The 2017 Leadership Campaign got underway at Students’ Union Hustings this evening. This will be the first campaign to take place since the introduction of stricter rules surrounding the race. This years race will be shorter than previous years and will also see candidates and campaign managers afforded breaks in the middle of the day.
The race for President, one of just two contested positions this year, involves three candidates: Bryan Mallon, a senior sophister Irish studies student; Kevin Keane, a senior sophister Law student, and Thomas Emmet, a senior sophister History student. Emmet spoke about making the SU more visible, and affording more opportunities to students to get involved. He discussed using Ents to get more students involved in campaigns like that against the MSM blood ban. He also spoke about getting sabbats to attend more society events, and spend less time in House 6.
Emmett gave a stump speech in which he pledged to be the “voice of the 17,000”, a theme he returned to more than once throughout.
Asked about his plans to continue or expand the lobby group, he said that he would like to have an LGBTQ+ lobby group, a mature students’ lobby group, but emphasised that his manifesto is an unfinished one. Speaking on the LGBTQ+ lobby group, he spoke about having it work toward getting rid of the MSM blood ban.
Keane spoke about the SU’s potential, and how he believed in an SU that can work for everyone regardless of their level of involvement. He stressed the importance of welcoming everyone into the Trinity community. He discussed his involvement of welfare and the lobby group, and his astoundment of the differences that the SU’s work has made to everyone. He pledged to defend and support the community of Trinity through the SU.
Asked about what he can do to improve the lives of LGBTQ students, Keane discussed the gender recognition bill, which he would “lobby very hard on”. He also introduced the idea of an inclusivity training, which would be open to class reps and society execs. Asked on how he would vote in the SU preferendum, which Council passed the same evening on taking a stance on a United Ireland, Keane said that he would be reluctant to take a position so soon, but emphasised the importance of taking a step back and thinking about the issue before voting.
Mallon spoke about his underprivileged background, and the difficult situations that he and other students face, like having to work up to 40 hours a week and mental health problems. He spoke about having his grant slashed and his medical card removed, asking if it was acceptable that some students had to face such hardships. These, he said, are insurmountable as long as we don’t work together, and stressed the importance of bridging the gap between the SU and the student body.
Asked about questionable comments on LGBT students revealed in an article by The University Times, he said that when such comments were made they were “made when he was a bit of a lad,” and that efforts to educate students on such issues must be concentrated on those that are not open to and educated on such issues.
On a question about his position on consent workshops, which referenced comments he made in a Trinity News article, he said that a year ago he spoke for Feminists of Trinity about how consent workshops should be rolled out. He says that workshops should be worked out, but that the SU must be realistic. He said that if we “take our time,” Ireland can be “perfect for [his] children” on such issues. Mallon told Trinity News that any suggestion that he did not support consent workshops was “ridiculous”.
Prior to speaking at hustings, Bryan Mallon released a statement regarding a series of social media postings he had made during his time in college. The tweets which involved slut-shaming and sexually objectifying female students were described by Mallon as “100 per cent, and without qualification, wrong”. He touched on his involvement with the Feminists of Trinity as evidence of his change in behaviour. Mallon pledged, if elected, to make “ the SU and Trinity College a more equal place for women, and for everyone.”
Communications and Marketing
Úna Harty, JS Nanoscience, is running unopposed to be the SU’s third Communications and Marketing Officer. In her manifesto she promises to modernize the SU and increase student engagement with the Union, which formed the backbone of her speech. Harty focussed on her experience in college life, for example sitting on the capitations committee, and journalistic experience with Trinity News and others.
At the Hustings, Harty outlined the main planks of her manifesto, including her intention to update the TCDSU website, work towards an “all-inclusive TCDSU app”, and seeking outside sponsorship to fund college services. In response to a question, she praised the work of current Comms officer Glen Byrne, and said that, if elected, she would continue with Byrne’s branding scheme.
The only other contested race in these elections, the Welfare hustings saw the 5 candidates for the position take the stage in the Stanley Quek. The five candidates are Laura Grady (SF Economics & Sociology), Meabh Cullen (JS Environmental Science), Damien McClean (SS Mathematics), Emma Purser (SS World Religions & Theology), and Rachel Skelly (JS Geography).
Candidates’ manifestos feature policies and promises in relation to mental health, sexual health, and campus accessibility. All of these issues were raised in the course of the discussion at Hustings, with candidates also fielding questions on issues which came up in the course of their speeches.
Cullen discussed her “wealth of experience” in the Disability Service since its establishment, and how this has provided her with knowledge that makes her ideal for this position. She mentioned her idea of Mental Health Mondays, and a Drug Safety Forum on the SU website. She also pledged to introduce sanitary vending machines in bathrooms around campus.
Grady spoke about her experience in welfare since the beginning of her time in college, as well as her training received as part of the S2S programme and how this makes her suitable for the position. She was one of several candidates to credit the welfare She said that the position requires experience, passion, dedication and approachability, all of which she will bring to the role. She spoke about the importance of working to improve college for students with disabilities.
McClean discussed about how his involvement in college has helped him enjoy his time here, but acknowledged that this is not the case for everyone, saying: “I want to be able to help you during your most stressful times.” He spoke about his experience working with international students and LGBT students on different welfare issues. He said he wants represent students so that College is more accessible for everyone.
Asked about examples of his trustworthiness, he discussed his experience being a listening ear for friends and families. While he may not be able to fix the issues, he said, he can always be a listening ear.
Purser focused on student drug use, and her plans to introduce drug testing kits at Trinity Ball and other drug safety campaigns. She also lamented the fact that Erasmus students are often neglected when they go abroad, and discussed her plans to support them. She said she wants to be welfare officer because of the help that previous officers have provided to her, and so that other students can enjoy the same support.
Asked about whether drug testing facilities promote drug use, she said that she did not believe so. The reality, she said, is that students take drugs at Trinity Ball. Drug testing kits help reduce drug-related fatalities. Asked about the failure of drug testing tents, she explained that they would be run by the HSE. In the case of the death of a student, she emphasised that these would not be directly run by the SU, and assumed that the SU would therefore not be liable
Skelly spoke about empowering students to use their experiences and voices to create a more accepting college community. She discussed the need to create an informed college community. She said that students deserve support in all aspects of their lives, including sex. She expressed her desire to continue the focus on consent, which she described as her “particular area of ‘sexpertise’”. She pointed to the success of the consent and repeal campaigns as evidence of the passion and dedication that she can bring to the role.
Alice MacPherson (SS History) is this year’s only candidate for Education Officer. Her speech before the Q&A section of the hustings outlined her priorities for the year.
McPherson spoke about striving for equality for all students in academic life, and the importance of accountability within the SU. She spoke about giving students who are not reps the chance to contribute to the issues. She introduced the idea of creating an online archive of manifestos to hold sabbats accountable to their manifesto promises. She focused on off-campus students, and the importance of student spaces for them. She spoke about her promise to introduce college transition workshops for first-year students and Erasmus students.
Asked about her ideas for skype office hours to make college more accessible for students abroad, students with disabilities, and other groups that have difficulty accessing campus. On the issue of convenors, she applauded the newly-approved academic council. She proposed increasing the membership of the education committee, but expressed a desire to maintain continuity with the current operation of education.
Jonah Craig (JS Computer Science & Business) is the only candidate running for Ents Officer this year, in a rare uncontested election for the position. In a brief speech, he spoke about his experience with Ents, starting in his first year at Trinity. Craig claimed credit for the introduction by Ents of the mystery tour event on a train, beginning with the Hogwart’s Express. He highlighted his experience as treasurer and JCR Ents officer last year.
He alluded to a series of ideas for his year in the position, including using the science gallery more for events, saying that students don’t know it exists. Craig spoke of his desire to move Ents to “more of a physical presence on campus” offline, and a policy of “entertainment for all”, aimed at Health Science students. There were no questions posed to Craig from the floor.
University Times Editor
The position of editor of The University Times is uncontested for the third year running. This year’s only candidate is Dominic McGrath (JS Law & Political Science). McGrath gave a brief speech in which he said that he believes that “The University Times exists to provide a platform for journalism,” in the absence of a journalism school, but that in spite of this the paper provides a high standard of writing and reporting to the College Community.
McGrath mentioned the role that The University Times plays in preparing students for careers in journalism. He introduced plans to improve this service, such as a writing competition for school students and a journalism workshops.
Asked about why The University Times should provide this writing competition, McGrath said that through working in the paper, he has had the opportunity to learn from the best, and that the paper has a duty to provide the same. He said that the University Times should be forming the future journalists of the country.
McGrath said that The University Times is a “vital university service”. He spoke about its role in discussing issues that matter to students. “People look to The University Times to be expert on the issues of concern to them,” he said.
Additional reporting by Oisín Vince Coulter, Sinéad Harrington, Rory O’Sullivan, Johnny O’Byrne, Dáire O’Driscoll and Jake Trant.