The three-year funding agreement between management at the Dublin Institute of Technology and DIT Student’s Union ran out on 30 June last.
The parties had been negotiating an agreement for several months and both sides came to an agreement in late April. The agreement was approved by the Senior Leadership Team of the DIT, chaired by the President of the DIT, and was formally signed by the Director of Student Affairs of the DIT. However, an objection by Imelda Reynolds, a business rep on the Governing Body, who wants the union to be subject to DIT Internal Audit, has blocked the agreement.
As a result, DIT Students’ Union has no funding in place – despite having signed off on agreements twice with DIT management.
This has created a funding crisis at the busiest time of the year, as the SU gets ready to welcome around 5,000 new students to DIT. If it is not resolved then Fresher’s Week and services to the new students will be in jeopardy. Not to mention the serious matter of the wages of eleven staff members and four sabbatical officers.
Effectively this is an attack on the independence of the Students’ Union. Management is withholding the funding in order to force the union to submit to DIT’s internal audit mechanisms. This would mean that the union gets its finances and internal decision-making processes audited, supervised and controlled by DIT management, the very people that union representatives are supposed to hold to account.
USI president Annie Hoey has said she is “deeply concerned” and that “Students’ unions have always been very cooperative with the institutions, are happy to share audited accounts. It’s a point of principle that they are to be kept separate and not to fall in under an internal auditing mechanism.” Many of those who are involved in DITSU believe it is a clear attempt to stifle the union’s independence prior to the move to Grangegorman and the Institute’s move for re-designation as a Technological University.
DITSU is the largest students’ union in the country and it has been left high and dry. There can be no doubt that this is a political attack on the autonomy of the Student’s Union designed to undermine the effectiveness of student representation. This type of action could set a very worrying precedent for student unions in Ireland; it must be strongly resisted by the student body on a national level.