From the recent polling conducted by Trinity News this week, it appears that Sierra Mueller-Owens is set to win, favoured by 55.8% of voters, while Dylan Krug is behind with 38.9%. Victory for Mueller-Owens should not be viewed as certain yet as the number of undecided voters surpasses that of all other races.
It is clear that Mueller-Owens and Krug have not yet convinced all voters, as 54.8% indicated their indecision in the poll this week and 8.9% intend not to vote in this category at all. Cathal O’Riordan’s unexpected withdrawal from the race towards the beginning of the week could have led to some indecision among the voters too.
Mueller-Owens is also polling comparatively better among female students and members of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Health Sciences faculties. Krug, on the other hand, is comparatively more popular among male students and those in Engineering, Maths and Science. Mueller-Owens does still maintain a slight lead in both those categories, however.
The two remaining candidates have made their cases to voters this week however as both attended all the hustings without fail to outline their campaign priorities. Both share a similar vision of the role, putting mental health and pandemic isolation in the spotlight of their campaign.
“Both are international students hailing from the United States, which most likely shaped their campaigns”
The two candidates have interestingly similar backgrounds as both are international students hailing from the United States, which most likely shaped their campaigns. Krug is a Junior Sophister Biological and Biomedical Science student while Mueller-Owens is in her final year of Law and Politics.
Their difference may lay in their experiences at college as Mueller-Owens’ policies are largely drawn from her experiences as S2S mentor for Erasmus students and Gender Equality Officer in the past years. Krug is no less experienced as the Class Representative for Environmental Science and as an Ordinary Committee Member on the Welfare and Equality Committee this year. Both candidates are thus highly qualified for the role and have proven their motivation throughout the week.
It seems however that Mueller-Owens managed to outshine Krug on the topic of mental health, as she relied on her personal experience to deliver her message. Like her rival, Mueller-Owens recognised the unique and significant challenge presented by Covid-19 and the effect it had on students’ mental wellbeing. As a consent facilitator at Halls, Mueller-Owens has had to move the consent workshops she helps to run online, which she considers to have been a success. She intends to diversify the kind of Welfare events held next year to “get more people” involved in the SU. Using her personal experience as an example, Mueller-Owens described this “sense of isolation” students were experiencing and proposed the introduction of stress relief services such as meditation and adult colouring in addition to “group office hours” which she described as a measure her younger self would have appreciated.
Krug emphasised continuously the need to provide more information to students regarding welfare services, specifically through the creation of “What Do I Do Now” documents, which he mentioned at every hustings throughout the week. These documents would provide a comprehensive overview of the services available to students on various topics, available on SU online channels and on Blackboard. Citing the “reliance on signposting” as one of the SU’s past failures, Krug wants to “run a Help is Here campaign which would really publicise the resources available to students.”
Mueller-Owens’ slight lead over Krug might also be explained by her ability to respond to issues concerning minorities. She skilfully used her role as Gender Equality Officer as a source of experience during hustings, mentioning her idea of organising workshops to educate staff on the importance of “introducing ourselves with appropriate pronouns” and wants to see diversity campaigns “directed specifically towards STEM.” Mueller-Owens hence reassured the LGBTQ+ community of her support, as she acknowledged the safety issues they face during Equality Hustings. While Krug doesn’t mention this topic at length in his manifesto, he said that his pledge to ensure the availability of emergency short term accommodation could also be made available to at-risk LGBTQ+ students. Both expressed their desire to work towards the provision of “Rainbow Housing” in Trinity accommodation.
Accommodation was also at the center of discussion this week, specifically in terms of students from different socio-economic backgrounds facing financial difficulties in these unprecedented times. While Krug pledged to campaign for lower international student fees, and promised to “incorporate different loan schemes” into his financial information documentation, Mueller-Owens let her manifesto speak for itself. It includes an assistance fund available for Non-EU students as well as a pledge to campaign for a “fee freeze” for first year students. Mueller-Owens could have expanded on this idea, as the subject of student finance was better explored by her rival.
“The fact that only 36.3% have decided on their vote indicates that the battle is not over yet”
Mueller-Owens also focused on diversity as she was questioned by the SU’s Ethnic Minorities Officer, who asked both candidates for their take on past Welfare Officers’ performance on issues of racial equality. To this, she pledged her opposition to the 27th Amendment while supporting the Colonial Legacies project and the Black Studies module. On the other hand, Krug promised to work with the Global Room to tackle visa issues faced by students. While both candidates expressed their support and compassion, they largely failed to provide concrete measures to be taken in the future.
Mueller-Owens was more comfortable when discussing her will to work “as a mediator” for students with disabilities in discussions with College, while Krug was quizzed on the absence of disability as a topic in his manifesto. He nonetheless advanced his will to provide students with information on access to LENS reviews.
Krug and Mueller-Owens have effectively conveyed their ideas this week but the fact that only 36.3% have decided on their vote indicates that the battle is not over yet and that much remains to be proven by the two Welfare candidates. This could be explained by issues of engagement with SU in the last few years, which had been lamented by former Welfare candidate Cathal O’Riordan in conversation with Trinity News.
The two candidates might not have been able to totally tackle this issue during this week’s hustings, themselves being products of the union. They have until Thursday to convince the remaining 54.8% of undecided students – so little time, so much to do.