european students’ union

USI Updates

December 16, 2019

Welfare:

International Men’s Day

The Union of Students in Ireland and the 3ts have joined forces in suicide prevention and positive mental health initiative ‘Share the Load’ in IT Sligo to mark International Men’s’ day. 

The initiative includes a public display of 105 backpacks, representing the average number of people of college-going age who die by suicide in Ireland each year. ‘Share the Load’ encourages conversation about the impact of suicide in colleges in addition to urging students to connect with the many mental health supports provided both on and off-campus. 

Re:Charge 

We relaunched our Mental Health Campaign, Re:Charge for the second consecutive year in a row alongside campaign partners, the HSE. This year, the campaign was officially launched in TU Dublin Blanchardstown Campus on Monday the 14th of October with representatives from TU Dublin SU, General Manager for Mental Health with the HSE, USI VP Welfare and USI Mental Health Manager. This campaign aims to inform students in third-level education on ways to ensure that their mental health is a top priority whilst maintaining the busy student lifestyle of juggling studies, work and social lives. This year, the campaign focused on Healthy eating, Physical activity and Talking to someone when feeling overwhelmed. 

We also promoted our app +Connections alongside the campaign as this is a tool for every student to direct and signpost them to the appropriate services available to them both on and off-campus, how to start the conversation about mental health with a friend and provides students with an opportunity to write and share their experiences through a blog platform within the app. 

Launch Mental Health Text Line

On Monday, 18th November the Union of Students in Ireland launched a mental health text line for students that aims to connect texters with a volunteer, who has been trained to listen, reassure and guide people from a hot moment to a cool calm. All conversations are anonymous, unless the tester wants to give their name, and are reviewed in real-time by a team of qualified staff supervisors who will support volunteers to listen to and support texters.

National Condom Distribution Service 

USI has worked closely with the HSE to make condoms and sexual health information freely available to third level students nationally. Third-level institutions can order free condom dispensers from the HSE, which will enable the provision of free condoms and sexual health information to students on campuses nationwide. Information leaflets will be made available with the condom dispensers, which will outline to students how to use condoms correctly, and will emphasise the importance of using condoms consistently and every time sex happens. 

Campaigns: 

Break the Barriers

The Break the Barriers Campaign and the National Demonstration was decided upon by USI Campaigns Strategy Committee and passed by USI National Council to take place on Thursday 3rd of October. 

This multi-pronged approach was developed to place pressure on the Government in the coming months, ahead of the Budget. The USI Executive Team and Students’ Unions from across the country engaged with local elected representatives, TD’s and Senators on the Barriers to accessing third-level education in this country. 

Some of our keys asks were:

  • a publicly funded education system to be put in place, 
  • student housing to become affordable and plentiful, 
  • the SUSI Grant to be increased to reflect the rising costs of student life.

During the two weeks leading up to the Demonstration, the USI Executive Team made over 75 campus visits across Ireland supporting Students’ Union officers locally in promoting the campaign to Break the Barriers. However, on Tuesday the 1st of October, the National Demonstration had to be called off due to the dangerous threat of hurricane Lorenzo.

On the 3rd of October, we did not let our day of action go to waste. Instead, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) alongside Students’ Unions from across the country, held a national lobby day to #BreakTheBarriers to Higher Education. Students spent the day ringing, emailing, tweeting and writing letters to their TD’s and Senators ahead of the Budget2020 announcement that following Tuesday.

USI support rent strikes

Following the success of Rent Strikes in the UK and emerging Rent Strike groups in Ireland, the national student movement have voted unanimously to support these campaigns focused on campus owned student accommodation in Ireland. A Rent Strike involves withholding rent in a form of protest of the cost of student accommodation, with the objective of a reduction of rent from on-campus accommodation providers.

SIPTU-USI partnership

SIPTU and the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) have announced the renewal of an agreement between the two organisations to facilitate joint campaigns and provide third level students with support in the workplace. It provides for joint actions, mutual support and the development of a closer relationship between the two organisations into the future.

Academic Affairs:

NStEP Conference

The National Student Engagement Programme [NStEP], a programme that is run through USI held its’ annual conference on Thursday 14th November where it launched its’ new strategy for 2019 through to 2021. NStEP focuses on improving student engagement in Higher Education practice in Ireland, through the training of class reps and building staff-student partnerships across Higher Education Institutions.

To achieve the aspirations of both students and staff across the sector, the strategy sets out three strategic priorities for 2019 – 2021, which are:

  • Strengthening the value of student engagement nationally
  • Developing the leadership capabilities of students in Irish higher education
  • Supporting staff and students across the sector to foster a culture of partnership

The NStEP Programme is supported by USI, in partnership with Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) and the Higher Education Authority (HEA). You can view more about NStEP by visiting studentengagement.ie.

Postgraduate Affairs:

USI & SIPTU Launch Charter for Postgraduate Students

USI and SIPTU have come together to create a lobby document for Higher Level Institutions across the country to adhere to when it comes to postgraduate rights. This Charter lays out exactly what the Trade Union Movement and Student Movement in Ireland expect from HEI’s, in particular, postgraduates need to be paid for their work with a written agreement in place to protect their rights as workers. Over the past year, USI conducted a survey for our postgraduate members, the outcome of this research has led to the creation of an evidence-based postgraduate charter.

Equality:

Pink Training 

USI will hold Pink Training in NUI Galway, from November 29th to December 1st. Pink Training is the largest LGBT+ training event in Europe for third level students, with delegations of students attending from USI-affiliated colleges across the country.

Citizenship:

Minister Bruton Launches USI 21 Day Challenge

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and SSE Airtricity have partnered up to challenge students to make better environmental actions over the next 21 days. The three-week event also marks the beginning of a sustainability partnership between USI and SSE Airtricity.

Climate Strikes

USI supported the School Climate Strikes that were taking place all across the country on Friday 20th September. We worked alongside Climate Action Groups and secondary school students who were leading the strikes in the lead up to the 20th on promotion of local strikes and providing information on how third level students could get involved with the strikes. 

Gaeilge: 

Gaeltacht grant reinstated 

During the last academic term USI developed a campaign and continued lobbying efforts to have the Gaeltacht grant reinstated for student teachers in both PME courses and Initial Teacher Education programmes. In the budget release, we were successful in our lobbying efforts and from the 2020/2021 academic year this grant will be reinstated. 

Bi-ligual signage in Ulster University, Northern Ireland 

USI supported students at Ulster University in their action to have bi-lingual signage on campus, both English and Gaeilge. 

Gaeilge4All Campaign 

USI supported the Gaeilge4All campaign and action outside of Dáil Éireann to ensure Irish remains a core subject in the senior cycle curriculum. 

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