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End of year Report of the UCDSU Communications and IT Officer
This report is not constitutionally required of any non-sabbatical member of the Union Executive. I have compiled as an example of how easy it is to comply with the wishes of those students who proposed the draft Union constitutions of February 2004 and February 2005. These documents both contained the proposal for each member of the Union Executive to produce an end of year report which would include a continuity section to as a written guide of action for their successors. I hope that this report serves a guide or small piece of insight for all those contemplating involvement in an official capacity in the UCD STudents' Union Executive.
End of Year Report of the UCD
Students’ Union Communications
and Information Technology Officer,
I. Introduction (this page).
II. Synopses of First few Months in Office.
III. Issues encountered.
IV. Continuity section.
This report is not constitutionally required of any non-sabbatical member of the Union Executive. I have compiled as an example of how easy it is to comply with the wishes of those students who proposed the draft Union constitutions of February 2004 and February 2005. These documents both contained the proposal for each member of the Union Executive to produce an end of year report that would include a continuity section to as a written guide of action for their successors. I hope that this report serves a guide or small piece of insight for all those contemplating involvement in an official capacity in the Union Executive
II. Synopses of First few Months in Office.
I located through the use of GOOGLE the deleted Newswire thread relating to the Union staff positions and the filling of those positions. This thread (http://www.ucdsu.net/newswire.php?story_id=621 ) had been deleted by person(s) unknown though it is unlikely to have been done by someone who did not have comprehensive knowledge of the Union website’s administrative accounts.
Upon my return from holiday (my holidays covered two of the first three weeks of my term of office), after July 20th I had my UCDSU.net Newswire Editorship established and at this time raised informal objections to my not being chosen as editor-in-chief of the newswire, which would have been in line with my constitutional job description. I was also told by my predecessor, Mr. Ciaran Melody a political supporter of young James, that I would be receiving no cross-over training from him, instead he focused on advising Patrick McKay about the Dreamweaver Design Programme and pretty much left me in the dark.
During the following days I hand delivered letters to potential Freshers’ Guide sponsors who were located in the Dublin environs. At this time I had also wanted to attend the ‘Staff-Sabbatical’ meeting held in the Union President’s Office but was removed by the Union President prior to the meeting’s commencement.
I edited the ‘About the Union‘ section of the Union website (http://www.ucdsu.net/howwework.php ). This was unfortunately incomplete as the education Vice-President was too busy to write a synopsis of their job description. I also proof-read other articles for the Freshers’ Guide. This proved to be a cumbersome process given the social nature of the Union staff office and the general sense of disorder surrounding the Freshers’ Guide’s production process. I also searched the web for images, at the request of the Deputy President, as part of the production of the Freshers’ Guide.
I placed the “Please Reconsider UCDD” Petition (http://www.ucdsu.net/newswire.php?story_id=674) on the UCDSU.net Newswire. At this time the Union Executive had yet to reach a consensus on whether they were in favour or against the new University logo. Personally I was opposed to especially given the short timeframe of developing the logo (May 2005) and the fact that only the then incoming Union President, James Carroll, was the only student representative directly involved in developing the logo. More can be learned at http://www.ucd.ie/visualidentity/ .
During this month an independent designer was interviewed for the purpose of redesigning the website. The first person interviewed was a neighbour of mine whose mother had told me he’d earned a 1.1 degree in Computer Science and Multimedia in WIT. I asked the Union President if I could forward his email and the Union’s website address along and did so. The Design Officer, Patrick MacKay, the Welfare Vice-President Dan Hayden and the Union President interviewed the designer. I did not get involved in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest. However, I was purposefully omitted by the Union President from interviewing the subsequent designer drawn to his attention. Mr John Stafford, BSc (Hons), MSc Ubiquitous and Multimedia Systems, is a friend of Abraham Campbell, the education Vice-President of 2002-2003. While Mr Stafford is well qualified and came at a very reasonable rate the subsequent result was below my personal expectations and preferences. I still hold the website of the University of Melbourne, Australia to be a model worth learning from considering its’ quality of finish and ease of access to clearly defined areas of information. This should be allied to securing no less than one fifth of the Union website’s homepage for either the newswire or message boards.
During this time I also participated in the debate over Union financial transparency and my subsequently hidden reply to one particular post (http://www.ucdsu.net/newswire.php?story_id=639#comment3631 )
yielded a letter threatening legal action from a former staff officer of the Union whose work rate can be demonstrated from the contents of the Union archive. The response of the Entertainments Vice-President, who was an acquaintance of the said individual, and the Union President showed an astonishing lack of back bone on their part, though this may be explained by the shared Fianna Fail membership of all three boys. Nonetheless, I am firmly of the opinion that the Union website is the best possible way for prospective employers to verify the claims being made by past participants in UCDSU.
The first few weeks of September were taken up entirely by the planning and execution of Orientation Week or ‘Reg. Week’ as it was formerly known. My role ended up being one of a manual labourer while it was largely left to the sabbatical Executive Officers to lecture address incoming first years. The range of activities I participated in during this time included:
· Distributing the Freshers’ Guide,
· Assisting the Deputy President in putting up posters to promote the Class Rep system,
· Transporting, unpacking then re-packing the contents of the Freshers’ packs,
· Obtaining recycling bins from the campus residencies in order to ensure the Union held to its’ own environmental policy.
Ultimately this week can be considered a success in light of the record number of Class Rep nominations received.
During the first half of Freshers’ Week I removed the Fresher’s Week material of the Kevin Barry Cumann, (KBC) of the Fianna Fail Party from the Union Staff Office to the appropriate facility of the storage cupboard in the Student Consultative Forum. This was done because the KBC is not a student representative organisation within the UCD environment. Also, its’ material was an inappropriate presence in the office of a Students’ Union, many of whose members wish it to be uninvolved in national and international politics.
In this month I changed the Union Council constituencies that had been arbitrarily determined by the Union Retuning Officer, Mr Michael Clark. There was no constitutional bar on my actions and I know for a fact that the Union Retuning Officer had undertaken none of the research that I had done the previous year into re-modelling Union Council constituencies. About a week later I had my Editorial Profile on the Newswire removed by the Welfare Vice-President at the request of the Union President. I was informed of this by a voice message left on my mobile by the Union President who, in that message, erroneously accused me of ‘trolling’ on the Union website newswire. I consulted with the Union Deputy President who told me that this was the first he’d heard of the Union President’s decision. The next morning however, when I confronted the Union President in his office with the Deputy President’s present; it was quite obvious that the Union President had subsequently secured the Deputy President’s support of his unilateral decision. This effectively led to my enforced idleness in relation to IT development within the Union.
After returning from New Zealand I began to collect signatures in support of a petition to propose a new Union constitution. In this effort I collected approximately 800 signatures in 3 days. However, the Independent Appeals Board, which had convened for the purpose of appointing a new Union Returning Officer, also turned its attention to my submitted petition and determined that the signatories could not have been fully aware of the changes they were proposing and dismissed the petition.
Prior to this decision being made the Union President submitted at a meeting of the Union Executive a motion calling for my resignation. This motion was submitted immediately after the Union President asked me to move my left hand so he could read my job title on the Union supplied hood I was wearing at the time. His argument was that my absence over the past few weeks had amounted to negligence and that my submission of a petition of Union membership signatures calling for a Union constitutional referendum amounted to the undermining of the Union Executive’s efforts in the area of SU constitutional reform.
I countered that I had announced to Union Council on Wednesday January 18th my intended absence and that it was not my fault the Union President had left the meeting earlier to attend a reception of the KBC. I argued additionally that because the seconder of the motion to establish a constitutional review the Deputy President was not present at the relevant Council meeting-thus making the motion invalid-no review process had been established. The Union Secretary at this point reminded me that I had declared on that occasion that I did not care. I clarified that it was the incompetence of the Chairperson of Council that I did not care about as that had been earlier demonstrated with the Chairperson’s treatment of the International Students’ Officer. I further argued that Standing Orders are the rules and they should be followed completely or not at all. No one replied to my arguments at this point and the Executive voted to hold a subsequent meeting on this motion the following morning. At that point the Union President produced the posters for Green Week, left with the Environmental and LGB Officer and inexplicably did not ask for my assistance in distributing those posters. The turnout for the meeting arranged the following morning was less than that at the original meeting and the motion, while never formally withdrawn, was never voted upon.
I then subsequently collected an additional 700 signatures from the Union membership proposing the three separate changes of a Union Management Committee for the Union’s commercial services, the reform and enlargement of Union Council and the creation of Programme Representative Officers to assist the Deputy President, and the creation of a full-time Postgraduate, Evening and Mature Students’ Vice President. With a turnout of approximately 4,000 students these proposed changes were all passed by a little over 80% of all voting students.
III. Issues encountered.
In September and during the preceding summer month, there were I discover many constraining aspects of the Union and these included:
· The lack of consensus over the Newswire’s editorial policy, subsequently resolved though a motion presented to Union Council by Enda Duffy.
· The lack of a co-ordinating effort from the Union President. The former solution was a problem encountered by other members of the Union Executive, both sabbatical and non-sabbatical and was remarked upon by the Irish Language Officer, Orla Tracey, in her interview with the University Observer during the Presidential elections of 2006.
· The lack of recognition of my constitutional duties from the Union President. This effectively led to my virtual idleness regarding IT development within the Union for the remainder of the academic year.
· An inability or unwillingness by either the Union President of Deputy President to confront the Union Returning Officer on the issue of arbitrarily determined Union Council constituencies that had long been recognised as being out of synch with actual University classes.
The most pressing issue for all non-sabbatical members of the Union Executive is the lack of any standing facilities with which their duties can be executed. The Gerry Horkan Boardroom has no privacy in relation to sound insulation with the adjacent Observer office and is ultimately too small to serve the needs of up to eight part-time officers. There is also a total lack of equipment, including phone lines for the non-sabbatical members of the Union Executive. Ultimately, I recommend a re-modelling of the Union corridor to involve;
· The relocation of the University Observer to the room occupied by the Second-hand Bookshop.
· The re-modelling of the current A’n’E Office and adjacent Union Archive into a new office for the proposed sixth sabbatical officer.
· The re-modelling of the space currently occupied by the Observer office and Gerry Horkan Boardroom into an enlarged facility for the Second-hand Bookshop, with an entrance facing the Atrium of the Student Centre and a newly created ‘Gerry Horkan Archive’ which would be approximately twice the size of the current Union archive.
· The placing of all design and publications staff, along with facilities for the rotational use by the non-sabbatical members of the Union Executive, into the room currently utilized by the Union President which is equipped to take up to eight separate on-line work terminals.
· The re-location of the President’s Office to the Union General Office while both the A’n’E Officer and Union PA are transferred to the current Staff Office, which would also have an entrance facing onto the Student Centre’s Atrium.
The Union President of 2006-07, Dan Hayden has informally estimated, based on his experience within the construction industry, that such an endeavour would cost approximately €60,000. Such an investment, amounting to €3 per Union member, would be worthwhile to help break the clique-ish atmosphere of the Union Corridor.
IV. Continuity section.
It has been after four years of unbroken involvement with UCD Students’ Union that I have learned that at the level of the Union Executive personality supersedes all and any concrete issues facing the Union membership. This lesson stems from attempts to introduce structural reform to the Union, with the support of nearly 1,000 individual Union members on each occasion, being opposed on spurious grounds by two successive Union Presidents. Additionally, the harsh, personality directed criticisms I received when I attempted to hold to account in the democratic forum of Union Council, the democratically elected Deputy President of 2004-2005, who himself had been a participant in the recently held ‘Democracy Now!’ Union campaign were of major importance in revealing the true nature of those calling for reforms of the University let alone the Union.
Regarding concurrent officers my first communication from young James in his capacity as Student Union education Vice-President came in October 2004 when he phoned my mobile and said somewhat aggressively; “You’re a knob!” This outburst came as a response to my mentioning the fact of young James’s Honorary Lifetime Membership of the Kevin Barry Cumann of the Fianna Fail Party in a letter to the Editor of the Observer. I made the unilateral effort of restoring more cordial communications were by going down to young James’s office that afternoon to ascertain the true nature of young James’ feelings. I said I would try not to mention young James’s Fianna Fail Party membership in future though I did at the first Council meeting of the year, but didn’t care. I made this effort to keep young James cordial towards me because my main priority, as had been for the preceding three years was SU constitutional reform including the abolition of the Communications & IT Officership. When seeking nomination to this position one of my main promises for the year was to run a referendum on the abolition of the Communications & IT Officership though the IAB thwarted my efforts in this regard. Since then it has transpired that young James had decided he wanted to leave a legacy of reform and tried to rush through his own draft Constitution. I was and remain utterly opposed to the Officer Forum as proposed in that draft document, as it is an unnecessary division of powers and people. There should be a larger Union Executive as UCD is a diverse place and in the emerging world will remain that way. I must say that it is unfortunate regret that the two people who had had most input into the document were Peter Doris and Shaun Smyth, both Caucasian, male Christians. I knew that in the long-term my relationship with young James would be important because it had been made clear to me the previous February that the Union President of 2004-05, Hypocrite, was Dillon’s man and would prioritise the feelings and reputation of his predecessor and friend ahead of the welfare of the Union membership. I hope to eventually complete my work in relation to the Union constitution and retire into the only Union position that has held any intrinsic personal appeal for me; the Chairperson of Council.
I shall now provide an analysis of the incoming members of the Union Executive.
Communications and IT Officer
My successor to the position of Communications and Information Technology Officer, Gary Redmond, has the ability to do the job but not the drive. Gary has already stated to me that he has taken the position for “the vote on Exec”. The position of Belfield FM Manager, which Gary also holds, is a demanding one and may ultimately be his top and indeed sole priority.
Oifigeach na Gaeilge
Dónal Ó Suilleabháin is a nice guy by all accounts of his fellow members of Union Council and would pull his weight as Oifigeach Na Gaeilge next year.
While Stephen Quinlivan’s election campaign had contained a word-of-mouth negative campaign I was primarily concerned that he would ultimately prioritise the Auditorship of the B&L Society over the SU Finance officership. This appears not to be happening, as Stephen is the first Finance officer in my memory to produce a Financial Advice section for the Freshers’ Guide and to spend mornings during the summer on the Union corridor. I am however still concerned over the non-occurrence of any meeting of the Union Management Committee as voted for by the Union membership. While convening the meetings is the responsibility of the Union President, if Stephen wants to develop his role and get more out of it he should be confronting the Union President over this issue.
Carol-Anne Rushe has so far come across as a nice enough girl. Credit must be given for her considerable involvement in the Union over the past academic year, having been more involved than many people who actually were Class Reps, she thus comes across a dedicated individual. While a proper debate on amending the position to a Gender Equality Officer is yet to happen, I am personally in favour of renaming the position to Women’s Empowerment Officer and developing its job description considerably while having a co-existing Equality Officer.
Holly Irvine’s victory as Entertainments Vice-President has prevented a schlong overload on the Union Executive. I am concern that Holly may not remain focussed enough for the challenging brief of the Entertainments Officer. My personal opinion is that she needs to develop her ability to prioritise so that she can deal with things on-at-a-time and not be overwhelmed. If she does this she will thrive and be well able to build on the work of image-development that her predecessor performed so well. Thus far she has been quite focused in her duties and a quality Ents section in the Freshers’ Guide appears to be on its way.
Barry Colfer has thus far been a focused individual and is one of the least stressed of those officers on the Union corridor. This may be partially due to the inevitable support and input he receives from his predecessor and current President Dan Hayden. This trait of being calm and focused will be a great boon when engaging with personal cases and I commended him on his silence during the farcical abortion ‘debate’ which took place at the last Union Council meeting of the year. I recommended to Barry at that time that when it came to the issue of abortion he should let the ordinary students decide and I sincerely hope a referendum on the Union’s abortion policy takes place this or next year. Despite being a member of the Kevin Garry Cumann of the Fianna Fail Party Barry played down this during the election campaign and thus ruled himself out of receiving an Honorary Lifetime membership of the KBC. Not being a Fianna Fail member myself the outgoing Chairperson, Peter ‘Research-and-Develop-Nothing’ Doris, might still have awarded him one.
Brian Doyle, the education Vice-President Elect is in my opinion a “closet President” and will likely run for President next year. His proposed one-card-for-all had obvious flaws in relation to students’ data protection issues and is unlikely to happen, given that James Carroll was unable to introduce it as promised in his presidential manifesto. Also, and of greater personal concern to myself, I believe Brian will not learn about, let alone challenge the on-going commodification of education as has been facilitated though GATT Agreements and the Nice Treaty. The principal research he should read are those recent papers by Kathleen Lynch of the UCD Equality Studies Centre. Having not denied of hushed up his Fianna Fail Party membership as Barry Colfer had done Brian would probably receive honorary lifetime membership of the Kevin Barry Cumann as young James had two years before. Pierce added that this was ultimately a decision for the outgoing Chair of the KBC, Peter ‘Research-and-Develop-Nothing’ Doris.
Deputy President Vice-President
Dave Curran has been the most successful, hard-working and sincerest Deputy President since the position was created and his election and re-election is one of the best things that has happened to the Union as a whole in a long time. The only criticism I can-and must-make is that he appears to be unwilling, or perhaps just lacking what he would regard as an imaginative enough approach, to inform and politicise the Union membership on the issue of the continuing commodification of third-level education. This must be debated and challenged NOW as it could be inevitably followed by the privatisation of secondary and primary level education in our lifetimes and be a financial burden to those current students who go on to have children.
Dan Hayden is a sincere guy and while some concern could be expressed as to the level of assistance he gives to officers other than the Welfare Vice-President he has the potential to play a stronger co-ordinating role than his predecessor. As he once said to me in relation to SU constitutional reform “people have to be led” and I hope now that he is doing that leading. While the image of the Union is a strong focus for Dan, and has to be in the light of the past two years experience shining a strong light on the ease of communication deficiency developing between the Union Executive and the Union membership. I hope that the same application of effort will be kept up with regard to service provision by the University and in particular counselling on campus. Dan is ideologically relaxed but thankfully not opposed to the putting forward of ideologies and just needs to have the courage to tell the Union membership that political ideologies matter as in the larger scheme of things they have an enormous impact on an individual’s financial well-being. My earlier fear of Dan providing many “don’ts” but few “do’s” to his fellow officers does not appear to have materialised and this may be because of the cessation of his involvement in editing the Union newswire.