Last Thursday following a long day of counting in the Student Centre, it was discovered that UCC students had voted for ‘yes’ votes in all five referenda during this year’s week of Students’ Union elections. Earlier last week, the University Express’ ‘Straw Poll’ indicated that all five questions posed to students would pass, but it was later revealed that there was some deviation in the margin of victory in a view cases.
The first item on the ballot paper sought for the increase to the capitation fee in order to establish and equip more common rooms around campus, while resources to student media in the University would also improve. This would see the current sum paid by all students of €165 increase by €5 to a total of €170. Of the respondents to the ‘straw poll’, 65% of students supported the referendum, while just under 8% of voters were undecided. The actual results showed that while there was still a relatively strong vote in favour of ‘yes’, this dropped to 60% approval, with 38% voting against. The passing of this now means that student capitation fees will rise to €170 from September 2019.
The second round of counting involved analysing results in relation to the position of the Entertainments Officer. Students were asked whether they believed that the role of Ents Officer should be made full time. In recent years the status of the position has been raised within the Student’s Union and is more or less seen as being on-par with full time sabbatical roles within the committee. The pay awarded to the Ents Officer had also been raised to be more comparable with other colleagues. The referendum was therefore all but a formality and this was evidently supported by the polls. 75% of students indicated prior to the elections that they were in favour of allocating a full time role to Entertainments Officer and this turned out to be an extremely accurate poll. Official results showed that 76% of students backed the referendum with just 22.4% voting no.
The closest of all the referenda was seen in the third stage of counting, which referred to gender neutrality. Students were asked if they supported a change to the UCC SU’s Constitution which would see the use of he/she replaced by the gender neutral pronoun of ‘they’. It was argued that replacing the wording to ‘they’ would be more inclusive for students who do not identify as male or female. It was thought that a ‘yes’ vote would romp home to victory and that the ‘straw poll’ results were underselling the margin of victory. The poll showed that 58% of students supported the change, with 33% voting to keep the status quo. 9% of voters were undecided and this proves to be interesting given the eventual outcome. A ‘yes’ vote was passed but by a swing of just 4%. The total number of ‘yes’ votes was 2443 (53.5%) as opposed to 2070 for ‘no’ (45.3%). It seems that many of those undecided voters who were revealed in our polls, turned out strongly in the end for a ‘no’ vote. The official results also suggests that the ‘yes’ vote was in fact over-exaggerated. It could be the case that students who were thinking of voting ‘no’ did not want their positions to be known and were as a result, ‘closet’ no voters. Speaking to the University Express following the results was the Campaigns Officer for the LGBT+ Society in UCC, Rían Browne. They said, “UCC has made great strides in the last year regarding the LGBT+ commmunity, but in particular its transgender community. Although this vote in particular was quite close, the fact that steps have been taken thus far at a university level and the fact that students, in the end, voted in favour of this amendment is incredibly promising for the future and the accepting environment that UCC should represent overall for its staff and students.” Following the closeness of the results, some have made the claim that this was due to a ‘lad culture’ that currently exists on campus, and that the strength of the ‘no’ vote was increased as a result.
The final two referenda that students were asked to vote on were in relation to the election of four overall college representatives and the decriminalisation of drugs in Ireland. The first of these requested that people support the concept of the Student’s Union electing four individual candidates to represent all students in UCC, as opposed to four under-graduate and four post-graduate candidates. The ‘straw poll’ indicated that many students were unsure on this topic, perhaps because they did not fully understand the scenario put before them. Nevertheless, in the end 57% of those who voted went with a ‘yes’ vote, with 38.4% voting no. This question saw the highest number of spoil votes with a total of 4.6%. The final question posed to students asked whether they believed that the UCC SU should actively campaign for the decriminalisation of drugs in Ireland for those aged 18 or over. 70% of students voted in favour of this, with 26% opposed. In this case it seemed that those voters who were originally undecided in which way to vote, in the end sided with ‘yes’.