By Paddy Henry
A reduction to the cost of the student levy paid by every student in NUI Galway is on the way, after a referendum on its reduction was passed late last month.
Students were asked whether or not they approved of the cancellation of the current Student Levy of €224 and further approved its replacement with a new Student Levy of €140.
The referendum passed by the slightest of margins with 51.52% of respondents voting in favour of reform,
The referendum was held in conjunction with the elections for the three full-time Students’ Union officer roles, and brought high turnouts, with 3, 682 voting on the levy question, a record high turnout for an Stufents’ Union referendum in NUI Galway,
Polling by SIN in the week leading up to the decision had the election as something of a foregone conclusion, with over 80% of respondents on campus stating that they would vote yes to the question posed to them at the ballot box.
However, as members of societies became aware that a yes vote on April 22nd meant a cut of €14.23 to the Aras na Mac Leinn fund, which finances the running of the building a campaign led by the University Societies Coordination Group (USCG) to“Save Áras Na Mac Léinn was launched.
The campaign argued that the fund, which was used to fund the renovation of facilities in the building such as the Hub and the development of acoustic rooms would be “gutted” by a yes vote.
USCG members also criticised the lack of consultation form the Students’ Union claiming that they were caught “unawares” by the referendum announcement and that they were “never contacted” about the proposals.
SIN reported in November last year that a referendum on the student levy was set to take place in April.
Following the referendum’s passing and two well-contested campaigns that was at times fractious, outgoing Students’ Union President Pádraic Toomey, who supported the levy reform spoke of the importance on maintaining a “good relationship” with everybody involved telling SIN;
“The important thing now is that we make sure that this is a levy for everyone. This levy was an important part of the work that the Students’ Union have done this year and I think that it’s important now that we work with the University that this is the baseline for the levy and we work towards a good relationship with everyone.”
The outgoing President also spoke of the need to recognise the importance of the services made available to students and expressed the necessity of maintaining and adding on to these services;
“I think it’s important that all services are taken care of and that we have all the services that we have as students. It’s important to recognise that we do pay enough but every service that we have is needed, and needs to be maintained and need to ensure that services are constantly added to make life for students better.”
Asked if he felt that there may have been an error in communication within the yes campaign Toomey highlighted the complicated nature of the levy, but acknowledged that the yes side may have misjudged where the key talking points were going to be during the referendum.
“The levy is a very complicated thing because of all the different parts of it, it was always going to be difficult to get every part of it. I’d say what we thought was going to be the main focal point of it (the campaign) wasn’t always the main talking point which was the main thing that drove the levy, but it’s important that we recognise that each part is important and that’s why students pay that money.”
The new student levy comes into effect ahead of the 2021/22 academic year.