The first student council of 2017 (and the third of this academic year) is on tonight at 6pm, and there are nine motions in total – if you’re a class rep or SU hack, you may be in for a long night. We’re going to go through the motions ahead of tonight, so you know what’s happening in your student council.
The first motion on the docket is about mental health week, and how mental health week (first term) wasn’t ran well. The motion does mention that the Welfare Officer had familial commitments that meant they couldn’t do much work during the week, but notes that that shouldn’t stop mental health week from being run. Indeed, that is the reason or purpose that the SAMH Awareness Officer was initially introduced. The motion further notes that the SAMH Society ran a mental health week earlier in the year when the SU traditionally run their mental health week. The society, the motion says, ran the week with little help from the SU, except for one event that was ran with no notice or communication.
The motion makes special effort to not blame the Welfare Officer, but notes that mental health week should be a banner week of the SU, like SHAG, Freshers and RAG Weeks. The motion mandates the SU to hold a mental health week in term two if one cannot be held in term one. This motion was proposed as an emergency motion at the previous council (December 2016), but was rejected as Council didn’t feel like it fit the criteria of an emergency motion (i.e timeline). This is worth mentioning, as the SU have started advertising a mental health week for February, to take place the week prior to Raise & Give Week.
While many might feel that this motion has lost relevance, as there now is a second mental health week, it should be noted that (if passed) this motion will stand for 3-5 years, depending on council standing orders. As long as people realise the long-term effects of this motion, it should have no problems in getting passed.
The second motion regards the lack of dispensers of menstrual products in many bathrooms across campus, particularly in the Boole Basement, and the inaccessibility of the dispensers present, in that they only accept specific coins. The motion mandates the Students’ Union to stock tampons and sanitary pads in the Welfare Office, as they do condoms.
The only issue I could see in this motion being passed is a cost issue, but that shouldn’t be a problem, especially if they cost the same as they do in the dispensers currently in place.
Motion should pass as long as the cost reasoning isn’t too big a stumbling block. No deadline for completion.
The third motion is about student attitudes to alcohol consumption, and that relationships with the University, the media and local residents have become strained due to this. The motion mandates the Deputy & Campaigns Officer to run a statistics-based campaign about alcohol consumption, and student attitudes towards it, as well as mandating the Students’ Union to facilitate a discussion forum on the matter. It’s not overly clear what form this forum should take.
A deadline of December 2017 is given, which means it should be a primary concern for prospective Deputy & Campaigns candidates.
There’s no clear reason this motion shouldn’t be passed.
The fourth motion regards module feedback policies. Currently getting feedback in modules, especially when it comes to continuous assessment, depends on the department.
This motion calls for the Education Officer to work towards a “stronger feedback policy” by the end of next academic year.
The timeline may be the biggest issue here, in that things in the university move on a different timeline that in student experience/politics, but the wording of the motion (“work towards”) should mean that the motion may pass without much debate, but I wouldn’t totally bank on it.
Motion five regards the rise in demand for rental property around UCC, which in turn has lead to landlords raising rent and “exploiting students’ needs for accommodation” which, it notes, can leave students “living in deplorable conditions.”
The motion mandates the Students’ Union to hold campaigns to “ensure tenant’s rights are fulfilled” and also to inform student tenants on their rights. It further mandates the SU to lobby the government to raise awareness of issues concerning tenant rights.
While the spirit of the motion is admirable, the actual mandate present is a bit vague. If the proposing speaker can elaborate on what “ensure tenant’s rights are fulfilled” means then it could pass, but just looking at the motion it may have a hard time.
Motion six will likely be a controversial one regardless of the outcome. It notes a multitude of mistakes made in the minutes of both Councils this academic year, which it claims range from “from misinterpreting points to misidentifying speakers.” It also notes that the controversial ‘Wipe the Slate’ motion from 2014 was caused by discrepancies like these. It also states that “an officer should not use personal circumstance to excuse the fact they are not doing their job to the minimum standard required for the role.”
The motion calls for the Council Secretary (Michael O’Keefe) be impeached, and a new Secretary elected “with haste.”
There is no precedent, at least in recent years, for the impeachment of a member of the Council team. The blame for the ‘Wipe the Slate’ being placed on the Council Secretary is misplaced, as it was caused by general mismanagement of council records by the entire council team, not just the secretary, as well as a lack of publication or publicity of council minutes & motions. In fact, the UCC SU Policy Booklet that’s available publicly has not been updated since October of 2015. While there is no precedent for this, and the Student Union constitution doesn’t specifically mention the Council Secretary & PRO, there is a mention of impeachment done by a vote in Council, which means it technically could be possible. Ultimately, the decision to allow this motion is up to Students’ Union President Eolann Sheehan, who could decide that the constitutional role mentioned above does not apply to the council team, and Council Chair Seán O’Riabhaigh, who could veto the motion because of the apparent personal nature of the motion, which is suggested by the “personal circumstance” quote above.
Even if the motion is allowed to be debated & voted upon, I don’t believe it will be passed, despite the general dissatisfaction with the council team this year.
The seventh motion isn’t too wordy, and regards student substance abuse. It mandates the Welfare and Deputy & Campaigns Officers to run drug awareness campaigns, and to promote further harm reduction campaigns.
It’s brief, and because of that, there’s very little content to disagree with. Motion should pass.
Motion eight is another motion regarding mental health. It notes that around 200,000 people in Ireland suffer from eating disorders, with numbers always rising.
It mandates the Welfare and Deputy & Campaigns Officer to work on campaigns around healthy eating, factoring awareness of eating disorders into these.
Motion should pass.
Motion nine is a motion regarding gender pronouns and gendered language. It notes that not all speakers will feel comfortable in expressing pronouns in a public forum such as council.
It mandates speakers in council itself to, “to the utmost of their ability,” refrain from gendered language, and to list their pronouns along with their name & class when speaking in Council.
While I don’t believe you can mandate speakers to do things in council, the chair may adopt this as part of Council’s standing orders. Similar policies exist in societies in UCC, as well as competitive debating in Ireland and the UK generally, and really only helps people. Motion itself probably should fail, for the reasoning above, but almost definitely should be accepted as council policy.
I would honestly be surprised if they get to the last three motions, as the first and sixth motions could lead to lengthy debates. Following the ‘Wipe the Slate’ controversy in 2014, a system of non-contentious motions was brought in, to allow motions that are generally agreeable to pass without debate. Several of these motions would, I believe, qualify as non-contentious, and would allow them to pass, as opposed to being kicked further down the road or just being forgotten. We did not have access to officer reports at the time of writing.
Update, 12:22pm: changes made for clarity
Update, 12:42pm: motions have now been posted, in full, by UCCSU. Can be found here.