When they go to vote this Monday and Tuesday, UCC students will decide, on balance, whether a fiver is too much to spend to fund their national student movement.
They’ll decide whether a fiver is too much to pay to fund and support the organisation fighting and winning on protection and reform of the grant. They’ll decide whether they can be proud to be a member of the only large organisation to demand an alcohol awareness campaign independent of the drinks companies, and then to set one up. They’ll decide whether it’s in their best interests to unite to defeat the opponents of marriage equality.
For the past two years, lobbying from students has protected the grant from cuts and threshold changes. Students whose family income lies on the margins of the grant system will consider whether Five Euros is worth it to be members of USI.
Postgraduates will decide whether €5 is too much to fund the ongoing efforts of the organisation which worked with government to cut the APR on postgraduate loans and works for the return of their grant.
We say – and students across Ireland say that every student in membership of USI gains when they bind together and drive change in the national movement. Our colleagues across Ireland say every student in Ireland benefits from the intellectual capacity and activity of UCC.
But who would benefit from UCC outside USI? Who benefits from a Students’ Union isolated from the national movement? Who benefits from a weakened UCCSU and a weakened USI?
The people who oppose the shared values of Ireland’s students benefit. The people who want higher fees, or a graduate tax. The people who want a lower grant – or to turn a grant into a loan. The people who want education to be a conveyor belt for students. The people who want the only advice on alcohol for students to be ‘Drink responsibly, but do drink.’.
The people who don’t like students expressing their views on equality and on equal marriage. The people who supported SPUC against students. The people who look at the more equal Ireland and its improving – but nowhere near perfect – opportunities for students in 2015 and wish it was a little bit more like 1983.
The people who want students to meekly, silently do what they are told, to pay their fees, to do graduate work for Job Bridge wages. They benefit from a weakened student movement. They benefit from UCC outside USI. They benefit – but students lose out.