Laura Grady is proud of many things. Her native Sligo, particularly since moving to Dublin for college; getting picked at 12 to play GAA in Croke Park and of course, Westlife. Grady’s participation in numerous campaigns like Body and Soul Week and her role as Volunteer Coordinator on the TCDSU’s Welfare Committee is another thing she is proud of: “Welfare has been my life for two years.”
The Senior Freshman Economics and Sociology student explains that “engagement” would be at the heart of her role if elected Welfare Officer. Grady believes “you have to figure out inventive ways to reach out to people”. For example, she proposes to hold an “Inner Child Day”, featuring bouncy castles and all “the things we loved doing when we were kids” so students can de-stress.
Other ideas mentioned in Grady’s manifesto include “SHIFT Days” providing information about sexual health inclusive to all identities, sexually transmitted infections (STI) health checks and a “society collaboration” between Welfare services and societies every week: “People aren’t going to just walk into House 6 and get involved in the SU […] people are dedicated to certain societies and because of that no matter how hard welfare tries to reach out […] it’s just not going to reach out to everyone.”
“I think a way of combatting that,” she adds, “is just collaborating with societies every week […] if you had a collaboration with the Surfing Society, for example – those people are such a niche group of people […] even if they never go to the welfare officer at least they know that they’re there and have had some interaction with them.”
Due to personal reasons, Grady repeated her first year, though she believes her position as a Senior Freshman who has been in College for 3 years will allow her to “connect” with students of all levels, and relate to them as someone who has had to rely on welfare services. “An awful lot of people feel shame about [repeating],” she says. “There is a lot that could be aimed at repeat-year students.”
At the start of their college careers, Grady believes that Freshers need help getting off on the right foot, getting the right information and advice about sex, alcohol, living in Halls, and getting to grips with self-expectations. After struggling in first year, Grady feels she would have “really benefited from a campaign aimed at first years” and therefore wants to make Week 2 of Michaelmas Term a ‘Welfare First’ week, involving consent, sex, study, cooking, and finance classes to help Junior Freshmen “get into a good routine”.
Coming from outside Dublin, Grady has been through the struggle of trying to find a place to live in the city, and promises to do all she can to “help people find a spot”. Knowing how the Accommodation Advisory Service is run as well as having friends in the service who have given her information, she claims; “that experience would be very helpful if I get elected”.
As a former S2S mentor, Grady believes students “need to feel welcome to talk to the Welfare Officer” and in the past campaigned for increased mental health care funding. She thinks Trinity is great at raising awareness on the issue but wants to expand on helping friends look after one another as well as: “how to look after yourself when you are helping that friend”. She produced a video on the matter for Body and Soul Week, and plans on more videos. Nonetheless she worries about “lad culture” and high suicide rates among men, and hopes to reach out to them.
She says the SU has done well on “providing stuff”, but alongside the traditional Welfare provision of condoms and sanitary towels, she plans to offer dental dams. She also wants to continue consent workshops, not just for those in Halls, as she says there are “so many facets to consent” which many are unaware of. Grady plans on Active Bystander Training which concerns personal safety and the safety of others, and how to act in a problematic situation.“Quite often” she says, “you’d be in a nightclub and you’re like, ‘I’m not sure if my friend is ok, or, I am not sure even if those two strangers are ok and you… don’t want to embarrass the people or put [yourself] in danger…that’s why I think Active Bystander Training is a really important part”.
On the question of the perceived growing disillusionment of students with the SU, she admits that automatic membership has its downsides, yet it would be difficult to maintain the services that students currently get in any other way: “there are so many services that people avail of and they wouldn’t realise it, but they wouldn’t have them if it were not for the SU”, she notes basic things like being able to buy Trinity Ball tickets or enter House 6 without being asked to present a student card.
According to Grady: “it’s good to be critical of the SU because it absolutely keeps us in check”. Her experience debating and being a committee member with the College Historical Society (the Hist) provided her with insight into how many students “seemed so anti-SU”, she says. “We need to work harder to reach out to them”.
Asked about the SU’s wider role, Grady thinks the SU should only focus on national issues that concern students, but at the same time, she acknowledges that “if it wasn’t for the push from students, we wouldn’t have got the marriage referendum”.
Repealing the 8th Amendment is a more “touchy” subject, and she believes student campaigns on the issue should focus on educating people to make an informed decision. Although Grady herself is pro-Repeal, she seems to possess an apolitical and pragmatic streak, which she sees as being either a neutral or positive quality to bring to the role. She explains that she is ready to listen to all arguments but supports the concerns of the majority of students, and would be there to represent their interests.
“I think a way of combatting that,” she adds, “is just collaborating with societies every week […] if you had a collaboration with the Surfing Society, for example – those people are such a niche group of people […] even if they never go to the welfare officer at least they know that they’re there and have had some interaction with them”.