A petition calling for optional membership of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has gained the necessary 500 signatures for a referendum and was handed to TCDSU Education Officer Alice MacPherson today.
A group of students began petitioning for a referendum on the option to leave the SU in November under the name “TCD Students’ Union Opt-Out Project” (SUOOP). In late November, the original petition was scrapped as the group “felt the wording of the petition was not clear enough”. The current petition was then created “to comply with SU electoral regulations”.
James Martin, Public Relations Manager for SUOOP, told Trinity News: “We look forward to the referendum as we feel very confident that students will recognise that their constitutional right to freedom of association is being violated by TCDSU and will vote for them to take action.”
The group are seeking to amend article 1.1 of TCDSU’s constitution to state that the Union’s membership is composed of “all capitated students who have not opted out of the Union by notifying Trinity College Dublin or the Union of his/her wish not to be a member of the Union. Membership shall exclude students who choose to leave the Union before or during the year. Such students will not be counted among Union membership for Union lobbying purposes without their express and direct consent.”
The constitution currently states that membership of the union is composed of all capitated students and sabbatical officers.
According to their Facebook page, the group are also seeking “a clear report on union expenditure”. They argue that the SU “can have a low level of engagement with students” and “is essentially a political union, not just a student union”.
A constitutional referendum “shall be called” by the Electoral Commission (EC) when a petition is submitted to the EC containing the relevant resolution and the signatures of 500 members, according to TCDSU’s constitution. The petition will now be checked to ensure that the signatures are valid.
In November, Eunice Collins of the SUOOP group told Trinity News: “Given that the SU has political stances we think it should not be mandatory. People signing this petition don’t necessarily want to leave the SU, but they respect other people’s right to freedom of association. Universities in the UK have given student this option and we think Trinity should do the same.”
In early November, a group of University College Dublin (UCD) students launched a similar petition. Shortly after, an “opt-out” petition circulating the Dublin City University (DCU) campus gained the necessary signatures of 2.5% of the union body, which is approximately 425 students, and was handed in the college’s Returning Officer. The possibility of a referendum in DCU remains to be seen.