Communications and Marketing candidate Paraic McLean is centring his sabbatical officer campaign on increasing organisation and efficiency in Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU). A Senior Sophister Drama student, McLean has served as the Technical Manager of DU Players, Production Manager of the Trinity Arts Festival, and SU Convenor of the Creative Arts. McLean is excited to transfer his enthusiasm into improving the SU.
McLean highlights the importance of being the friendly face when students enter the SU. After all, “when you come up the stairs in House Six, the Communications Officer is there, the door is open and you’re the first person that people see when you walk towards their offices”.
He feels the SU needs to engage more with students, remarking that “we do things and tell them what we’ve done. But we rarely ask what the students want”. As the “second face of the union,” he stresses the role of a communications officer lends itself to “giving people the pathways to create what they want.”
Part of his efforts to improve the Union through the Communications and Marketing role stem from building upon the work of his predecessors Úna Harty and Glen Byrne. Commenting on the rebranding undergone by the SU, McLean wants to follow through on what his predecessors started.
“I don’t think Úna changed the branding at all, I think Úna just finessed it and tweaked it. Glen created a really good branding while he was here, he’s the one who began the style guide, chose the shade of blue, chose the font. I feel like now that we have that brand we should keep it. We can minorly change it. But the whole point of a brand is that it is consistent and it is a recognizable face…Now that we have this brand, we can apply it to whatever we do.”
Aware of growing disenfranchisement with the SU, McLean’s plan to increase engagement with the student body is driven by the internalisation of style guides and further expansion of social media outlets. The measurement of link tracking and email open-rates will further assess student engagement. This contributes to the creation of statistics, which are extremely useful for SU branding. He hopes that these efforts will help to “bridge the gap between students and politics,” and succeed in highlighting “the local issues that are most important to students”.
McLean intends to augment student engagement on social media with the creation of one-minute informational auto-played videos. “It’s the idea that they’re meant to be very short. You can see and engage with them while you are walking from one room to another in the Arts Block,” he says. Auto-played videos, he points out, are given priority on Facebook timelines in place of photographs. This consequently promotes student interaction with the content.
When asked about the commercialisation of the Student Union, he notes “there are positives and negatives,” although he does think “it’s beneficial to students”. If you commercialise “in a smart way, you are getting the money for them”.
“If it does not directly affect how students interact in their academics or everyday life, there is nothing really that bad about it. But if it’s affecting students, that’s the cut off, because you are bringing them back.”
To make the Student Union more accessible to students, McLean believes structural change is key. He wants to organise the SU’s mandates “more efficiently so people can have a better understanding of what they are”. He also proposes to create a search feature on the website so that information can be retrieved at a quicker rate, noting that “as of current you have to scroll through them all because they’re organised in order of when they were approved by Council”.
While he believes the mandates should remain on the website in constitutional order, the search bar will assist both officers and the student body. “It’s about creating efficiency in smaller things that we do all the time,” he says.
Creating this efficiency falls under the umbrella of archiving. This is a process that McLean views as crucial to improving the SU. “I think that we should spend time to archive forward,” he says. “As of current, we don’t have any formal archiving system.”
This includes the storage of videos, graphics, campaign manifestos, and Council documents. As detailed in his manifesto, all content will be available to both SU representatives and students. He feels this is “a more efficient way of spending your time so you can actually see how things can be reused”.
McLean also devotes a significant portion of his campaign to providing materials for student-led initiatives. He maintains the creation of a campaign pack consisting of information on constructing posters and cover photos, and the utilisation of social media outlets will encourage student participation.
Asked whether or not he would provide the same materials for campaigns that directly conflict with SU mandates, McLean said: “I can still offer them the same support pack.” However, he explains, “If we are mandated to do something, we have to support it as a union.”
Touching upon the lack of female candidates in the 2018 Sabbatical race, McLean sees value in empowering students of all genders to become more involved in student politics from the very beginning of their academic careers. “Running for a sabbatical position is incredibly daunting,” he explains.
“You have to start in a smaller setting and push that outwards because if we’re just encouraging women in leadership at a very sabbatical level, we won’t push them forward as much. We need to start earlier instead.”
In the current SU election year, a mere two out of twelve candidates are female. Additionally, over the past six years, 70 percent of candidates running for sabbatical positions have been male. He recommends that “there should be more of a push for people to go for part-time officership in their first year”.
McLean feels his own experience demonstrates the benefits of getting involved in the Union early. “From class rep,” he says, “I went to convenor. I enjoyed liaising with my school, talking to different people, and using that as a skill.”
Affording students the opportunity to learn and apply skills in an academic and professional context is a crucial part of McLean’s campaign. This includes the creation of workshops that specialise in the teaching of digital marketing programs to promote branding skills. He intends for the workshops to cover the basics of Photoshop, Premiere and InDesign.
He intends to “outsource” the workshops “because it means you will get the best people to train students”. One of the main benefits to upskilling, McLean argues, is in improving a student’s employability. “In a business sense, not every company has the funds to hire a graphic designer,” he notes. McLean’s message is that he wants to provide students with the the tools they need to succeed.
“A Communications Officer will provide the starting point, and it’s the student that will drive it.”