Dylan Krug, a Junior Sophister Biological and Biomedical Science student, is one of two students contesting the position of Welfare and Equality Officer for the coming year. In the first election for this position since 2017 that has been contested by more than one candidate, Krug will vie with Sierra Mueller-Owens for the role. Mindful of the challenges facing students at the moment, many of which he predicts will continue into the next year, Krug aims to focus on issues of accessibility, mental health, sexual health and finances.
Krug, who hails from Colorado, currently serves as the Class Representative for Environmental Science and as an Ordinary Committee Member on the Welfare and Equality Committee this year. “My initial interest in that stemmed as a response from the pandemic – wanting to get more involved in mental health and welfare on campus,” he said. “I’d say it did give me the courage to run … knowing I would have a competent committee behind me to help back me up made me say ok, this is something I can do.”
For Krug, one of his priorities if elected would be to make information regarding welfare services and how to access them more readily available and accessible in themselves. This would be largely achieved through the creation of what he calls “What Do I Do Now” documents, which would provide a comprehensive overview of the services available to students when facing issues relating to accommodation, financial hardships, reporting discrimination, struggling with addiction, and dealing with mental health problems. “It’s inspired by the What Do I Do Now document for disclosure of assault and rape in college, which [then-Gender Equality Officer] Aoife Grimes wrote,” he explained. “I wanted to expand that to dealing with other issues where it can be very confusing at times as to what services are even available to students, both within the College, within the SU, or even third party. And so I think by making the centralized sources it will be so much easier for students to actually be aware of the services.”
“If a student is at the place where they want to engage with the SU, they should be able to make an informed choice.”
Krug hopes to make the documents available to students both on the SU website and on Blackboard, in the same vein as the Healthy Trinity Online Tool. “That’s the idea behind the What Do I Do Now documents – making the resources easy to look up, easy to find, easy to understand,” he said. “If a student is at the place where they want to engage with the SU, they should be able to make an informed choice. Or if they want to engage with college services, they should know enough to know who they want to reach out to, how much they want to divulge, what service might be best for them.”
Krug promises that he will “campaign to reduce the fees of all students,” with particular emphasis on eliminating the annual 3% tuition rise for international students, as he claims that it’s “absurd that the College is raising fees during a pandemic.” His next steps for this will depend on the response to the current petition to lower student fees across the board, he says. Additionally, he hopes to work with the Student Counselling Service to organize a weekly group for students facing financial strain, to provide resources and support.
In terms of accommodation, Krug hopes to make deals with local hostels or hotels so that students in need of emergency short-term accommodation will have access to it. “Given the lack of business a lot of them have been having I think there should be no shortage of empty rooms in the next year or so,” he said. “It’s something I have to do a little bit more research into but the idea behind it is that if a student ever needs emergency short term accommodation it should be available to them upon request.”
Krug also hopes to run several programs focusing on mental health, including a Help is Here campaign that would use social media to promote the current services available to students, such as Student Counselling Services and peer support programs like S2S and Niteline. Part of his plan would involve sharing the stories of students who have been positively impacted by their experiences with mental health services, shared on a completely voluntary basis. “By adding a human element to it, whether it’s seeing the faces of counselors or seeing the faces of students who have had their lives improved or who have been able to manage difficult scenarios and situations better through these services, I think will encourage other people to engage as well,” he explained. “I think for me, how to tackle the engagement issue is to spread awareness and make those resources more obvious to students.”
“Something the pandemic has really done is amplify a lot of issues that students were faced with previously”
With the move of most courses to virtual formats, this year has seen higher numbers of students reporting feeling isolated or alienated from their coursemates than ever. Consequently, Krug stressed the importance of providing spaces for students to connect with one another through a Connections Week that would be run in collaboration with the Ents Officer, though he recognizes the possibility of this having to be run online due to pandemic-related concerns. However, he does feel that the continued availability of virtual events or classes in the future would be beneficial for students who may be unable to come to campus for any number of reasons. “I think online classes have been really good for accessibility, especially for students who have been struggling with different physical or mental or learning disabilities, and I think continued options in the future would be particularly useful,” he said. “While ideally we’ll want to have more in-person events I think recording and making these accessible online is very useful.”
As Ireland moves through its third national Level 5 lockdown and Trinity seems emptier than ever, Krug acknowledged the importance of bridging the gap between the SU and students, as well as the responsibility of the Welfare and Equality Officer as the first point of contact for students facing difficulties. “Something the pandemic has really done is amplify a lot of issues that students were faced with previously, whether that be anxiety around the future, struggling with courses, or financial strain,” he said. “To me engagement is really an accessibility issue. What I really want out of my campaign and ideally as my term as Welfare Officer is to see students engage with services a lot more, because it is rough out there and they deserve the help.”