The UCC Student’s Union has hit back at comments that they acted wrongly by introducing the controversial ‘Wipe the Slate’ motion to Student Council, which sought to wipe the previous five Council’s worth of mandates from the record, due to inadequate record keeping.
While the motion passed by a majority of 65 to 23, since the vote both UCC Labour and UCC LGBT* Societies issued statements condemning the motion. The LGBT* Society, whose Auditor James Upton spoke strongly against the motion at Council, called for a reversal of the policy stating: “The ardent work of reps over the last five years has been abolished in one swift brush by UCC Class Council. UCC LGBT* Society calls for the immediate reversal of this democratic usurpation, and once again expressing its extreme concern over the recent council decision to undermine five years of student politics.”
While allegations were raised on the night of Council that the SU had access to a Google Drive full of previous motions, Joe Kennedy (SU Education Officer), who proposed the motion, noted that the records were inadequate: “There should be 30 councils for the last five year and there’s minutes for 11 of them. Some are complete and some were incomplete. The plan initially was to go through them and get what we could and get it approved.”
Research by the Express has found that of these motions presented to the SU, at least one had failed to pass, although allegations by SU officers that only one motion about the Irish language was salvageable were also inaccurate. Most of the motions from the past two years were available, although no minutes were taken at the final council of 2013/4.
However, due to the sporadic nature of the minutes, the SU did not feel comfortable in compiling a list of past motions due to the fact there were issues of interpretation and intent.
“People could, at any time, produce anything,” added Kennedy. “So we said ‘you know what, why not start fresh and have a complete set of mandates and polices that’ll be unquestionable and unimpeachable that we can stand over 100% and, importantly, actually work to implement them.’”
Speaking on the motion, former Welfare Officer Pádraig Rice said; “It’s my view that wiping the motions for the last five years sends out a message to every class that the new SU no longer cares about the issues their class raised last year. That their problems and concerns are no longer important. It sends a message that sabbats can’t be held to account, because the requirement to present a work report or financial report to council no longer stands. It sends a message that the democratic tradition of the Union isn’t important.”
Rice believed the motion looked like a stunt to avoid taking a stance on issues the current union didn’t agree with, before adding that he felt the union didn’t do enough to talk to former Council Chairs, Secretaries and search email accounts for minutes and motions.
“Wiping the motions for the last five years sends out a message to every class that the new SU no longer cares about the issues their class raised last year.”
However Kennedy believes that the motion will make council stronger as previously passed motions will return as non-contentious motions, which can be passed without creating a backlog of motions.
“This started from a desire to improve council and we wanted to do it right going forward. Rather than having incomplete records and issues down the line, this was the option we looked at, discussed at council and was the option taken. I wouldn’t say we haven’t made mistakes in doing it, I think we made it as public as possible and we’ve never had as much consultation on a motion. It wasn’t the easiest way of doing it, but it was the best way to ensure a strong council the end of the year.”
Former Deputy President Annie Hoey noted; “In relation to crossover, I ensured that the Deputy [President], President, Education Officer and Council Chair all had access to a shared Google folder entitled ‘council minutes’. This shared folder contains pretty much everything that I could pull together from the past five years including minutes, agendas, mandates, as well as a policy book compiled by the Education Officer for 2010/11. All these documents in the shared folder came from official SU email accounts, or from contacting previous council secretaries directly.”
Ironically the policy book was compiled after a motion in November 2010 criticised the union’s lack of institutional memory and mandated the Council Committee to create a policy book. Among the motions scratched were motions calling for the Union to campaign for the provision of abortion services in Ireland as well as motions relating to LGBT* rights around campus and anti-fees campaigns. However the SU pointed out that many of the LGBT* motions had been completed, while the anti-fees motion was out of date and required a new proposal to Council.
SU President Mark Stanton countered Hoey’s claims: “We were never handed a physical policy booklet with all of the motions to abide by for the year.
“She’s saying she gave a full crossover, she wasn’t here. She was here for a day when she gave him the keys and the passwords, that was it.”
“Dick had crossover with Annie but I know for a fact I did two weeks of crossover and at least Podge [Haughney – President in 2013/4] was around the place, Annie wasn’t. Dick was here the other night and I asked if he’d ever seen that [the record of previous motions] and he said no; Annie never showed him the drive. That’s f*cking insane like. Now she’s saying she gave a full crossover, she wasn’t here. She was here for a day when she gave him the keys and the passwords, that was it.”
In response to accusations that the Equality Working Group was now made redundant, Kennedy highlighted that “The Equality Officer and the Equality Working Group are in the constitution. You don’t need a mandate for everything you ever do. What Rob [O’Sullivan] our Equality Officer is doing is going through his emails and putting together what he can remember to put together fresh proposals. We have 15 pages of good, solid motions ready to go that’ll be non-contentious.
“There’s this talk of going back or reversing the decision and I don’t know what you’re going back to; the way you reverse or repeal it is by bringing new fresh motions you can stand over forever.”