Union of Students in Ireland: Monthly Updates
1. SAAI awards
Due to COVID, the annual USI Student Achievement Awards Ireland event has now moved online. The SAAI event is now in its seventh year, it is the annual opportunity for the student movement in Ireland to recognise the contribution of students to improving the experience of their fellow students, and to wider society.
USI is delighted to hold our annual Congress online this year and it will be held from May 25th-27th. Congress is where motions and constitutional amendments are brought forward by members and debated. Elections for the incoming executive will also be held.
3. Response to COVID-19
Ireland is currently beginning the first stage of easing restrictions as we enter the first stage of the five-stage plan. Throughout the past number of weeks, USI has worked on a number of different issues to ensure students were not disadvantaged by the implications of COVID-19, along with a number of campaigns.
- Alcohol during COVID-19.USI ran an alcohol awareness campaign to support students and make them mindful of their alcohol consumption during the restrictions.
- Exam destress campaign. USI also ran our online exam destress campaign to support students during exams and submitting assignments in what is a very unusual examination period.
- Mental Health campaign.USI created a section on our website to focus on mental health and outline supports available to students along with running a webinar on practical self-care tips.
- Postgraduate Mental health campaign. USI also acknowledged that postgraduates face different issues as a result of COVID-19 and therefore established an additional section of mental health supports and a video specific to postgraduates.
- Students on the Frontline campaign. USI acknowledged the work which is being undertaken by students working on the frontlines during this pandemic, from students nurses working on hospitals to students working in retail and distribution. Therefore, USI launched a campaign looking to hear from students working on the frontline and acknowledge their efforts. These student studies will be highlighted on the USI social media accounts of the coming days.
- No Academic Disadvantage. The main focus of our work over the past number of weeks was supporting students and Students’ Unions during this time of uncertainty. The major of our work included working with Students’ Unions to ensure that policies and procedures were in place to ensure students would not be academically disadvantaged as a result of COVID-19. You can find our statement here.
- Income protections for students. With the circumstances, many students, unfortunately, lost their jobs or paid placements and USI worked to ensure that students could access the Governments COVID-19 specific social protection supports at this time.
- Supporting students on the frontline. The work of student healthcare workers in key in battling COVID-19 and as a result they should be supported, paid to support themselves and also not have their academic outcomes to be not maintained during this time. USI worked with Students’ Unions, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Association and other stakeholders to ensure that students working on the frontline in our healthcare settings were supported. You can find our statement here.
- Sexual Experiences Survey.USI was delighted the support the rollout of a national survey to gather students’ insights into their sexual experiences in the third level. With over 5,000 responses a report on this survey will be compiled in the coming weeks.
- Refund The Rent Campaign. USI has been doing a large amount of work supporting and protecting students who had to leave their rented accommodation due to COVID-19. As a result, we launched our national campaign #RefundTheRent which is calling for landlords and accommodation providers to refund the rent when students were forced to return home. You can find the statement here.
- USI as a Fairtrade workplace. The Executive team despite working remotely have continued to ensure that USI remains a fairtrade workplace and supported Fairtrade Ireland’s campaign highlighting what fairtrade products we are using.
- MSM Blood Ban. Plans by Northern Irish authorities to reduce the number of time men who have sex with men have to wait after sexual activity to give blood have been welcomed by the National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) as a good first step. Although NUS-USI has called for the discriminatory ban” to be scrapped completely. USI supported NUS-USIs call and outlined that the same approach must also be taken in the Republic of Ireland, which currently bans men who have sex with men from donating blood for 12 months after sexual activity. You can find our statement here.
- May Day Statement. To mark May Day 2020, the Union of Students in Ireland is renewing its calls for the Living Wage to become Ireland’s National Minimum Wage so all employees are working for a wage that can support an acceptable standard of living. You can find our statement here.