Last night saw the second student council of the year take place in the Western Gateway Building. The agenda was circulated well in advance of the council, with five motions to be debated and several items for discussion. The agenda can be read, in full, here.
Student Council began with a minutes silence for Eimear Noonan, a recent graduate of UCC who sadly passed away last week.
Officer Reports & Use of the All Student Email
Officer reports were up first, and the item for discussion regarding the alleged misuse of the all-student email was moved forward due to time constraints.
The complaint about use of the emails was made in relation to several emails sent promoting the Commerce Ball this year. It was mentioned by a speaker from the floor that ‘Comm Ball’ is one of the biggest events on campus, to which another speaker responded by saying that no other society ball was getting the level of promotion that Comm Ball was. A speaker noted that societies had gotten promotion from the SU the previous year, and that this was nothing new. Another speaker noted that a society they were involved with had been denied advertising from the SU last year due to unspecified SU rules. Laura O’Connor, UCC SU Sámh Officer, questioned why a limited ball (meaning a ball that only a specific group of students, i.e. Commerce Students, can attend) was advertised to all students. Anna Heverin, UCC Societies Executive President, clarified an earlier point, that societies can get help with advertising from the SU if they wish, and that it’s down to the individual society to do so.
Martin Scally, UCC SU President, finally spoke on the matter, apologising to the student whose society had not been helped last year, and noted that he knew of no rule against the SU advertising societies, while adding that they could not be responsible for the actions of the previous year’s SU in this case. While Mr.Scally clarified that only one email was promotional, and the other emails regarding Comm Ball were competitions. He noted that he would be delighted to work with other societies in the future, and that any interested parties should contact him, while also apologising to any students who were offended by the emails.
Kelly Coyle, UCC SU Welfare Officer, referred to her officer report by noting that sanitary products that had been left in bathrooms had been taken rather quickly, and would work on a solution to this problem.
Tadhg Casey, UCC SU Education Officer, updated reps on his work to prolong the opening hours of the library, and that there was difficulty in achieving the ideal hours.
Motion 1 – Naming of the Student Hub
The first motion, should it pass, would mandate the Students’ Union to campaign to have the Student Hub named after a woman, “ideally Professor Mary Ryan.” The motion was proposed by Niamh O’Reilly, UCC SU Equality Officer and main figure behind the campaign to have the Hub named after Prof. Ryan. They noted an email sent out by Professor Caroline Fennell, asking students for ideas for names for assets, which specified a need for buildings to be named after women. They also mentioned that of the buildings in UCC named after people, all of them are named after men, including two buildings named after George Boole, and one named after Dr.James Watson, an academic with little-to-nothing to do with the university who holds controversial views relating to race and gender.
Tadhg Casey, SU Education Officer, clarifies that there is a naming committee in the university, and that they had asked staff for suggestions for names. Following a meeting of the committee, this invitation was extended to students. He noted that the main issue with the campaign to name the Student Hub building after Professor Ryan in particular is that a foreign backer has been offered first priority for naming the building, provided that they can raise funds for a significant donation.
Anna Heverin, UCC Societies President, proposed a procedural motion to have the motion amended: the phrase ‘this new building named after a woman,’ was to be changed to ‘the naming of new buildings after women’. The procedural motion passed, and the motion was amended.
The amended motion passed.
Motion 2 – Reflective strips on steps
The second motion regarded potentially unsafe conditions across campus. The motion claimed that steps around campus are not properly highlighted, which could cause injury (especially to those with visual impairments).
Deputy President, Seán Ó Riabhaigh, proposed that the motion not be voted on, as he claimed that there was an outstanding mandate relating to the matter for his term. The vote that no vote be taken passed, and the motion was discarded.
Note: there are no public records of the minutes from last year’s student council.
Motion 3 – Registration for ongoing students
The third motion, if passed, would mandate the UCC SU Education Officer to work with UCC staff to make the registration process easier for ongoing students (i.e. 2nd year and beyond). The motion noted that the process is unnecessarily stressful, and that, at times, issues are known to staff but students are not informed of this. The motion also mandated that the Education Officer give a report on the progress of the proposed motion by no-later than the penultimate student council.
The motion passed with no opposing speaker.
Motion 4 – Training for Class Reps re: panic attacks
The second last motion of the night would mandate the Welfare Officer to give training to class reps about how to deal with students who are having panic/anxiety attacks. The proposing speaker noted that reps are often the first point of contact for stressed/distressed students, and currently they don’t know where to send people who may have problems. The motion noted that, at present, only the Welfare Officer and the Deputy President & Campaigns Officer receive this training, and the speaker reiterated that it would be helpful that reps had this training, especially if those officers were unavailable.
Kelly Coyle, Welfare Officer, mentioned that the mandate as proposed would require the SU to give training that costs €300 per person, totaling at an alleged cost of around €108,000. She proposed an amendment to the motion, making the training more informal. This amendment was passed.
The motion was passed following several amendments to its wording.
Motion 5 – Constitutional Review
The fifth and final motion of the night pertained to the UCC Students’ Union constitution. Laura O’Connor, UCC SU Sámh Officer, said that the constitution is incredibly hard to find, and that it’s easier to Google it than to find it by going through the SU’s website (editor’s note: the latest version of the SU constitution we could find can be found by clicking this link). Ms.O’Connor also noted that many aspects of the constitution are being ignored at presence, and that there is a general lack of transparency.
SU Deputy President Seán Ó Riabhaigh proposed a procedural motion to not vote on this motion, as the SU would have to check with the SU’s solicitor that student reps could sit on a constitutional review panel, as was required by the mandate. Council Chair Aaron Frahill made a general point* that a mandate would ensure that the SU would have to proceed with getting the solicitors advice, instead of the council relying on the Deputy President’s word. This point was thought, by some, to be tantamount to an accusation that the Deputy President would lie about such a matter, and sparked a debate on whether the Chair was neutral in the matter at hand.
The procedural motion to not vote on the matter was passed, and the motion abandoned.
*UPDATE, 16/11/2017 22:32:
We received a message informing us that this line may not be accurate or properly reflect the feeling in the room. We contacted Aaron Frahill, Council Chair, to better explain the situation:
In relation to what was written in the article, I did not make a general comment. I was responding to a point of clarity, which was asked regarding why should Council debate the motion, if it, regardless of the motion passing or not, the Deputy and Campaigns Officer would be contacting the SU’s solicitor about it.
In my attempt to address the point, I tried to explain that the difference between a motion passing or not passing would be this: that the motion passing would result in the Students’ Union being mandated to contact the solicitors. As per my role description in the constitution, I am mandated to hold the views of SU Council. As such, I would hold responsibility in reminding the SU exec of their mandate and making sure that the Students’ Union would follow through on it. I stated that if Council voted in favour of the procedural motion, for the motion not to be voted on at all, it would mean that there would be no formal structure of accountability similar to that of a mandate.
I will be the first admit that I very much stumbled through my response. I honestly can’t remember the exact wording of what I did say, as it was after an intense Council that had lasted nearly two hours at that stage. I did not intend for my explanation to be taken as an accusation against anyone. I apologised to Sean after Council as I meant no malice at all, and I ensured that I apologised for the way in which I chaired to motion once it had ended, as it did lose control. It was a complete miscommunication on my part in trying to respond to the point of clarity that was sought.
If anyone has any questions for me, I would be happy to reply to them, as and when I can.
Aaron Frahill, UCC Student Council Chair
If you would like to read the officer reports in full, you should contact your class rep or email the Council Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org. The minutes of the previous student council can be found here.
The next Student Council will take place on January 24th. The deadline for motions is 19th of January. For any queries relating to Student Council, or for help with proposing motions, please contact the Council Chair.
Notes from Council taken by Lucas Brun, article written by Robert O’Sullivan.