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Opinion

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Are students disengaged from students’ unions? Following the recent DCU Students’ Union election, Gabija Gataveckaite looks at students engagement with their elected representatives.

Gabija Gataveckaite Deputy Opinions Editor @thecollegeview

W

eek 6 of semester 2 in DCU saw the new Students’ Union team elected. Vito Moloney Burke was elected President of DCUSU with 2,446 votes. A total of 2984 valid votes were counted for the presidential vote, a low turn out compared to 17,000 students in the whole of DCU. Only 14.4 per cent of the entire student population that voted for our new President. However, low voting numbers are a common trend across universities, because students are simply disengaged with student politics. Perhaps some students simply don’t care. Perhaps some believe that the individuals running for certain positions aren’t capable of the job (in that case, they should vote for RON - re-open nominations). Maybe some are dissatisfied with the mere idea of an SU or have been let down in the past. Speaking to The College View last week at election and

referenda results, current president Niall Behan stated that “the snow [last week] was a huge impact on the campaigns to get any actual momentum going”. Perhaps Storm Emma did have an effect on the voting turnout - nearly 5,000 people voted for the posistion of president last year, an alltime high. Regardless of the weather, surely more students would have voted? The sad reality is that students don’t appreciate SUs anymore. SUs, with the right sabbaticals, do a lot for a university as a whole - they may organise parties, but they also provide a plethora of support to those that need it. Those that don’t make use of these facilities at their time at university may perhaps take them for granted - clubs and societies are a small part of the university experience, but for a lot of students, provide excellent opportunities to focus on something other than academic study.

The verdict is out on

whether SUs are merely popularity contests, but it’s clear that students do vote on issues they are passionate about.

DCU Students’ Union on Glasnevin Campus

I think that people do forget the sheer importance of an SU - a great team can work wonders, but it’s up to students to elect that team. I believe that there is definitely a need for a students’ union in every single university, regardless of direct student engagement. The verdict is out on whether SUs are merely popularity contests, but it’s clear that students do vote on issues they are passionate about. UCD’s infamous impeachment referendum of last year saw one of the highest turnouts in polls - 20 per cent of students voted to impeach Katie Ascough. Having said that, DCU saw 11 students running for a postgraduate officer position this year, also a new high. So perhaps it’s true to say

Credit: Mark Carroll

that undergraduates are the students who are disengaged. This seems realistic - normally, undergraduates are more carefree and so don’t spend much time pondering which sabbatical officer to vote for. To engage students, I believe that the key is awareness and advocacy. Talk to students, ask them why they didn’t vote - did they not find the time, do they know how to, or did they simply not care? It is up to the SU to involve all students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, in a university. That is the only way we’re ever going to guarantee successful elections, achieve the goals set in manifestos - and most importantly, ensure happy students.

Age is just a number

Orla O’Driscoll discusses the decision to go back to college and life as a mature student.

Orla O’Driscoll Features Editor @DubinCalled

I

f life, thus far, has taught me anything, it’s the truth of never knowing what waits around the next corner. I believe the universe has a plan; we are the pattern. I didn’t go to college after my teenage education ended abruptly - instead, I learned from life, I travelled; sometimes I knew enough, other times street education was dire. I lived through the highs and survived the lows of being self-employed for many years and somehow, less glossy and with just a modicum of sanity, I got out alive. I blame Dutch courage provided from a microscopic Italian

vineyard and the delusional self-belief one attains at 2am for the University idea. And so, 2015, September. Having watched lives I loved leave this world and watched lives I could never imagine loving so much arrive, I  know fear – on my first day at DCU I was terrified. I stood leaning against a door frame, in a line, in a corridor, my stomach a cauldron of junked out butterflies, as others chatted. Some students seem distrustful of the mature student face in the crowd, almost questioning if it’s a plant, a spy, to catch them out before they become reckless or group up. There is a herd mentality of younger students clubbing together, finding a common denominator. So, scared, unsure if I could juggle kids, life (the mammy bit), life (the other bit) and turn in an assignment and stay sane, I took on DCU. The mature student meme; screams, front and centre, always eager, always wanting to answer questions even though the class may be in danger of going into extra time, or lord forbid penalties. Guilty, but mature students don’t go to college to parade their vast cache of knowledge, we go to learn. In first year, the library was my stomping ground, not entirely due to a desire to gain

knowledge, it was mostly an exercise driven in trying to look like I fit in. The effort made me stand out like an Emu in a strip club. I found defence inside a shell. In three years I rarely took a day off. I am lucky, my husband has been my fall guy. I was not sure year two would happen. But, I outed myself. I used the one thing that has always been my go to - I wrote. Somehow, people liked how I strung a sentence or evoked an emotion and I worked with the college newspaper and people stopped looking at me like I would tell the teacher the dog didn’t bloody eat

Mature Student

their homework. The journey has been the education. And, now, just one month to go, my fear is not of standing out, but of not standing with my peers. I don’t go to Shite Night, or the 12 pubs, or dorm parties, but that’s not exclusion, that’s reality. Like all students, the mature student is battling through, we are not the spy, we are just like younger students, with less contour. Life begins when you let it – age is simply a number.

Credit: Rosie Mcgagh

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The College View Issue 9  

We look at the number of students who failed exams last semester, DCU's new gender identity policy and how music can provide peace of mind t...

The College View Issue 9  

We look at the number of students who failed exams last semester, DCU's new gender identity policy and how music can provide peace of mind t...

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