One college in, one college out, should they shake it all about?

The USI Hokey-Cokey provides more entertainment than our shoddy puns.

While procrastinating on Facebook during the week (as everyone does when avoiding an assignment), this Observer came across a new campaign which culminated on Wednesday in St. Patricks of Drumcondra voting with a staggering 96% to leave USI.

The campaign entitled Vote Yes to Independence from USI was supported fully and openly by the St. Pats Student Union with both President and Vice-President running the page and in charge of the Yes campaign. This makes a startling contrast to NUI Maynooths referendum last month, where they voted with another high majority of 74% to rejoin USI after a near decade absence. Further still, the NUIM SU gave very little of their own opinion during the campaign, opting for a neutral stance while groups such as FEE and USI canvassed for a Yes to USI and shady characters in black pushing the no vote.

But why did St Pats opt for independence and why was the campaign such an invested one on behalf of their SU? Do they know something that NUIM don’t? Certainly, Maynooths rekindled relationship with USI has gotten off to a good start after what was reported as an encouraging and insightful trip to this years USI Congress. So why have both Colleges gone down such dramatic roads in such a short time?

One of the objectives given by the St. Pats S.U was that if Yes was decided on, it would work towards the establishment of a new Primary Teachers Union which would include Mary I, Marino, Church of Ireland College of Education and Froebel. In turn this would work closely with the INTO to help achieve the aims of its students. During Maynooths campaign, a similar argument given by those colleges still outside USI was that it failed to represent the seven Universities and their unique structures to that of the I.T’s. The Forum of University Students Unions or FUSU, attempted to do this but without all of the universities, this project has pretty much failed. If the seven universities can not make an impact, how could these colleges do much better on a national level?

While I often come across as some Pro-USI nut bag, I do have my reservations and I do advocate reform and the creation of sub groups within USI that help cater for the unique needs of Universities. A similar approach could be applied to the likes of St. Pats. A lot of students and Universities feel that their money is wasted in USI but for the price of a pint it isn’t much of a cost for national representation. Further still, an encouragement to work with all workers unions in order to lobby the government would seem like an even better way then just affiliating with just one. At the end of the day, the students of St. Pats are still students and share the burdens of those from Belfast to Cork.

In a poster that bears a striking resemblance to a NUIM Yes to USI poster, The Independence canvassers urged its students of the €11,000 waste each year in USI and from what I gather, invest this fee into a new union. While USI has its faults, it’s an institution which has been in place for fifty years and has gained considerable experience in this time. FUSU, while it was a noble idea, failed to unite universities. The same may very well happen to this new Union proposed by St. Pats. While USI is by no means perfect, it has the relevant training, expertise and contacts that can not be found elsewhere. Instead of creating a rival, why not work from within and make a difference, not only for ones own, but for everyone.

-Juvenal

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