The recent poll conducted by Trinity News has shown a significant gap between candidates for Education Officer, Bev Genockey and Daniel O’Reilly, with Genockey leading with a 17-point lead at 55.6% (of those who expressed a preference) and O’Reilly lagging behind at 38.2%.
Whilst Genockey does currently lead the race for Education Officer, it should be noted that the majority of students polled were not yet certain on who they wanted to take the role of Education Officer. Of the 1,005 students polled, only 43.2% were certain as to who they planned to vote for this particular office. 48.5% said that they were completely undecided in this category, with 8.3% of students admitting they were not planning to vote in the category at all.
58.9% of female students said they would vote for Genockey over O’Reilly, with only 38.2% stating that they vote for O’Reilly. Likewise, 50.9% of male students said they would vote for Genockey, with 38.4% saying they would vote for O’Reilly.
Both AHSS and EMS students showed a strong preference for Genockey, with 55.1% of AHSS students and 52.9% of EMS students choosing Genockey in the poll. Right-wing students, however, showed a preference for O’Reilly, with 50.8% of right-leaning students choosing him as their candidate. Left-wing students leaned towards Genockey at 60.9%.
However, whilst Genockey is currently leading the poll, the gap between the two candidates tightened in the latter days of polling, implying that O’Reilly may not be completely out of the race. Out of the number of students who contributed to the poll, 6.1% said they wished for nominations to reopen.
This poll comes following a week of hustings in which both candidates have answered questions concerning manifesto promises, as well as their own views on topics ranging from online learning to the impact of the Trinity Education Project.
Engaging with engagement
Whilst the two candidates come from similar backgrounds, with Genockey acting as Deputy STEM Convenor and O’Reilly as STEM Convenor, both have expressed drastically different opinions on issues, in particular that of student engagement. Genockey stated in her interview with Trinity News that in her opinion the union should be “always striving” to improve student engagement and that she wants students to be given the opportunity to assess the feedback. O’Reilly however, suggests that it is more important for students to be given the “opportunity to engage”. He suggests that a union that relies too heavily on student engagement is not doing its job.
Despite these differing views, both candidates have centred their campaigns around common policies, concerned with making education more accessible to students. O’Reilly has said that “everything is an access issue if you want to boil it down”. Drawing on his own extensive experience within the SU, acting as an S2S mentor, class rep, EMS Convenor and STEM Convenor, O’Reilly is presenting a “hands-on approach” to dealing with student issues, claiming that he will be working with “the guy with working knowledge of the school”. Many of his promises seem to draw from his claim that as Education Officer, one of his chief aims will be not to assist students on individual issues, but instead to install policies that will allow students to assist themselves and each other. O’Reilly has presented himself as a candidate willing to fight for students rights, stating that he has had confrontations with College faculty in the past, and that he has “already been working and arguing with the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, the Vice Provost and the Provost himself, as well as countless other College officers”.
Genockey, in contrast, positions herself as a candidate focused on inclusivity, with an emphasis on assisting students with disabilities and outreaching to students, rather than students coming to her. “It is our responsibility to engage with them in some way,” she has explained. With this insistence on outreach and accessibility, it is possible that Genockey’s lead in the poll is down to her emphasis on approachability and representation. This approach was reflected in the Equality hustings, when Genockey was asked how she would reduce discrimination among students. Genockey responded, detailing the proposed plan she has put forward for a diversity and inclusion document, a “collaboration” that would emphasise how to use languages as a tool for respect in the classroom. Discussing the representation of LGBTQ+ students, Genockey stated the area was one that was close to her heart. Given the appeal this may have to students of diverse backgrounds who lack representation within the student union, Genockey’s advocacy for inclusivity may potentially be a factor in her lead in the polls.
And whilst in no way dismissing the importance of representation, O’Reilly’s promises of pragmatism and “systematic solutions” may be losing him support among students with less interest in the finer, technical workings of the union or those who feel they are not being represented, and may not be enough to see him secure a win in the election.
However, in regards to manifesto promises, O’Reilly certainly offers targeted and unique policies, with particular care given to the reality of how each will be carried out. Recognising the issue of transparency and accountability within the SU, O’Reilly has promised to ensure that minutes of meetings are published, so the student body is constantly aware of every decision that is made by the SU. This emphasis on improving the relationship between the student body and the SU is something O’Reilly presents as a main priority to him, insisting that transparency and accountability are priorities for him as an Education Officer.
Once again differing sharply from O’Reilly, Genockey has provided plenty of promises on her manifesto, putting forward 19 proposals, divided among the headings of; Engagement, Equality and Employability. However, she does not provide much detail on how these policies will be carried forward, nor the overall effect these might have on student life. O’Reilly, in contrast, has put forward 6 projects, with extensive description regarding their aims and the effect he hopes they will achieve. In his interview with Trinity News, O’Reilly gave honest descriptions of the reality of undertaking each policy, as well as the fact that many of them had already been started. His manifesto provides a simplified description of each policy, with a link provided to a more extensive description. Genockey, in contrast, does not provide the same level of description, something that may invoke a lack of confidence among voters, concerning the reality of achieving her 19 promises.
A lively contest
Through hustings, both candidates have provided comprehensive, if at times vague, responses. When asked how he actually helped students through Diversity in STEM, O’Reilly was forced to admit that, unfortunately, the committee has not had any representation this year of students from ethnic minorities. Likewise, despite her heavy emphasis on student engagement, Genockey when asked how she would follow through with engagement admitted that the issue was “something we need to address”, however did not specify on what she would do to increase engagement, saying she would “find other ways for people to get involved”, and it would be “small incremental changes”.
Genockey gave more traditional responses to questions, discussing how her style of leadership involved giving students a voice and getting more students involved. This stood out sharply against O’Reilly’s unconventional definition of his own leadership, which involved “encouraging others to act on their own” and allowing students to lead themselves in subjects that O’Reilly himself was less equipped to lead in. Whilst his assessment of leadership stands out as unquestionably unique, Genocky’s focus on outreach and inclusivity may be more likely to win over voters who feel that the union remains an unapproachable system.
However, an area both candidates struggled with was that of incorporating Irish into their career as Education Officer, with TCDSU Oifigeach na Gaeilge Gretchen Nic Sheanlaoich expressing disappointment that neither candidate had included an Irish version of their manifesto. Both candidates provided vague proposals of how they would promote the language, with Genockey suggesting she would include a couple of sentences into the weekly emails, along with the translated email. O’Reilly, whilst admitting he didn’t speak Irish, emphasised his respect for the language and proposed that “there should be a capital investment into translating those if they’re available”.
However, both candidates confidently display vital qualities expected of an Education Officer, with Genockey placing emphasis on the inclusivity and approachability expected of the role. O’Reilly on the other hand has shown a desire to use his own skills, to create systems and infrastructure that will make “genuine differences” to the lives of students. And whilst current polls show favour leaning towards Genockey, potentially a result of her loud advocacy regarding diversity and inclusivity of students, it should be remembered that the percentage of students who took part in this poll and knew who they would vote in this category for stands at 43.2%, giving O’Reilly plenty of leeway to overtake Genockey come the election.