At the beginning of each year students across Ireland pay their college and university fees. Incorporated into these lump sums is the standardised €8 membership fee for the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). This organisation purports to represent 374,000 third level students across the island of Ireland. This of course means that it rakes in approximately €3,000,000 per year. This huge amount of money is used to hold many events, exclusively left-wing protests, and to employ a variety of full-time people who do very little.
Of course, €8 is no vast fee. But it is the involuntary nature of this ‘membership fee’ where the problem lies. Surely each individual student has the right to freedom of association? Well, according to the our universities, student unions, and the USI itself, the answer is no. The universities are inarguably complicit in this. It is, after all, through them that we undergo this annual robbery.
The outright absurdity of this is truly baffling. If the evidence of this fee were not merely a single number on your balance sheet incorporated into other charges, if it was for example, someone on the street demanding that you give them your money for nothing in return, what would you do? My guess is that you wouldn’t pay them. You wouldn’t pay them because it would be a mugging and by all rights you shouldn’t have to abide that.
Dublin City University may hold a referendum on disaffiliating from the USI. It is a positive step but it doesn’t have to be the course of action taken. All we need is a choice. A choice as to whether or not we want, on an individual level, to be represented by the USI. It is ironic that the same radical left-wingers who tell us that they are ‘pro-choice’ have no problem with taking everyone else’s money to prop-up their own political agenda. Although, perhaps it should not be so surprising given that these student union leftists seem to believe that all the world’s virtue resides with them.
Beyond Freedom of Association, this perversion of a student representational body also encroaches on our right to express our own views on the issues of the day. After taking our money, they use it to fund their seemingly endless protests, marches, and sit-ins. From LGBT issues to the housing crisis to abortion, they do it all. They fund their posters and banners, which they wave proudly as they march about the city, with our money. Either they do not realise that there exists alternative views beyond their bubble of victimhood, or they simply do not care. In any event, they seek to speak for us.
In 2016, the USI led a march of a mere 500 of the 17,000 registered students from Trinity College Dublin. They marched for the pro-choice movement ahead of the referendum, marching in the name of all the 17,000 students attending the college. They marched for a cause which in the US, at least, was taken to its logical extreme when, in New York in 2019, lawmakers passed a bill allowing women the right to an abortion up to the point of birth – surely not all students views are represented by this?
Other pet projects of the union include marching for the right to housing. Though unfortunately, they do not seem to be equipped with any solutions, they merely repeat unsophisticated slogans often in association with left-wing political parties. They seem shocked to learn that declaring something as a right does not, in fact, magically fix the issue.
The USI’s stances are unapologetically left-wing, indeed radically so. It is common sense that no student nor worker should be made to associate with a union who does not represent them. Furthermore, no person should be made to choose between their free expression and their education or job, which is often what happens in universities these days. It’s time for a choice.