Running uncontested for the role of Communications and Marketing Officer, Aoife Cronin is on track to receive 91.5% of first preference votes, according to the poll conducted by Trinity News last week.
Uncontested candidates in Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) elections can expect to earn around 85% of the vote on average, with the remainder voting to re-open nominations (RON) for the role. With only 8.5% voting RON in the poll, Cronin should secure a significant victory.
At the same time, 40.2% of the total 1,005 pollers said they were undecided in the Communications and Marketing race, and 11.5% said they would not vote, which, in a single-candidate race, could suggest some level of apathy or dissatisfaction.
Her support among students is largely consistent in all three faculties, polling at 91.6% in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, 93.1% in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths, and 95.8% in Health Sciences.
As the only candidate without a competitor in this year’s elections, Cronin has received less scrutiny and attention during the campaign hustings compared to candidates in more hotly-contested races. An absence of competition has meant Cronin has not been pressed to concretely define how she will implement policies, such as expanding sponsorship and collaborating with non-union entities.
That being said, it is evident that Cronin is highly qualified for the Communications and Marketing role. Lack of experience within the union itself may be initially challenging for Cronin if elected, but she has demonstrated cognizance in the history and workings of the union, areas requiring improvement, and the needs of students.
Wholly uncritical of incumbent Communications Officer Philly Holmes, Cronin has promoted herself as a candidate representing continuity with regard to Homes’ strategies. Moreover, Cronin plans to equip future officers with institutional knowledge and support the SU’s long-term development by organising the union’s archive and compiling news articles published by the University Times pertaining to TCDSU. Similarly, candidate for President Leah Keogh has emphasised the importance of carry-over within the union.
Cronin has answered questions surrounding sponsorship, equality, accessibility and the Irish language by pointing to the activities of the current sabbatical team and Communications Officer. Her intention to build upon Holmes’ term is well received, yet she may need to distinguish herself more and demonstrate a greater ability to develop innovative ideas.
Meanwhile, Cronin has offered tangible solutions to combating low student engagement with the union. Engagement has been a longstanding issue that candidates promise to tackle each year. In order to encourage involvement, Cronin hopes to show students “what the union does for them” and improve its “public image”. She aims to make the SU’s work and achievements more apparent, increase the visibility of part-time Officers, and further publicise welfare and education supports available to students. She plans to produce monthly sabbat reports and succinct extracts of Council minutes, and make the SU’s finances transparent.
Cronin also intends to rebrand, make communications more accessible, and collaborate with schools, non-union services and student-led initiatives to spread SU information. She recognises the importance of an “overarching visual identity”, balancing continuity with adding new colours and fonts. Cronin said that Ents would be a special focus of rebranding, intending to make its marketing “lighter and more social” as a “brand of fun”.
Cronin has repeatedly discussed her intention to work with part-time officers such as the Ethnic Minorities Officer, the LGBT+ Officer, the Disabilities Officer and the Irish Language Officer, revealing a keenness to seek and follow advice. Cronin has also referred to the importance of working with societies and campaigns that represent minority groups in order to “amplify” their voices.
Cronin has demonstrated educated approaches to produce accessible content, having sought feedback from Disabilities Officer Niamh Ní Hoireabhaird and examined the guidelines published by the Trinity Ability Co-Op. As well as continuing the audio version of the weekly email, Cronin intends to increase the use of ISL on social media, and use closed captioning and alternative text in the SU’s visual content. However, at the Equality Hustings Cronin was challenged on her own manifesto, which failed to pass accessibility checks on Blackboard Ally. Cronin must prove that she is able to transfer knowledge into practice.
During her campaign, Cronin has emphasised her significant experience gained through societal involvement. She has been the Public Relations Officer for the Philosophical Society, Icarus Magazine, and Trinity Arts Festival, and has worked in marketing for an international Tech Company. Cronin has argued that she is well-equipped to produce compelling content to engage the student body online. She also points to her competence in social media analytics as a means to market the SU to potential sponsors.
Regarding sponsorship and the marketing aspect of the role, Cronin has discussed building relationships with existing sponsors, continuing advertisements in the University Times, and collaborating with Ents to find new sponsorship ventures. While sponsorship leaves the SU open to accusations of commercialisation, Cronin argued it is necessary and justifiable, providing a service to students. She said that sponsorship deals would be “student-first” and accord with the union’s political values, including respect for minority groups. Cronin has not mentioned specific companies that she hopes to work with, or has deemed incompatible with the SU’s values.
The prospective incoming Communications and Marketing Officer has a burden of responsibility to secure adequate sponsorship, given TCDSU’s history of deficits and the difficulty of attaining sponsorship this year. Cronin is optimistic, believing that financial recovery is attainable. She argued that even if lockdown continues, companies will want to sponsor again, having adjusted to Covid-19. She also said that if students return to campus, the deficit would be balanced and the union “okay financially”, with more income through Ents and the SU café. If sponsorship remains challenging, Cronin also plans to create a sponsorship-sub committee.
In this uncontested race, Cronin is likely to be elected as TCDSU’s next Communications and Marketing Officer. Her campaign has demonstrated she is a strong candidate who understands what is required of her role and the SU in the incoming year. Cronin aims to prioritise student welfare and support, raise engagement and improve accessibility so that all students understand and can reach the help available to them.