Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Citizenship Officer Connor Dempsey has proposed the creation of a part-time engagement officer.
According to Dempsey’s manifesto, this part-time officer (PTO) will “reimagine [the union’s] outreach during Freshers’ Week and ahead of elections”. Dempsey is also proposing the creation of a working group that will create a plan to “transform engagement strategy”.
There are currently 14 PTOs in TCDSU who represent particular student interest areas at Council and Union Forum.
Speaking to Trinity News about why he is proposing a new PTO, Dempsey said “while everyone was very interested in engagement when [he] brought it up at meetings or in discussions, there was no meaningful forum to develop these thoughts”.
Dempsey said the creation of an engagement officer and working group will “produce meaningful changes”.
“Overall, student disengagement is complicated and multifaceted, meaning our approach has to be too,” Dempsey said. “Some students can find the Union intimidating or confusing; you address that through information and personal approaches.”
“Other students are quite involved in student politics but find the Union to be useless— you address that through taking their critiques seriously and reforming our systems while reaching out to those groups respectfully and in earnest.”
“Finally, other students may not know what the Union does at all, or may simply not care, or some other combination of emotions.”
Dempsey is the union’s current citizenship officer. According to the TCDSU’s website, the citizenship officer is already tasked with “increasing engagement with the union”.
When asked about the citizenship officer’s responsibilities, Dempsey said “we need to be honest abouts its purpose and limitations”.
“I think this role has merit, but as a campaigns role rather than an engagement role,” Dempsey said. “If I were to propose all these institutions and mandates but instead delegate them to the citizenship officer instead of an engagement officer, I feel that’d be too much for a PTO.”
Dempsey said he plans to advocate for the citizenship officer’s role to be refined in future constitutional reviews.
“We shouldn’t detract from citizenship’s importance for campaigns, including BDS and horizontal management as it comes along (such as organising for Ukraine or Iran).”
The sabbatical communications and marketing officer is also responsible for the public relations and increased presence of TCDSU online. When asked about how the engagement officer would work with the communications and marketing officer, Dempsey said “obviously, the comms officer will always post about elections, but they don’t really have the time to go over the top with it.”
“As I said in my manifesto, it’s on us to lower the barrier of engagement, so someone has to. The engagement officer can be the one to take the lead in preparing guides for candidates, compiling old manifestos and collecting tips from existing officers and class reps.”
Dempsey hopes the engagement officer will prevent class representatives from feeling like “their presence doesn’t matter beyond quorum”. TCDSU Council failed to reach quorum four times this year.
Dempsey wants to change the structure of Council to engage class representatives: “I can’t honestly say there’s been much constructive debate at Council over the last few years, and not at the fault of the [Electoral Commission] or [Oversight Commission], but just by the way the standing orders are designed.”
“Debate isn’t incentivised and so motions seem to just pass by default. This should be addressed so that class reps can feel a reason to contribute and – with luck – improve motions and initiatives.”
Dempsey said the engagement officer can “demystify” the process of running for class representative or PTO and be informative about activism within TCDSU.
“While working at the SU’s voter registration stands, I’ve found that people respond really well when I inform them about our past activism and how we’ve made a difference in the college and the country. “
“I fear we’ve let people believe we’re not as serious and not as potent of a force as we actually are, and that’s led them to disengage a bit.”
The creation of the proposed new role will be decided at Council tomorrow evening where other PTOs will also be elected.