The ten candidates in the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) sabbatical officer elections took to the stage tonight in the final hustings of the campaign in Trinity Hall. Voting opened straight after the hustings ended in Halls, with voting starting across campus tomorrow. The results will be announced this Thursday evening.
Communications and Marketing
First to address the residents of Halls was the sole candidate for the position of Communications and Marketing Officer, Muireann Kane. She began by stating that she intends to pursue “objectives that are tangible” before citing some of her experience in sales and marketing.
Questioned by a member of the JCR on the disillusionment surrounding her campaign in light of the recent poll published by Trinity News, Kane again criticised the campaign to re-open nominations that was launched. She continued to maintain that her decision not to run a Facebook page was based on research, but highlighted that she did act on feedback from students by subsequently setting up a page. “I’m here to listen to people and act on what people tell me,” she said.
The candidate then fielded a number of fairly uncontroversial questions from both members of the JCR and the audience. She was asked about her manifesto point on improving graduate and internship opportunities for students, as well as her decision to use her personal Instagram account for campaigning as opposed to a specially designated page. Again, Kane reverted to her rhetoric of listening to students, stating that she wanted people to see what she was doing on a “more personal level”.
University Times Editor
Sole candidate for University Times Editor Donal MacNamee outlined his plans to extend UT to Halls by introducing workshops and distributing print issues at the student accommodation block. Speaking about ongoing deficit issues within UT, he reinforced the message he expressed at previous hustings that the paper would be capable of attracting revenue from other sources, arguing that the quality of the paper would be capable of attracting the necessary additional funding.
Responding to a question on the cost of print issues, MacNamee rejected the idea of cutting a print issue to remedy the deficit. He asserted that the print issue “justifies itself” and that “print journalism isn’t dead”, outlining that he would prefer to look to increasing funding rather than cutting expenses. When pushed on the subject later and asked would he take a pay cut to reduce UT spending, MacNamee was not keen on the idea, suggesting that it would set a poor precedent.
MacNamee was further questioned on the need for two student newspapers in Trinity, responding that he believed there was a demand for the two newspapers due to the “many talented students” interested in student journalism, and that having two papers improves the quality of the content each produces due to competition.
Throughout the hustings, MacNamee has repeated his desire to expand the University Times’ societies coverage. Tonight, he fielded a question on how this would be feasible, and whether it could lead to some societies receiving more coverage than others. MacNamee stated: “I think it’s definitely to the benefit of all societies. If we’re making more of an effort to promote them, the better.”
In the speeches section of the hustings, Judith Robinson, the leader in the Trinity News poll, addressed her focus on manifesto points rather than her experience, however, acknowledging her history of running a total of 39 events this year, and her collaborations with TCDSU. She also cited her DJ set in the Physics Garden, and yoga session, both of which took place last week.
Jerico Alcaras, a fifth-year Computer Science student, opened his discussion citing again his plans to focus on events that promote “diversity, equality, and inclusion”. He reiterated his belief in uniting students through our “love of music, movies, and food, where our only divide is preference”.
Luke Rynne Cullen, a fourth year English and History student, immediately noted his experience in the Trinity music scene, referring to his Presidency of the Trinity Orchestra. According to Cullen he “really knows the ropes” from this broad experience. He also noted his intention to introduce varied events, and “niche venues”.
Robinson was quizzed on her plans for “Pav Fridays”, which was questioned due to the Pav’s adverse attitude to these events in the past. She noted that after speaking to the Pav, “they’re all for it”, but that it’s more like “a chill DJ set inside”. Cullen was asked of the use for his app Applaud, where he noted: “Applaud is completely free to sign up so I can’t make any profits from any of my acts”.
The candidates were also asked to outline their plans to maintain the surplus held by Ents. To this, Cullen cited his work with promoters and mentors who had attracted over “€100 million in sponsorships”, noting that “you, the students, can worry about enjoying the events, and I can worry about the finances”. Alcaras pointed out that there is an important relationship “between good ticket prices and profit for the SU”. However, he went on to state that “until I see the system I can’t optimise it”. Robinson answered this by recognising the importance of “upping the attendance in the events”.
Alcaras was also asked of his plans to fight Trinity Ball ticket price hikes, when this year’s rise in price to €91 from €87 was a government imposed tax. He noted that previous rises have not been the result of taxation. When asked of the feasibility of a bar nearer to the Trinity Ball dance tent, he suggested the possibility of “a mini bar”.
Aisling Leen, uncontested in the race for the position of Welfare Officer, took to the stage at Halls next. She began by alluding to one of her manifesto points regarding substance abuse. She noted that first year is a time when “many people drink more than before, try drugs for the first time, and have one night stands”. However, she also highlighted that people who do not engage in such activities may feel isolated. She stated that the residents were lucky to have a welfare team on site in Halls but was eager to ensure that they still felt that their welfare needs were met after Halls.
Leen went on to cite her manifesto, stating her intent to run campaigns and be there for students to deal with them “one-on-one if [they] are ever having a hard time”. However, the candidate commented that there are some things that she won’t be able to control “and that is how students treat each other”. She pleaded with those present to “be nice”, continuing: “If you write for the college newspapers, be nice. If you have a problem with someone, deal with it in a respectful manner.”
Questioned by the JCR on the College Dignity and Respect Policy and the vague provisions therein regarding sexual assault, Leen stated that the Dignity and Respect Policy will not change and only really covers bullying, sexual harassment to an extent, but not sexual assault. Leen highlighted that while sexual assault is currently dealt with on a case-by-case basis, she believes that there “should be a common policy and procedure so people know where to go when reporting cases” and will thus be more inclined to report such cases.
The candidate was also asked how she would go about dealing with the drinking culture often prevalent among first years, as well as whether she would consider holding office hours in Halls. While campaigns relating to creating a discussion on drinking is mentioned in her manifesto, the topic of office hours in Halls is not. As in previous hustings where ideas were suggested to Leen not present in her manifesto, she expressed her openness to taking the idea on board. She pointed out that, as Halls is a community, and people may be friends with the Welfare Officer on site, it may be more appropriate for the Welfare Officer to be on site in such instances.
Drawing on her experience as JCR Music Officer, Education Officer candidate Niamh McCay said she wanted to put her “passion and energy” to use again as TCDSU Education Officer. She reiterated her campaign promise to push for a grace period in revision and exam weeks during which assessments would not be due, and said that, if elected, she would introduce coming out to Halls to hold office hours with first years.
Sally Anne McCarthy addressed the first-year audience by saying her experience as a class-rep trainer and Engineering, Mathematics and Sciences (EMS) Faculty Convenor has allowed her to see TCDSU’s flaws. She emphasised her plan to reform class rep training to make it more “skills-based” and “practical”. She highlighted her desire to be a voice for students, stating: “I’ve been in your corner, and I want you to put me in your corner again.”
Responding to a question enquiring as to what policies she would introduce for international students, McCarthy emphatically said “fee certainty”. She stated: “We’re going to give international students the chance to speak for themselves.”
McCay, who was asked on her personal views about the Trinity Education Project, stated that she was in favour of TEP and semesterisation, but said that it has not been implemented effectively. She said that in future years, semesterisation “might be the perfect” option, but that currently students were not getting the best from the project. McCay stated that it is “not worth having semesterisation be a success in the future, it needs to work now”.
Both candidates were asked how they would petition on behalf of disabled students to ensure they receive appropriate provisions during exams. McCay promised to “advocate for [them] incredibly strongly”, saying that she would always be “on the end of the phone” for students who needed her. McCarthy condemned inappropriate accommodations for students as a “failing on the part of College”, saying that she would “lobby for every student with a disability”.
Responding to a question on how they would help students impacted by the accommodation crisis, McCay said she would seek to reach out to students outside of normal office hours, which she considered a “strange concept” due to their time-limited nature. She promised to examine “an option of Skype office hours” and make accommodation a “priority”. McCarthy said she would encourage coordination between staff and students and “pressure College to march with us”, as well as “meet[ing] students where they need [her]”.
Hennessy, who spoke first, highlighted his campaign’s emphasis on “the average student”. He spoke of a need to reform campaigns, saying that the current system consisted largely of “someone in the Arts Block handing out leaflets and condoms”, which, he said, only works “if you know who’s sitting at the desk”. He spoke of a need to “get societies back involved” in the activities of TCDSU. He spoke of a need to “shift the focus back to student issues”, but was then cut off mid-speech as he ran out of time.
Beston began her speech by speaking about her experience, particularly as Disabilities Officer, where she claimed that she “ended up representing one and a half thousand students”. She spoke about her complaints system which she said would “allow students to get their problems solved efficiently”, and spoke of a need for campaigns to “mobilise students more efficiently”.
Asked if they believed that TCDSU placed too much of an emphasis on national issues, Hennessy agreed, noting the group of student who “actively dislike the SU”, and a need to get back to “core issues” such as fees and accommodation. Beston stated that the question was flawed, arguing that ”we all deserve rights”.
With the debate opened to the floor, a question asked both candidates how they would help to make Trinity a “racism-free campus”; Beston spoke about a campaign where “Trinity students can go out to urban areas” and encourage younger people to attend, while Hennessy spoke of a desire to work with anti-racism organisations and the TCDSU Ethnic Minorities Officer. One questioner referred to Beston’s policy as “patronising”, to which Beston replied by insisting that she wanted to break down the “elitist” image of Trinity, saying “I love ITs, my mam went to GMIT”.
Both candidates were asked about the inclusiveness of the current electoral system, with the questioner noting that QSoc and Cumman Gaelach were represented at Council Hustings, but not the Korean or Afro-Carribbean societies. Hennessy referred to a need to “include PTOS” to make TCDSU more representative, while Beston noted that anyone can apply to run a hustings.
Current TCDSU President, Shane de Rís, asked both candidates about how they would reduce TCDSU’s deficit, describing it as a “painful reality”. Both candidates responded by proposing cuts to sabbatical officer budgets. Hennessy noted that “we plough a lot of money” into The University Times, saying that “it’s not making a return”, while Beston expressed a desire to “restructure” the paper, and floated the idea of “reducing the number of hours that the Ents Officer is paid for”.
Reporting by Lauren Boland, Peter Kelly, Michael Gilna, Constance Quinlan, Debra Daly, Eliza Meller, Sarah Moran, Shauna Bannon Ward, and Victoria Mitchell.