurance for the wheelchairs and for the students. The motion was amended to change the wording of the mandate, but was eventually passed by Council.

The final two motions related to the Student Community Support group, who provide supports to students on nights out like Freshers Week, R&G and Society Balls, and mandated the Sabbatical Officers to work with SCS throughout both Freshers and R&G week, and the second motion mandating Officers to work at each of the UCC Balls. Both motions proved to be very contentious, sparking widespread debate. On the first motion, several Officers on the Executive opposed it, pointing out that they had other responsibilities during RAG and Fresher’s week, like the fact the Welfare Officer & President have to remain in their offices from 9-5 and throughout the night, in case of emergencies; similarly, the Comms & Ents officers would have been directly involved in the running of events during those weeks, and therefore might not be available to help SCS. It was also pointed out that College Reps would not be insured under the SCS scheme, and could therefore be at risk. The motion was eventually defeated by council.

The final motion was very similar, but related to UCC and Society Balls, and again had a similar mandate requiring SU & Societies Executive Officers to work with SCS at these events. Again, this motion was opposed by the Sabbatical team, because SCS is run by the University and not by the SU, and SU President Eolann Sheehan pointed out that the SU could not mandate the Societies Guild to pursue a course of action in the same way, as council can only mandate the SU. In the course of discussion it was agreed that the issue would be discussed between the SU and Societies Executive, and the vote failed nearly unanimously.

For more information on Council, or how to get involved, email the relevant College Rep or email Seán on CouncilChair@uccsu.ie.