Thursday, 15 December 2011

Democracy Suppressed In DCU

The farce of the DCU referendum on higher education funding descended deeper into controversy last night when the DCU Student's Union President  Ed Leamy vetoed a FEE DCU motion at Class Rep Council to have the result of the recent referendum respected as a 'democratic survey' and adopted as union policy. The action by DCU SU President Ed Leamy cast further suspicion on a process that has been tainted by a constitutional screw-up by the  referendum Electoral Committee and the Student's Union Executive.

The referendum last week, which produced a result which mandated the DCU Student's Union Executive to campaign for a 'fully free education system', was deemed "null and void" on legal advice after students had been advised to vote in a way that was contrary to the DCU SU constitution. The information campaign for the referendum which was overseen by President Ed Leamy advised students that "There are five questions on the ballot paper. You may express your vote on the ballot paper in one of two ways. The funding model with the greatest first preference wins. If you wish you can also express a second, third, fourth and fifth preference.The additional preferences will not carry, but will instead allow the Students’ Union to better measure the spectrum of opinion, strengthening our lobbying argument". 

After counting was concluded on Friday evening, funding option 5, the 'fully free education system" option had received the most votes and should have been declared the winner. This would have mandated DCU SU to campaign for a fully free education system. However, upon hearing of the results, DCU SU President Ed Leamy called for a recount as he had realised that "a major constitutional breech had occurred. Under article 9: Elections and Referenda, states “The counting procedures shall be in accordance with the system of proportional representation by the single transferable vote method”. Of course, this was different to how students had been advised to vote. Upon legal advice, the recount never went ahead, and the referendum was declared unconstitutional, and therefore "null and void".

Whilst FEE DCU accepted that the constitution states that counting should be conducted by PRSTV, the fact is that this referendum was advertised as a PR referendum, with students advised by DCU SU that only 1st preference votes would count. The result of the first count conducted on Friday produced a result in accordance with how students were advised to vote, and in accordance with how they were advised their votes would be counted. Therefore, FEE DCU decided to bring a motion to Class Rep Council to have the result of Friday's first count respected as a 'democratic survey', which should now mandate DCU SU to campaign for free education for everyone.

Proposing the motion at council yesterday evening, FEE DCU member Derek McKenna stated that while he recognised that the referendum had been conducted contrary to constitution election regulations, this did not stop the council from respecting the democratic will of students who had voted the way they had been told to vote. He then asked that "the result in which the fully free education system option had won the vote be respected and adopted as DCU SU policy". Immediately, the chair of the council issued McKenna with an "official warning", as he pointed out that "as the referendum had been declared null and void, no option had won". The actions of the chair set the tone for the debate, and after 3 speakers on the motion, the DCU SU President Ed Leamy intervened and declared that " as the referendum had been declared unconstitutional, the motion before the council must fall". The actions of Leamy meant that Class Rep council was not allowed to  further discuss the motion to have the 'fully free education system' adopted as  union policy, and meant that the council could not even take a vote on the matter.

These events cast further doubt on DCU SU's ability to respect the voice of their members. The facts of the case show an amazing level of arrogance from members of the DCU Student's Union that they feel they can disrespect the democratic choice of their students. For the facts are this;

1) DCU students were  asked to vote and given 5 options for the funding of higher education
2) They were advised that "The funding model with the greatest first preference wins"  and "The additional preferences will not carry"
3) DCU students voted in accordance with these guidelines
4) That vote produced a result in which the "fully free education system" model had the most "first preference" votes.
5) That result was the democratic choice of DCU students and should be DCU SU policy.
6) The advise given to students on voting and counting was different than what the constitution stated.
7) The referendum was declared unconstitutional, and therefore null and void.
8) There was nothing stopping DCU SU from accepting the results as a 'democratic survey' and thereafter as union policy.

The facts are there for all to see and  the facts are indisputable. 

We Only Want The Earth

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