A modest proposal to reform the SU

I have a simple suggestion: rather than electing sabbats, we should pick them at random.

COMMENTHi, I’m Naoise. I’m a final year English student from Dublin, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience lots of what Trinity has to offer. Now the time has come to give back. Like many of you, I haven’t always had a breezy time of it at College. I want to ensure that the Students’ Union is there as a bulwark and/or bedrock when the hard times come rolling.

With this in mind, I have a simple suggestion: rather than electing sabbats, we should pick them at random.

There are a few ways we could do it. The simplest is probably to ask the academic registry to pick a random student number from the entire senior sophister pool, ring that person up and ask them if they want a job. If they say no, ring another person until someone accepts it. Keep going until all the sabbatical roles have been filled.

But I’d rather leave the practicalities until you’ve given me your mandate to bring this policy about. The principle of what I’m standing for is what matters. This February, join me in abolishing the “Leadership Race” – a phrase I can report first seeing on a crumpled mind-map in the SU kitchen a few years ago, among crossed-out suggestions such as “Management Mambo”, “Governance Gambit”, and “(This isn’t my first) Representational Rodeo”, the last of which was annotated with “not peppy enough :(”.

There are many benefits to adopting my policy. For max digestibility, I’ve summed them up under three alliterative headings: equal access, engagement and empowerment. To be honest, you can probably skip the text underneath the point titles. I think I just had my campaign manager stick a load of lorem ipsum there anyway. Vote Dolan!

Equal access

I stand for fairness, equality of opportunity and inclusiveness. We need to open up the Students’ Union so that everyone can participate. What better way to achieve this than if everyone literally has a statistically identical chance of taking up leadership’s noble mantle?

Adopt my policy tomorrow and gender disparities vanish. We don’t need to bother with any of the tediousness of convincing women to run – sixty per cent of our pool is automatically female. This is great because it means we never have to address whatever it is about the SU’s culture that means any year we fail to do extensive outreach and workshops, largely male candidacy is pretty much guaranteed. (If women disproportionately turn the jobs down, we can shrug and say that it must be that they just didn’t feel like leading, racing, or whatever else the combination of those two words implies; there’s good form for this in all stretches of Irish politics.)

Most importantly, though, my proposal will do more to help fourth years find employment than any previous SU policy has managed.

Austerity Ireland has a huge surplus of graduates and not a lot of places to put us. Mull all you want over font choice (Hoefler Text is my fave), you can’t résumé your way into a job opening that doesn’t exist. SU candidates’ promises of career mentorships and CV-polishing classes are powerless to fix this, as is the provost’s drive for business classes (he takes the interesting – if economically dubious – position that every single Trinity student can be “an entrepreneur”).

These measures don’t magic more jobs into existence. They just lull us into thinking there’ll be a comfy place for all of us in the bounteous capitalist system if we only work hard enough to obtain it.

My solution to graduate unemployment is more effective, more concrete, and certainly more honest: I can tangibly claim that six graduate jobs will immediately become available if my policy is adopted, and the best bit is that you have as good a chance of getting one as the next person.

The rest of you can emigrate. Soz.


I, for one, think we’ve had enough of students feeling like the Students’ Union doesn’t care about the concerns of ordinary Trinity students. That’s why it’s so important that this proposal brings loads of adjectives, verbs and nouns to the entire student body.

Here’s a fun “Did you know?”: the word “engage” takes the singular simple present form “engages”, present participle “engaging”, and the simple past and past participle “engaged”. Derived terms include “engagement”, “disengage” and “disengagement.”

I promise that the person we randomly select will have the capacity to use these words in various SU communications throughout the year ahead. If they have trouble remembering all the words, we can put a list of them up in a Google Doc for them to copy and paste from at leisure. Going on precedent, these are the only steps an effective sabbat needs to take to engage people who don’t give their permanent residential address as “House 6.”

Also, maybe the person randomly selected will abolish Ents. After a good few years of hearing from candidates about the “pillars of Ents”, I am none the wiser as to why Ents is a thing. The prospect of holding on to the few quid I currently donate against my will to a loss-making office that holds no interest for me, that has never enticed me to attend any of its buzzwordy box socials, and that has me utterly confused as to why my union are running club nights when they could be campaigning? Count me engaged, baby.


Given that all six sabbats last year were mandated to support Students Against Fees and only one (Lynn Ruane) had a good showing on that front, I submit that we should adopt an extreme poststructuralist position regarding the ability of our Students’ Union to match mandate with outcome.

What can be more empowering than believing that everything in the world is contained in language? Just say the words “strong grassroots protest”, and you have semantically erected a dynamic students’ movement all on your lonesome.

Or if that seems too much of a stretch because you don’t believe your own speech-acts can carry that sort of clout, then just ask your all-powerful randomly chosen sabbats to say similar things over and over. This shouldn’t be a problem for them – whatever layperson we draft in will find making promises as easy as did the people who were previously voted in to perform this delicate task.

Why march against the abolition of student fees when you can discursively construct the abolition of student fees? The best thing is that even if the person selected by our random lottery doesn’t abide by our linguistic principles, we can also just discursively construct them as doing so. The power of critical theory will fully match the efficacy of last year’s anti-fees campaigning, and may well exceed it.

Most empowering of all, though: pass this policy and the election period is gone. No more messages asking you to be on so-and-so’s “team”, no more invitations to like pages, no more pushing past primary-coloured human shields to get to class every morning in the Arts Block, no more huge psychological toll on candidates, and all the money saved in campaign funding could be donated to something actually important, or, failing that, to something that at least doesn’t make most people’s week actively more annoying and/or difficult to get through.

Let’s be real. These changes will make a more material difference to students’ lives than any minor fluctuations in the constitutionally hidebound policymaking of the SU.

Full communism

Surprise! I sneaked in this policy unannounced so as not to scare you antsy BESS students, but just so you know, adopting my reform strategy will bring about a violent socialisation of the means of production (subject to negotiation with the provost). Sceptical of whether this can be achieved in one year? Don’t be: I can guarantee you that it’s at least as likely to come to fruition as anyone’s manifesto promises. #RedScare #LeniniteRace