The race to be the next entertainments officer (ENTs) for Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) is as contested as ever, with Nadia, Sam Kelly and Olivia Orr vying for the sabbatical post. Their campaigns have somewhat mirrored each other thus far – with accessibility, safety, inclusion, and Trinity Ball remaining the topics of highest importance.
Third year Politics and Philosophy student Orr came just short of gaining half of decided voters, with 48.3%. Tied for second place, Nadia, a final year Computer Science student, and Kelly, a third year Politics and Economics student both received 17% of the decided vote. 29.4% remained undecided on their voting preferences, while 3.3% wished to reopen nominations (RON).
Considering Orr’s large lead, and the close race between second and third place, the race may seem to be over. However, Orr’s biggest threat, and closest rival in the poll, comes from the large number of students who are yet to decide their next ENTs officer. If either Nadia or Kelly are able to convince most of these students to vote for them, Orr’s path to the 2023/24 TCDSU ENTs officer will not be as surefire as it may seem. Although Orr is clearly far ahead, the dark horse that is the undecided vote means the sabbatical position is still anyone’s prize to take.
Similar to most years, the ENTs race has focused primarily on the manner in which the events will be run – ensuring inclusivity, accessibility, and safety. All three candidates have largely agreed on these main pillars. Apart from this, candidates have come up with diverging original ideas intended to revitalise ENTs and to excite the student body. Nadia has particularly emphasised her wish to host a monthly flea market for Trinity students to buy and sell second hand clothes. Orr floated the idea of organising a Trinity’s Got Talent at Dining Hall Hustings, while Kelly has cemented that he wants to establish an Ents Handbook which will be distributed to all societies.
Throughout the campaign, each candidate has been questioned about their commitment to maintaining a high level of accessibility of their future ENTs events. The questions have varied from physical access for disabled students, to fiscal access for lower income students. Orr pledged to ensure that ticket costs will remain at the lower end of the scale, while Kelly has opted for a different approach – stating that he wishes to provide “more spectacular events” spaced out across the term calendar so that students will able to budget accordingly and “splurge” on their favourite type of event. At Equality Hustings, Nadia shared that she has struggled to afford the prices of tickets for ENTs events herself, particularly during freshers or refreshers week, and thus vowed to tackle this struggle facing many students.
Regarding the physical access of events, Kelly has repeatedly stated that “not every event is going to have every accessible option”. While some see might this as an honest and pragmatic statement to make on the campaign trail, others may fear that this will lead to disabled students being left out. However, Kelly has clarified that he does not want to “systematically exclude students”.
The candidates have all echoed the sentiment of not working with venues known to be inaccessible for disabled or less physically able students. Orr, as a current member of the ENTs committee, said that although this year she has focused more on nighttime events, she wishes to install an accessibility officer to the ENTs committee to focus on events for all students.
Nadia and Orr have both made the campaign point of supplying free ear plugs at all ENTs events. When questioned on the monetary reality of this idea, Nadia said that her idea is “very, very affordable”.
Unlike other candidates, Orr has consistently provided plain-text, easy to read alternatives to her Instagram infographics, already showing her intent to provide accessible options for her work. Kelly has stated that there needs to be more emphasis placed on advertising and informing students on the accessible options already in place, another action that has been questioned by those believing he may be avoiding facing the intricacies of a successful push for accessibility.
In a push to make ENTs events more accessible for off-campus students or students on placement, Kelly has laid forth plans to use venues off campus, particularly one close to St. James’ Hospital.
Inclusivity and Diversity
Inclusivity and diversity are also major pillars of any ENTs campaign, and this year is no exception. An online submission “student form”, designed so students can be included in the event organising process and have their say in what type of events take place, was chosen by Orr as her favourite manifesto point. Nadia shared a similar idea, writing in her manifesto that she will “award 2 free tickets to the next event” to any student who’s idea she sees as the “most creative”. Kelly has centred his campaign around the idea of “ENTs as a facilitator of events”, explaining that he is interested in collaborating with as many societies as possible so that all students feel included.
When the question of LGBTQ inclusion in ENTs events arose, all candidates stated that they plan on hosting a drag show to ensure queer students feel included, and Orr added that she would host a pride parade on campus. Kelly specifically stated that he would have a zero tolerance policy for homophobia, transphobia, etc. Similarly, Nadia said she is “a strong advocate for human rights” and would “throw the hatecrimer out of all ENTs events”.
Nadia and Orr both responded to questions regarding the status of Gaeilge in ENTs events, with Orr pointing to her experience organising this year’s ENTs Céilí, while Nadia nodded to her work for the TCDSU Marketing and Communications department filming TikToks through Gaeilge in the Pav. Kelly again stressed his wish for ENTs to become decentralised, adding that he “wants to elevate [an Cumann Gaelach]”.
Notably, the inclusivity shown to ethnic minority students did not come up in any hustings, nor did it appear in any election manifesto. However, Nadia, who is the only person of colour in the race and who thus far has only been asked questions by white Irish people, has made the point of including a section in her manifesto to “ensure that College celebrate other cultural festivities” such as Chinese New Year, Eid, Holi, amongst others.
You would be forgiven for mistakenly thinking that the TCDSU elections were run by middle aged mothers for the amount of times safety was the biggest question about a night out. While some of the topics verged on the benign, such as the availability of buses, others were of a very serious nature – the growing instances of spiking, instances of hate crimes or discrimination on nights out, etc.
On the topic of safety at events, Kelly again raised his motto of transparency, claiming that “if people know what we are doing to keep them safe, and the procedures in place, and something does go wrong they are going to feel safer to come forward because it is less of an unknown”.
All candidates have emphasised anti-spiking cup protectors and first-aid trained stewards. However, Orr specified that she wants student training courses to take place during both freshers and refreshers week, as well as the installing both a welfare officer and an accessibility officer in her ENTs committee. Orr’s precise and specific answer may be a cause of her favour in the poll, as the electorate are more easily able to envisage her as ENTs officer.
While the amount of waste produced by ENTs is typically brought up to candidates during elections, it has not appeared as much this year in hustings. Despite this, all candidates have made specific points for environmental sustainability in their manifestos.
Both Nadia and Kelly have stated that they will focus on lowering the waste produced by their ENTs events. However, Nadia has gone one step further in pledging to install a sustainability officer in her ENTs committee.
Orr has taken a slightly different approach, she wishes to promote Green Week on campus, and if elected will “collaborate with the environmental officer to bring in different people to talk about the importance of sustainability”.
One can see the reason for the varying success in the Trinity News Poll by treating this single issue as an emblem of the race as a whole. In his manifesto, Kelly was the most vague when laying out his plans for sustainability, writing that “ENTs should be as sustainable as possible”. Furthermore, his promise to implement “more sustainable practices” and to focus on “reducing plastic waste” leaves much to be desired.
Just like in the poll, Nadia can be ranked between the two other candidates for her position on sustainability. Sweeping statements with no concrete plans to back them up, such as “minimising the waste produced at ENTs events is so important to me” have not particularly helped students envision her as their next ENTs officer.
Similarly to her speeches and answers made at various hustings, Orr has repeatedly been precise in her promises and concise in her plans. Planning to collaborate with the environmental officer demonstrates her knowledge of the systems and supports already in place, as well as her ambition to use them in order to provide the best results for students.
Orr has also been the strongest candidate on the issue of Trinity Ball 2024 – which may be the first one in recent memory to take place off campus due to building works on campus significantly reducing the expected capacity. She came out quickly in her campaign saying that she will fight to “keep the Trinity in Trinity Ball”. While claiming she has also explored other venues if this is not possible, such as the RDS, she maintains that the on-campus nature of the event is paramount. She thinks “there are a lot of different avenues [to] ensure that TBall will stay on campus next year”.
Kelly, on the other hand, immediately said that he is looking into other possible venues for T-Ball, and fighting for it to remain on campus has not been a major campaign point of his. He argued that “if we force Trinity Ball to happen on campus, we may be screwing over students by simply not having enough capacity”. He sees the fact that the ball may not happen on campus for the foreseeable future as an opportunity to raise more questions about the event’s accessibility and student input.
Nadia, who was not present at Media Hustings due to illness, is yet to clarify fully her position on this topic- stating at Dining Hall Hustings that she wants to hold T-Ball at “a potentially bigger and better location”. However, she did not provide examples of this. Due to this existential question looming over the future of Trinity Ball, the issues around capacity, price, and the lineup have not been as pressing this year compared to previous election cycles.
Freshers and Refreshers Weeks
Freshers Week can serve as a momentous introduction to incoming Junior Fresh students. However fundamental an experience it can be, it rarely appears as a large campaign issue due to the fact that people who will benefit from the next ENTs officer’s plans for Freshers are not currently in College, and therefore of course won’t be voting in this TCDSU Election.
Most of the discourse surrounding Freshers and Refreshers Weeks is in relation to safety and inclusion, likely so the incoming set of first years learn first hand how to behave appropriately in these settings. The candidates have largely agreed to continue the likes of consent workshops, bystander/intervention training, and hosting a great deal of events all within the one week.
Candidate’s Previous Experience, and their Experience of the Election Cycle
Not unlike most SU Election races, most candidates running to be the next ENTs officer agree on the core principles of the race, and differ only slightly on how to satisfy these principles. Therefore, voters often look at the candidates’ experience in the field to judge whether or not they see them as qualified for the position. On top of this, the candidates’ handling of the election cycle, their performance in Hustings, as well as their information in, alongside the presentation and distribution of, their manifestos are often telltale signs of their general ability.
Sam Kelly has stressed his status as a mental health advocate by reviewing his five years of experience working with youth mental health charity Jigsaw. His experience here is likely a main reason for his emphasis on the need for transparency in the ENTs safeguarding processes. Kelly has fared well on the campaign trail, typically answering questions confidently – albeit due to the alphabetical order of answering, he has typically had more time than Nadia but less time than Orr to think about his response. However, where Kelly has lost momentum is his social media presence, he is the least followed ENTs candidate this year, with the least amount of posts, and the account itself follows less people than the other two candidates.
Nadia’s social media presence is arguably her biggest advantage. She first stood out by posting a Mean Girls-inspired introduction video, mimicking the scene in which the high school students are asked their opinions on Regina George. Beginning the video with “Surprise bitch! I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me”, she took the opportunity to relay some of her campaign points. It ended with a student saying, “she ran for ENTs last year. She lost… but it was awesome!”, a joke on her second run that is also expressed in her Instagram username @nadz4ents2. However, in a similar fashion to last year, she has struggled to react quickly in the line of questioning, appearing less confident than her opponents at Equality Hustings, though it is worth noting that she had less time to consider her answer than Kelly and Orr as she had to answer first. Similar to last year, she also did not attend some hustings and therefore had fewer opportunities to present her ideas.
Finally, Orr finds herself in the Goldilocks zone with both experience in event management and an experienced election campaign team. Her campaign manager, Alex Clark, successfully led current Ents Officer Max Lynch’s campaign to her sabbatical position. With this experience under his belt, Clark knows the election cycle back to front, and Orr has undoubtedly greatly benefited from his work. Orr’s social media is a preview to what she would be like as an ENTs officer if elected – she has shown a dedication to inclusivity, while maintaining a positive and lighthearted attitude. As a former JCR ENTs officer and the current ENTs treasurer, she is the candidate with the most experience in Trinity event organisation. If the undecided voters do not push towards Nadia or Kelly, this experience and attitude will likely bring Orr to a confident victory.
A previous version of this article incorrectly named Orr’s campaign manager. Trinity News apologises for this error.