President of USI, Laura Harmon, and the the Vice President for Campaigns, Glenn Fitzpatrick, have both been invited to join in the debate, which will be chaired independently by a DIT law lecturer.
President of YFG Dale McDermott, was keen to explain that the overall concept of the debate first materialised after UCD voted to disaffiliate as a member of the USI. “The debate around the USI and its role in student activism has long been discussed in campuses all over the country, but it came to a head when UCD voted to disaffiliate as members of the USI.
This brought the issue to the fore and I think its an acceptable question to ask and talk about,” he said. “People active in student union politics in DIT have said directly to me that they are not happy with the USI and believe something needs to change, or else DIT's membership will be called into question,” he added.
McDermott also questioned the USI's overall strategy to represent student issues and concerns, and believes that third level students should hold the Union accountable.“The USI has presided over successive cuts to both the grant education funding and increases in student fees while at the same time not providing a credible solution in the long term to properly funding education in Ireland,” he said.
In particular, McDermott criticised the USI’s decision to hold the national Educational Rally on the same day as a student career fair.“I have to also say that this years education march which attracted a rather poor attendance of 6000 people was organised on the same day as 'Grad Ireland', a student employment fair in the RDS with over 3000 graduate jobs up for grabs. I think this was a shortsighted mistake by the USI and showed a clear lack of planning. Students care about the cost of education and the investment it deserves, but how can they show their concern when situations like this occur?”
“The USI receive a lot of money from its members all across the country with DIT I believe contributing around €76,000 to the organisation. People expect value for this and I don't think they were served well by a clear blunder like this,” he added.
In a recent article published in the DIT college paper, ‘The Edition’, chairman of DIT Young Fine Gael, Séamus Lowe, claimed that the USI were ‘initially hesitant’ to take part in the debate.In response to this, president of USI, Laura Harmon, claimed that Lowe’s statement was untrue and that the USI’s main concern was not to seem favourable towards any specific political party.
“No it's not true that we were hesitant to debate, but when I was approached initially it was to be a debate with YFG hosted by YFG. This would have been very biased,” Harmon explained.“We don't debate directly with political societies if an event is hosted by them - this is a long standing USI position. So I encouraged them to seek an independent chair and host”, she added.Harmon admitted that she was ‘looking forward to the event’, in particular to explain USI’s stance on student problems.
“I am always to happy to debate and convey USI's achievements. I would also encourage any student who wishes to find out more about USI to get in touch with us at any point.”The debate will take place in DIT Aungier Street on Wednesday, 5th November at 6pm.