Tackling the “insider culture” of the SU: Education candidate Alice MacPherson
Current Education candidate Alice MacPherson on depoliticisation, Women in Leadership and her changed stance on fees
Alice MacPherson is a Senior Sophister History and English student and is the candidate in the uncontested race for Education Officer of the SU.
In an interview with Trinity News, MacPherson expressed her surprise that four of six sabbatical positions including her own are to be uncontested. She said that “I think a massive part of the lack of engagement has to do with a lack of information, I myself have been involved in the SU and I had no idea what the elections entailed. I had a vague idea, but there was no information on the SU website”.
When asked whether the lack of competition for sabbatical positions came down to an “insider culture” in the SU, MacPherson said that “there is a perception that there is – and whether there is an insider culture or not, the fact that some people think there is one is really off-putting”. The education candidate suggested that “making sure the SU is focusing on internal college issues” could help to change the perception of an insider culture. “I think having wider social campaigns is fantastic, but we need to be making tangible changes in people’s everyday lives. Someone is going to be much more open to the SU if they see changes in their everyday lives.”
“I personally would be in favour of the SU depoliticising a bit, but then I think there is a difficult line between what you define as a student issue and what do you define as a political issue that doesn’t affect students”.
On the question of whether students should be able to leave the Student’s Union if they wish, the candidate was of the view that students should not be allowed to do so because “it would make things very difficult, for example if someone comes to the welfare office looking for free condoms, or use the SU shop or a get a leap card at a discounted rate then where does the line end in terms of what you can and can’t access”.
Speaking about the possible depoliticisation of the Student Union MacPherson said “I personally would be in favour of the SU depoliticising a bit, but then I think there is a difficult line between what you define as a student issue and what do you define as a political issue that doesn’t affect students”.
As part of her manifesto, MacPherson says that she wants the SU to be more inclusive. She says that while the the Women in Leadership campaign has achieved things it is “not very trans-inclusive and it doesn’t recognise that we have other under-represented groups, for instance students with disabilities run for election far less”. She says she wants to broaden the equality campaigns to “diversity in leadership”.
“She denies that this is any form of political opportunism and says that ‘I’m not afraid to admit that I was wrong’ she added that ‘I was more naive and hadn’t spent as much time in this country or education system as I have now’.”
MacPherson returned to the theme of making a difference to people’s everyday lives by suggesting that “we need to make sure that even little things like lecturers using preferred pronouns and preferred names, accessibility for disabled students in the classroom, things like that”.
Another major proposal in the manifesto is the development of “alternative study areas”. MacPherson says that has had an “in-depth discussion” with representatives about the strategic plan for the library in the coming years. MacPherson claims that one of the suggested developments has been “individual study pods where the noise is blocked that could provide an alternative study experience”. MacPherson also claims that “the library owns masses of space and there is also lots of space that they are looking to repurpose”.
Having written a piece in the Irish Times in support of a loan system in December 2015, MacPherson says she is now “in favour of publicly funded higher education, now that it’s been made clear to me that it would be possible here and that there are experts in finance and government who believe it is possible”. She denies that this is any form of political opportunism and says that “I’m not afraid to admit that I was wrong” she added that “I was more naive and hadn’t spent as much time in this country or education system as I have now”.