Lynn Ruane – President
Lynn Ruane was elected as president in 2015 with a groundswell of support behind her. Coming into office on the back of a resounding victory over her three competitors, Ruane is the first mature student president since the 1990s, and the first female president since 2003-4. From the off, her presidency has been determined by big issues and ideals. Her manifesto and first report to SU Council identified the principles of Equality, Inclusion, and Access as the central pillars of her mandate. Her manifesto further identified the issue of student engagement, saying her aims were guided by “an ideology of empowering students to take ownership of their SU”. At the first Council of the year, she stated a further set of aims, including increased engagement among students, creating “space for debate and conversation” among students, and building bridges between those in Trinity and outside the college community.
Ruane has had a busy year, although some promises have inevitably fallen by the wayside. Proposals such as every sabbitical and part-time officer writing a University Times article at least once a term, or class reps being obliged to make three class addresses every term appear not to have been implemented. Turnout in this year’s SU elections was down 18% on 2015, although on the other hand, the scale and success of the Students Against Fees and Repeal The 8th campaigns point to a high level of engagement.
In truth, large-scale social issues and lobby campaigns have been the backbone of Ruane’s time in office. She spoke forcefully against increased fees and the prospect of student loans at successive Councils early in the year. She has been heavily involved in TCDSU’s Repeal the 8th campaign, which has seen well-attended panels and widely shared media output over the course of the year. Campaigns like that promoting awareness of sexual consent, or the TCD Divestment initiative, have also proven to be popular. Ruane’s Activism Festival occurred on campus recently to great acclaim, with speakers from diverse fields speaking at a number of talks and panels.
An Impact Report, half-funded with money from the HEA, is being set up to “thoroughly evaluate the effect that Trinity College Dublin is having on society and the economy”, intended to show how much the college is able to achieve with a limited, and decreasing, amount of state funding.
Ruane stated at the outset of the year that she was aware of the potential perception that, at times, she was ignoring “the everyday requests of students”, like “fun, better library, more efficient tutorials and student spaces”. She admitted that “to an extent I probably will”, because she saw her primary focus as advocacy and representation on “issues that fall through the cracks”. Whether this strategy has been a success is something that only the student body itself can judge. However, one aspect of Ruane’s legacy has been that the question of whether the SU should emphasise college over national issues, or vice versa, was at the forefront of this year’s presidential campaign. Whatever her individual successes, she has certainly succeeded in bringing activism and advocacy back to the centre of SU politics.
Molly Kenny – Education Officer
Molly Kenny was elected unopposed to the position of Education Officer at the SU elections in 2015, having served first as a class rep, and later as EMS faculty convener. Her manifesto promised the introduction of “extendible skills workshops” to increase students’ employment prospects. These were to include barista and bartender training, and courses based around computer skills and personal finance. Office hours for SU school conveners, and the implementation of electronic voting were among the other policies put forward in the course of Kenny’s campaign. None of these specific proposals appear to have been implemented so far in this academic year. Her main goal was to create a more student-centred college experience, mentioning in particular the procurement of a dedicated student space in the Business School currently being built. As of yet, this has not happened.
In an interview with Trinity News during her election campaign, Kenny agreed that a single year was “probably not” long enough a time in office to affect major change, but that worthwhile change was certainly possible. At the first SU Council of the year in October, she said that her work on the Trinity Education Project takes up about 60% of her time. The TEP is a college initiative attempting to evaluate the college experience, update the Curriculum, and deliver a “distinctive student experience”. Kenny sits on five of the Project’s seven strands, while Communications Officer Afric Ní Chríodáin sits on the remaining two. The new programs arising from the Project are expected to begin in 2018. Kenny undertook a trip to Manchester with TEP to look at learning spaces. Kenny’s subsequent reports to Council have noted the introduction of a new appeals process with the Academic Council, and a new procedure for student complaints.
The first half of Hilary Term saw Kenny heavily involved in this year’s SU elections, which were a success. Much of the rest of her work over the year has been taken up with the day-to-day obligations of an Education Officer. This has included regular meetings with different college services. She noted a rise in the amount of her casework around the time of the fifth Council of the year, which she speculated could have been related to the elections themselves. Finally, Kenny organised Education Week at the beginning of December, while top-up training for SU personnel took place on March 8.
Aifric Ní Chriodáin – Communications and Marketing Officer
The main divergence between Ní Chríodáin and her competitor Jemma O’Leary in the race for the Comms & Marketing position last year was her comparative enthusiasm for TCDSU getting income in the form of headline sponsorship. It is a commitment she has followed through on. As of the first Council of the year, the SU had garnered over €14,000 in sponsorship from various businesses. KPMG’s graduate program was vigorously promoted through SU channels in September and October. Other businesses which sponsored the Union in one way or another included Dominos and Vodafone. Anonymous tomfoolery app Yik Yak came in to promote themselves in College in November, including the giving away of free branded socks, for which the SU got €800. Meanwhile an event with TG4 later in the year brought in €300.
Speaking with Trinity News during the election campaign last year, Ní Chríodáin stated the need to rebrand the Union’s avenues of communications and marketing, and that the SU website needed to be updated with more basic information, for example relating to extensions and sexual health. As of now, the website still lacks some information and services, although updates are apparently in progress. A TCDSU app is also in development. Whether or not her promise to better promote the SU to off-campus students has been a success is debatable, but the changes there have been have hardly been revolutionary. She mentioned that students tend to be somewhat “jaded” with the SU, and that part of her role would be to increase engagement. While such an enormous undertaking is inevitably beyond the power of any individual officer, the problem of non-engagement in the SU has not gone away, and will need to be continually pursued by sabbatical officers in futures years if a difference is to be made.
Ní Chríodáin has been heavily involved in the Union’s campaigns over the course of the year, contributing to the marketing of the Repeal the 8th campaign and International Women’s Week, among others, and Union-specific events like RAG Week and the college Consent campaign. She also sits on two of the seven strands of the Trinity Education Project (TEP), and other areas of work have included updating the SU Café and shop.
Conor Clancy – Welfare Officer
Conor Clancy came out on top of a crowded field in the Welfare race last year. He is almost unique among recent sabbatical officers, in that he is the only man on this year’s five-person team. 2015-16 has seen a number of major issues which fall under the Union’s welfare umbrella come to prominence in the college community. The accommodation crisis at the beginning, and indeed throughout the year threw up enormous difficulties both for students and for College authorities and the SU. Meanwhile, Clancy was involved in organising campaigns such as TCDSU’s involvement in Repeal the 8th, What is Consent? and I am/I exist, which highlighted bisexual and asexual identities.
At the start of the year, the accommodation crisis meant that many students required the Union’s services. The Accommodation Advisory Service was set up by Clancy. It provided deals in hostels and hotels to students whose accommodation had fallen through, while the Union’s Rent a Room scheme was also a success, considering the trying circumstances.
Similar to most years, campaigns and advocacy seem to have occupied Clancy for a large part of the year. As well as the sexual consent and the I am/ I exist campaigns, the What’s in the Pill drug awareness initiative was undertaken in cooperation with members of other student unions in Dublin. Most of the themed weeks that the SU runs in the course of the year fell under the remit of the Welfare Officer. These included Body & Soul Week, Mental Health Week, and Rainbow Week, all of which seemed to have been deemed successful.
Clancy has dedicated a large amount of time to the procurement of more student spaces in College. These efforts have centred on the development of the Sun Room, a space in Goldsmith Hall which was approved by Council in late 2014, but which has since stalled. As of last week’s aborted Council meeting, Clancy was waiting to hear back from College on a proposed design for the room. The proposal was originally given €70,000 of funding, but it seems that the full costs may top €100,000.
Clancy has been honest in admitting that many of the promises contained in his manifesto have yet to be fully realised. His Safecab scheme, whereby students can charge a taxi fare to the SU and pay the Union back later, has been implemented. Other policies like the laptop borrowing scheme, and his commitment to drug awareness, have been followed through on. However, many others, like the TCD Lunchbox scheme and the provision of more 24 hour library toilets, have yet to be implemented. Clancy’s report to Council last week contained a list of manifesto promises, colour-coded as to the level of completion. Two were coded green, indicating completion, nine were coded orange, and one, the provision of phone charger outlets, was coded red and described as being stalled.
Katie Cogan – Ents Officer
Cogan fended off competition from Conor Parle and David Gray to become the first female Ents officer for a number of years. Aside from her promises to put on certain events, her campaign included a policy of increasing student engagement with the Ents side of the Students’ Union. As with similar intentions from other sabbatical officers, the issue of limited engagement with the SU is one which will take longer than a single year to fix, and whether there has been any fundamental change over this year is debateable.
Nonetheless, with Cogan at the helm, Ents has had some notable successes this year. Fresher’s week went off without any major problems, although the event planned for Friday of that week was cancelled as a mark of respect after a death on campus that afternoon. Events like the Freshers’ Ball and the Back to the Future event in Powerscourt sold out. Ents has been behind a number of sold-out and popular events over the course of the year, notably bringing back the ‘Notorious’ hip-hop night on a monthly basis. Ents have also promoted student deals to festivals, for example the upcoming Life Festival, or the Metropolis festival in November which had a 15% discount.
There have been a couple of stand-out events organised during Cogan’s time in office. In particular, the Hogwarts Express at the end of November saw hundreds of students pack onto a train for a Harry Potter-themed mystery tour. The event was enormously well-received, and featured in both national and international media.
Other staples of the Ents college year have proven successful. RAG Week raised over €26,000 across 15 events. Events like the annual Battle of the Bands are still ongoing. One of the most memorable Ents-related incidents of the year came with the announcement of the Trinity Ball lineup, which took the form of a house party live-streamed on YouTube. The video came in for all manner of ridicule, although if the intention was to get people talking, the ploy worked. Either despite or as a result of the launch, the Ball sold out in record time. Headliners The Kooks, and acts like Stormzy, have engineered a level of enthusiasm for the Ball which is probably a good deal ahead of that in recent years.