Multiple member clubs of the Dublin University Central Athletic Club (DUCAC) have been implicated in electoral collusion at their annual general meeting (AGM) on October 13, Trinity News has learned. Freshman club members were allegedly pressured into attending the meeting in the hopes of electing candidates favoured by DU Boat Club (DUBC), DU Ladies’ Boat Club (DULBC), DU Ladies’ Hockey Club (DULHC) and DU Ladies’ Rugby Football Club (DULFC).
The AGM saw the appointment of a new Chair and Vice-Chair, the former being vacated for the first time since 2009 following the end of Professor Cyril Smyth’s final term. The election for the position of chair was won by former circuit court judge and DUBC member Donagh McDonagh, defeating Dublin University GAA member PJ McGrane – who was hoping to become the first student elected as chair of DUCAC – and DU Football Club (DUFC) member Gerry Kelly. The position of Vice Chair went to Senior Freshman History student Monty Badger. Badger won election by just twenty votes against former ladies harriers captain of DU Harriers and Athletics Club (DUHAC), Laura Brennan.
Prior to the AGM, a post on the DUBC Facebook page encouraged members to attend the AGM to “vote for all things boat.” Trinity News also discovered an email sent by DULBC Captain Megan Jungmann to DULBC members concerning the meeting. It stated: “as a focus sport, we need to ensure our input and as a club we want to contribute to development and improvement of sport in Trinity as a whole.
Election is done by a vote so this is why we need to show strength in numbers.” Attendance at the AGM was described as “compulsory,” written in capital letters, bold font and underlined to emphasise the sentiment. The reason for compulsory attendance was explained as a means to ensure the election of those who were “prepared to give up their free time for the development of the club.”
In the email, Jungmann went on to list the DUBC and DULBC members who were running for positions on the DUCAC executive. Among the names quoted were that of DULBC members Laura Walsh who was running for Honorary Vice Treasurer and Caoimhe Dempsey, running for a position as a club representative. Both positions were uncontested. Recently elected DUCAC vice chair Monty Badger was also mentioned by Jungmann as a candidate that ladies boat club members were expected to support.
The email concluded by informing the recipients that “attendance will be noted” and excuses were expected “on a postcard.” The former of these statements was described by one source within the DULBC as a tactic “to scare the novices into going to the AGM[sic].”
The sender of the email, Captain Megan Jungmann, stressed that they would never threaten novices to attend the AGM. Jungmann said that compulsory attendance was a tactic used by all clubs to ensure a high turnout of their members. The phrase “excuses on on a postcard” was explained by Jungmann as a joking phrase used by coaches during training sessions, meaning that being out of the country was the only excuse for missing a training session.
She later clarified that this phrase had only been included on the email sent out to senior members of the ladies boat club and not to novices. She was also keen to stress that she understood how her language may have been misconstrued but that “at the end of the day, you are trying to get people on [the committee] from your club.”
Speaking to Trinity News, when asked whether he felt that both DUBC and DULBC exerted undue influence on the DUCAC committee, Vice Chair-elect Monty Badger explained: “I don’t think so. Naturally bigger clubs will have a bigger representation.” Currently, over one third of the DUCAC committee is comprised of DUBC members. Badger expressed concern over funding cuts to DUCAC, noting that the previous year had seen the DUBC budget cut.
Badger continued to say he feared that if “established” clubs were seeing a reduction in the money available that the effects would be worse for “small and developing clubs.” Consulting the notes he had prepared prior to this interview, Badger listed the “smaller” clubs that had representation such as DU Squash Rackets Club and DU Wind and Wake.
Badger continued: “I feel when one comes to Trinity you must get involved in sport…[it] should be affordable and accessible to all.” He also stated that he sees his role as DUCAC vice chair as “vice to the chair of DUCAC”. The new chair of DUCAC, Donagh McDonagh, was not mentioned in the email sent out to DULBC members.
When presented with the quotes from the DULBC, Badger said he could not comment on the internal policies of a different club. However, he went on to say that the threats of noting attendance “sounds horrific” and that the tactics were tantamount to “blackmail”. Badger was keen to point out that such a strategy could be counterproductive as it was already difficult to “keep novices training.”
The move by bigger clubs such as DULBC, DUBC, DULHC and DULFC to form alliances to wield greater influence on the committee has been characterised by sources as a “cartel of interest.” This characterisation led Badger to question the motives of smaller clubs, saying that there was a possibility that these allegations may have been stemming from “jealousy” and described the idea of “established clubs forming a monopoly” as “nonsense”.
One possible reason provided to Trinity News for such collusion among larger clubs was that some clubs were more “capital intensive” than others. He went on to say that one of his first acts as Vice Chair would be to ease the wounds and settle “the bad blood” that seemed to have festered within the organisation.
The allegations of a “cartel of interest” for more established clubs in Trinity was dismissed by Jungmann. During interview, she revealed that members of other clubs in DUCAC had begun to campaign under the motto “anyone but boat,” referring to the men’s club. The phrase was described as “completely unacceptable.”
On the issue of established clubs aligning in order to ensure that they were viewed favourably in terms of funding, Jungmann explained that the ladies boat club budget had been cut significantly this year and that, unlike other clubs, they received little in the way of funding from alumni.
She added that their alumni committee had only been established three weeks ago. Jungmann described rowing as “an expensive sport” and the funding of rowing was not a sign of the boat clubs being favoured but rather as a reality of the sport.
When asked about the allegations, DU Ladies Hockey Captain Alex Owens stated: “The boat club asked for our support so we give it. We’ve done so in the past.” Owens went on to say that the ladies hockey club attend in such large numbers for “representation reasons” and “because it looks good for the club.”
The outcry from some smaller clubs within DUCAC at the lack of representation has called into question election methods in the capitated body. Other capitated bodies, such as the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), have made changes to their electoral methods. In the case of the GSU, members recently voted on an amendment to their constitution to move to interviewed positions for strategic operations.
Commenting on the decision, GSU President Shane Collins said: “We sought feedback from our union members as to what type of union they wanted and with the interviewed positions we have, the feedback was that these areas were best served by having people with particular skills related to the role. So whilst systematic decisions are taken, this was done democratically and voted on, and indeed passed at our AGM.”
When asked about this approach, Badger said that such a method would “depend on the interview panel” and that there was potential that it could lead to a situation where the committee was “less representative.”
The large numbers of boat club members who attended the AGM as delegates was seen by Badger as a sign of their “commitment.” Unlike Badger, Jungmann was entirely in favour of an interview based election process, stating that the way positions were decided needed reform.
Jungmann said that she believed one reason why the boat club was heavily represented on the committee was explained by the fact that “we (DULBC) always put people forward because we think it’s important to have our say on it…a lot of us play other sports as well.”
She also went on to point out that the two positions taken by her colleagues from the ladies boat club were uncontested. This, she believes, could be down to smaller clubs being discouraged to run due to the current methods of election.
DUCAC administrator Aidan Kavanagh, who was present at the AGM, was unavailable for comment.
Representatives from the DU Ladies’ Rugby Club were also unavailable for comment.
UPDATE: This article was amended for accuracy on the 18th October.