Lester Bangs once said: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” The alleged actions of Caolán Maher (running to be Ents officer) show the Trinity currency is different; it is the international, student, language of cans. Maher was seen (and denies) handing out said cans in Halls and telling the recipient to vote for him. With 879 Facebook shares, this is perhaps the most talked about story of the week.
For not the first year, all candidates have attempted to distinguish themselves with personal trademarks. Glasses, hair, and fruits are in vogue as political props this season. Both Ents candidate Grace O’Boyle and Communications and Marketing candidate Glen Byrne are vying for votes by putting their poor vision to use in promotional literature.
Stephen Carty in the run for President has picked an orange, which he is putting as an emoji in Facebook posts, because of presumable reasons. He is also referred to as “The Bull” in his home county of Roscommon,” because I show the horns and I go into it.” No additional comment is needed. Maher has gone for psychedelic, watermelon, tie dye apparel. He wants to fight drug culture. His plan must be to infiltrate the ranks of frequent drug users and appear as one of their own, or perhaps he has no sense of irony.
Hair has been useful for Ents candidate Katie Brown. She has turned her curly hair into a hashtag; #gowiththefro and sports a bandana. Education candidate Patrick Higgins, undeterred by his absence of facial hair in all posters, has employed a cartoon moustache for his twibbon, video and photos with students. In the Welfare race Éamonn Redmond is capitalising on the fact that he not only has red hair, but a beard as well. He has created a logo of a side profile of his hair, which can be deciphered if you look closely.
Random objects have been used too. Kieran McNulty has his wide grin and outline of a key, with which he will #UnlockTheSU, presumably metaphorically as well as physically in the course of his job. Ents hopeful Padraic Rowley utilises a yellow dicky bow, for some reason. Potential Welfare officer Aoibhinn Ní Lochlainn hopes use of blue and yellow balloons w33ill bring about success. Also in the Welfare race, Andrew Wafer is putting his surname good use by associating himself with ice cream and the fact that the letters w-a-f-e and r, are in the word “welfare.”
Those with eyes on an SU Sabbatical prize for next year ought to get unusual hair, prescription eye wear or select your favourite fruit. Break a literal leg, future candidates!
In other news
Fossil Free TCD and TCDSU have timed the first ever Divestment Week to coincide with the height of sabbatical campaigning. The move proved to be successful as all candidates backed the campaign, and almost all (barring Wafer, Maher and Byrne) appearing in promotional photos. Which, at the end of the day, is all that matters.
We’ve had three hustings with Halls Hustings to come. Discussion has been notably tamer than previous years as controversy was widely avoided. The closest approximation to controversy was when a question to Sinead Baker about how she will report fairly on SU matter, received rapturous applause and Maher was asked about his cans. This may be because almost all attendees of the hustings were t-shirt wearing supporters. The Dining Hall hustings were lacking in involvement via student questions.
The campaign has seen three drop outs: Nick Spare of the Education race stood aside to mind his mental health and attend to his studies. Similarly, Tom McHugh backed out of the Welfare race because of academic pressures and in the interest of his mental health. Presidential hopeful Jason Leonard decided a step down was needed facilitate therapy following spinal surgery.
The presidential campaign is an apparently a two-man race, if University Times reporting is to be believed. Just because we at Trinity News are so generous, we shall discuss the candidates equally, as if the voting hasn’t already happened.
The gauntlet has been thrown down and the presidential hopefuls have been served by the vow of Stephen Carty to donate €5,000 of his salary to Trinity Access Program (TAP). So far there hasn’t been a response from the O’Brien or McNulty teams. Carty also advocates better infrastructure. He wants more couches, though hasn’t checked if it’s a possibility, he wants us to wash Buttery trays less, and provide more plugs and to “rip up the carpet” in order to do so.
Fees have been a key issue in the election so far. McNulty was a supporter of Students Against Fees from the off and attended the first campaign meeting. O’Brien became active after the announcement of his candidacy, marching in solidarity with striking members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and criticising the absence of sabbatical officers on the march. Fees did not in Carty’s manifesto despite commenting that he wants to make “a national thing out of this. Make publicity. Student activism is alive.”
Jobs for students and careers supports feature. McNulty wants to have bar and barista training, a developed alumni career network, and a careers portal. McCarty has researched a job listing system which he says the 3 Arena, the National Concert Hall and the Aviva stadium have all agreed to go into partnership. O’Brien wants to connect with wider political issues, such as the repeal of the eighth amendment and the ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men.
With only three women running for SU sabbatical positions, the investable question of why that is, was asked. Dan O’Brien spoke about the absence of short term, successful measures such as “Women in Leadership” workshops and the need for a long term solution. Carty similarly cited a lack of events encouraging female participation as part of the problem. McNulty believed the problem was bigger than the holding of workshops and required broader engagement.
This race comprises two candidates. Patrick Higgins wants a more online Trinity. He proposes classes to encourage lecturers to use Blackboard and email, and to have a “simpler” Erasmus application. Improved study spaces are a goal of his. Dale O’Faoilléacháin advocates for non-curriculum learning and Irish language supports. He wants to develop support services such as the library.
Both have spoken about transparency and accountability. Higgins believes students know what the officer does. O’Faoilléacháin want officers to stick to their promises. Communication and engagement is a feature of both campaigns. O’Faoilléacháin proposes a Student Partnership project to tackle lacking engagement and Higgins aims to have better communication through working with the Communications and Marketing officer
Ents is a four-person race filled with proposals for new events.
Grace O’Boyle says she will hold a massive event after Christmas to include people with two sets of exams, as well as a college Gaeltacht, a third level Young Scientist Exhibition and a film festival to highlight LGBTQ issues. She believes Ents can be more efficient but can’t quite say how until she is in the role. Presence at events is important to her in order to be approachable.
Padraic Rowley’s main aim is inclusion. He says he will do this, by not having specific events for different groups, but focusing on events that can be enjoyed by all. He saw the Hogwarts Express event this year as a good example. Hopes to develop an app called What Next to generate advertising money and to help students plan a night out.
Katie Browne (sometimes known as KTB) proposes a one day Ent-duction to introduce students to the workings of Ents. A bit like O’Boyle she wants a seasonal celebration: A Christmas Day with dinner in the Buttery, Christmas attire and live performances across campus. She plans a Trinity exhibition night to act as a showcase for college musicians and societies and “Trinity Ed Talks” educational talks to increase student engagement.
Caolán, wants to end the separation he perceives between Ents and the rest of the college and to make more student voices heard. He also hopes to bring a sense of community which he comes can be fostered by more intimate events. He will give more support to students who hope to run their own events. He thinks Ents can be tied into anything.
Naturally, all candidates have spoken about the Trinity Ball. O’Boyle thinks Trinity needs more of a pull in the contract with MCD, she would negotiate the contract with diligence and wants to have art installations. Rowley views MCD contract as having “shafted” Trinity in the contract. He wants greater involvement with students by having a poll to gauge what acts would be popular, which could be brought to MCD. Browne had not seen the contract but heard it was stringent. She wants to see more bands, with a less techno orientated line up. Maher sees the relationship between MCD and Trinity as totally skewed.
No candidate offered explanation as to why the word events needs to be shortened to the one syllable word “Ents.”
Éamonn Redmond like all other candidates has a focus on mental health. He wants to increase funding for the student counselling service. On the issues of consent workshops; he wants them to be mandatory for all students, not just those in halls. Exam time can be improved, he believes, by lessening stress by providing recreational activities which would assist in studying more effectively. Study skills workshops will also further the aim of more effective study. He wants increased free legal advice services and budgeting supports around Christmas time when support is most needed. Emergency accommodation needs to be looked at and he thinks using hostels has worked well.
Aoibhinn Ní Lochlainn has four pillars of her campaign: Supporting individuals by promotion of Niteline and Peer Support, a Green Light System so students can see when she, or a peer supporter is in her office, and Nap Rooms complete with blackout blinds, ear plugs and blankets. The goal is to improve attendance at lectures and mental health. She will implement a Back to College Campaign to acclimatise freshers and provide free healthy cooking classes.
Andrew Wafer seeks to address 5 issues: Mental health, by promoting Niteline and Peer Support and developing a “Support the Supporter” initiative to help students caring for friends or family. Fighting the accommodation crisis by lobbying for lower rent. Improving equality and diversity by seeking for gender neutral recognition and running awareness campaigns. Inclusivity can be made better by establishing a novice officer on committees and extending support to Trinity students abroad. For his final issue of sports and health he plans welfare trips and meal plans.
All four support campaigning to end the eighth amendment.
Communications and Marketing
One of the smaller races sees Glen Byrne and Emmet Broaders. Byrne focuses on achievable ways to make things more accessible. This includes making council minutes more easily found online. Both he and Broaders want live streaming of council. A key policy is transparency. Byrne views the problem as being a gap of knowledge which means aren’t getting involved. The limited engagement before council voted not to oppose student fees and only hearing students’ views after the event. He wants a progress report system for sabbaticals.
Broaders first main policy is bridging the knowledge gap which has become an issue. As a previous class representative he has experienced a decline in his knowledge of SU goings. He finds it a problem that class reps would know what was going on and other students would not. To target this, he wants to increase use of video and make an online forum to operate similarly to boards.ie but be exclusive to Trinity.
Both candidates are proponent of corporate sponsorship because of the funding it has brought in according to Byrne and wants to advertise to students more effectively to the different demographics.
Let’s not forget about the sixth election; for Editor of the University Times. Sinead Baker is uncontested, but the election has not escaped some column inches. The University Times reported that The University Times are doing an excellent and valuable job. She hopes to equip staff with training and tools.
Despite postgraduate students being eligible to vote in the elections their issues have been omitted from the race. In the wake of revelations of poor treatment and working conditions of Teaching Assistant postgrads, and the absence of any visible campaigning from the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) on the matter, the stage has been set for a candidate to address the issue. The candidates are not alone in their neglect of postgrad involvement; the GSU has failed to mention the upcoming elections in emails to students and the SU does not send emails to postgrads.
Two years ago the student of Trinity passed a referendum to mandate the SU to campaign for the end of Direct Provision. September saw a proposal for the opening of twelve new Direct Provision centres. The Working Group Report on Direct Provision recommended the system stay and that residents be prohibited from working. The silence from the SU was deafening. No mention has been made of the mandate, not least a commitment to fulfil it.
The timing of the election (just over a week before the general election) has not been scrutinised by candidates. National issues such as the eighth amendment, the housing crisis and student fees have arisen in the course of the election campaign, but with Trinity students occupied by SU canvassing these issues may not have the attention that could be given if the elections were two weeks later.