Media Hustings took place this evening, after being postponed last week. In contrast with previous years, Media Hustings is the final hustings for candidates this year. It took place in Trinity Hall, after Halls Hustings.
In the final hustings event, sabbatical candidates faced questions from the editor of Trinity News, Jack Kennedy, and the editor of the University Times, Emer Moreau.
Presidential candidates faced questions by Kennedy and Moreau relating to relations with College, and an “unwelcoming” atmosphere at Council meetings.
Kennedy asked candidates at what point is something “important enough” to risk harming a working relationship between the union and College. Fullam answered that “we need to be pushing harder especially in cases where [College] are not jeopardising the relationship entirely but we do need to be oppositional”. Fullam added: “I think if we had a college that truly cared about our needs we wouldn’t have a union.”
Answering the same question, Kelly said that it is “just kind of navigating what works for you” and using methods that are “not going to damage relationships”.
Moreau asked if they thought TCDSU was unwelcoming to students of certain political leanings. Fullam answered that there is a dignity and respect policy at Council, and there has been a “wider culture shift” about how students can engage with the union. Fullam added: “I don’t think overnight we can turn a switch and everyone feels comfortable in a space where they said they aren’t”.
Answering similarly, Kelly agreed with the wider culture shift, and they need to “ensure that we are in a situation where no one feels they are going to be judged” . She added that “incremental changes can be made”, and “structural changes” are needed.
Sole candidate for education officer Zoe Cummins faced questions this evening from both newspaper editors. Moreau asked Cummins how she plans to go about changing the structure of scholarship examinations, as outlined in her manifesto. Cummins added that “the last time Schols was discussed, I was in the room”. Cummins emphasised that this meant she was “well aware about who to go to”, and would “make sure it’s a clear plan”.
Kennedy asked Cummins what she planned for her role on College committees and Board would be. Cummins used the example of Christmas exams, adding that “you have to be in the room, fighting for students, you have to be able to step on toes but in a respectful way for everyone”.
Welfare & Equality
Kennedy asked candidates how they plan to balance supporting students in individual cases, and should the welfare officer be at the forefront of union political campaigning. Staunton answered that “a lot of welfare is on the ground and supporting students”, however, “the other side of that is advocacy and standing up for these things”. She added that “working with students on the ground probably takes the most time but is important”. Morris answered that a “lot of welfare issues are politicised”, and “advocacy” is important to the role.
Moreau asked the Welfare & Equality candidates about case work, and how they planned to help students in distressing situations, such as being a recent victim of sexual assualt. Staunton answered that “I’m not a therapist; no sabbatical officer is and that’s important to note”. She added that there needs to be a “system of referring students elsewhere”. Morris answered that survivors can come to the union, and they can “refer them on to the junior dean or student counselling, whatever they need”.
Comms & Marketing
When questioned by Moreau on what the specific values of the union are, with regards to seeking sponsorship only from those whose values align with TCDSU, sole candidate Julie Smirnova acknowledged that given the union runs campaigns about topics such as the housing crisis, “we need to make sure we’re not hypocritical in the partnerships we take.” She stressed that she would ensure these sponsorships were both “local” and “ethical.”
Kennedy asked Smirnova what ideas she had to reach students outside of social media. Smirnova again cited her experience as in VDP, and emphasised the importance of word of mouth in spreading information: “As PRO of VDP we get hundreds of people signing up to events like Jailbreak because they hear about them from their friends, or people are talking about it.” She also touched on collaborating with societies, saying “building those networks is really important.”
Kennedy asked each of the candidates what events they would run that aren’t based around nights out. Lynch said that from talking to students, many of them had stressed the importance of “pub nights and trad nights, without loud music in the background so they can actually talk to their friends” and said that he intended to implement such events.
Donnelly again referenced his plans for an “Ents network” that would include working with societies that run different kinds of events from nights out.
Moreau challenged the Ents candidates on what their attitude to drug use at Ents events would be, asking them to comment on the fact that 26 attendees of the last Trinity Ball were searched by Gardaí on suspicion of drug possession and supplying, in the context of TCDSU’s stance in favour of drug harm reduction.
Lynch said that it was important to acknowledge the reality that students will use recreational drugs and said he had had plans to introduce bystander training as well as first response training for members of the Ents Committee. Donnelly also said that he would prioritise the union policy of harm reduction. He said he would implement supports including “safe spaces” for those under the influence of drugs, particularly those who suspect they may have been spiked.
Asked by the current Editor of The University Times what the value of a print paper is in today’s world, Maguire noted that producing the print issue is constitutionally mandated. She also spoke of the educational value for members of UT staff of production weekends during which print editions of the paper are made.
Kennedy referenced an article published in Trinity News in which several anonymous sources alleged that confidential information they gave only to Maguire was leaked. Maguire has rejected these allegations as false and defamatory. Kennedy asked her how she could assert that the sources were lying given that she published an article based trusting on testimony from these same students.
Maguire said that she “stands by” the original article. She said she was “very disappointed” to read the allegations published in Trinity News. She acknowledged that this issue was “very serious” adding, “I don’t want to call people liars but I would say that the allegations are completely false and defamatory”.
A disclaimer on these series on pieces can be found here.
Media Hustings is the final hustings event of the campaign period. Campaigning will continue, but as of the end of Media Hustings, online voting is open. Voting will close on Thursday, March 3, and results will be announced that evening.
Additional reporting by Maggie Larson, Isobel Salerno, David Wolfe, Ella Sloane, Eva O’Beirne and Caroline Higgins.