home Opinion #UCCVotes – Why you should vote to stay affiliated with USI

#UCCVotes – Why you should vote to stay affiliated with USI

EDIT – 22:12 06/03/2018: Headline changed from “#UCCVotes – Why you should vote to re-affiliate with USI” to “#UCCVotes – Why you should vote to stay affiliated with USI” in response to a request from USI

We asked Michael Kerrigan, USI President, to tell us why he feels UCC students should vote to stay affiliated with the Union of Students in Ireland. The views below do not necessarily reflect those of the Express, or its staff. Photo credit: Kathrin Baumbach, Hot Press.

What is USI?

In June 1959, UCC Students’ Union along with 4 other Students’ Unions met to develop the first constitution of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). Since then, USI has grown to be an organisation representing over 374,000 students across 34 colleges on the island of Ireland.

USI is a democratic organisation with 9 full-time and 1 part time Officers (Officer Board) elected at Congress each year. National Council is attended by Sabbatical Officers from each SU, it meets every 6-8 weeks to decide on interim policy for the Union and to hold the Officer Board to Account. The supreme decision making body of USI is the annual Congress. UCCSU will have over 10% of the total votes at Congress 2018, the highest in the country.

What does USI do for me:

Representation and Lobbying
USI is recognised by Government, industry and the media as the sole national representative voice of students in Ireland. USI has seats on boards such as the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), SUSI and many more national bodies in areas such as academic affairs, welfare and equality.

Through membership of USI, your concerns and perspective can be heard on a national level with direct access to the Minister, Department of Education and skills, Government and the Oireachtas. In June 2017, a lobbying day was held to discuss the USI pre-budget submission and the fight against student loans. This was attended by 107 TDs and Senators, the largest event of its kind in Ireland.

The purpose of USI is to fight for the rights of students and for an equal and fair third level education system in Ireland. To do this, USI run a large number of campaigns throughout the year on issues brought to Congress and National Council.

Some of USI’s most recent campaigns include fighting for increased funding for higher education and against student loan schemes, campaigning for increased quality and quantity of student accommodation, especially in major cities, national welfare campaigns in areas such as mental health, sexual health and consent, protection and promotion of the Irish language, regulation of postgraduate fees and reintroduction of postgraduate grants, fighting for a fair wage for students on placement and campaigning for the repeal of the 8th amendment. USI also played a leading role in the decades leading up to the marriage equality referendum.

Training and Development
Each year, USI organises over 100 training session for full-time and part-time SU Officers. This training includes areas such as leadership, managing finances, sexual health, mental health, recruiting class reps, representing postgraduate students, entertainment, marketing and much more.

USI also run an LGBT activist training event called Pink Training, this helps prepare LGBT Society Officers and activists to run local campaigns raising awareness and delivering supports to LGBT students. This is the largest event of it’s kind in Europe.

Where does your money go?

Affiliation fees account for approximately 65% of USI’s budget with the money spent on a large number of campaigns, events and training all mandated through Congress. This is all supported by Officer Board, 3 staff members and general office costs.

USI has not increased affiliation fees in over 15 years (€5 per full-time student & €2.50 per part-time student). This is despite an increase in the size of USI Officer Board, an increase in the cost of renting office space and the general increase in costs due to inflation.

This has been made possible through some commercial activity but mainly through Government and EU funding in areas such as Mental Health, Sexual Health, Student Accommodation, Environmental Sustainability, Student Engagement and Voter Registration.

USI are constantly trying to increase the value for money for students. In recent years, USI have secured free access to the SIPTU worker’s right centre and free online GP care through VideoDoc for members.

USI Financial Accounts are published on the USI website after being passed by Congress each year, there is also an external finance committee which oversees the spending and budgeting of the Union.

As one of the largest Students’ Unions in the country, UCCSU should be shaping and leading the national movement, that can only be done by remaining members of USI.