The Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) sabbatical officer election campaign officially commenced this afternoon with Dining Hall Hustings. There are six races – President, Education, Welfare, Communications and Marketing, Ents, and the University Times Editor. There are ten candidates running for these six positions; six women and four men.
University Times Editor
The first speaker to take to the steps of the Dining Hall for this afternoon’s hustings was Donal MacNamee, the sole candidate in the race for the University Times Editor. MacNamee, who currently serves as the paper’s Deputy Editor, emphasised his focus to serve students in his speech: “I passionately believe that UT exists to serve students: we’re here for you, and if I’m elected, I’ll work every minute of every day tirelessly, to make sure that’s what we’re doing, to make sure we’re serving you.” He went on to describe his aim to increase coverage of sports and societies in Trinity, as he believes that “the students make Trinity what it is, a thriving hub, through their interaction with societies and sports clubs”. He also plans to increase the paper’s role in College through a Community Engagement Editor, public meetings, and College-wide surveys. MacNamee did not mention the current University Times’ deficit of over €16,000 and his plans to tackle this deficit, if elected. No questions were put to MacNamee following his speech.
Jerico Alcaras, a fifth year Computer Science student, opened his speech by discussing the importance of diversity, equality, and inclusion as Ents Officer and hopes to bring together students, “regardless of your background or status”. Hoping to hold diverse events, Alcaras cites the Crazy Rich Asians Ball as a perfect example of this mission. He also plans to hold more on-campus events while offering transparency in the role. He plans to focus on accountability, and says that he will “tell you clearly why I succeeded and why I failed”. Alcaras seeks to exhaust all of his options as Ents Officer so that Trinity Ball will have a seating area, more water fountains, and a bar closer to the Dance Tent. Additionally, he proposed a €1 donation per entry fee to charity, and holding opportunities to volunteer outside of RAG Week, encouraging people to volunteer for free entry to events. Alcaras aims to help people find their life’s purpose because volunteering to help others “is always a great buzz”.
Judith Robinson, a third year Music and Drama student, began by introducing herself as “that girl with luminous jacket”, and outlined that her current role as DU Players’ Ents Officer has prepared her to be the TCDSU Ents Officer. As Ents Officer, she noted that she would like to promote low cost events, such as her low-cost club nights, as well as more profitable events. This was because of her belief that Ents funding “helps fund other areas of the Student Union [sic]”. She also outlined her aim to make events as inclusive and diverse as possible, by increasing accessibility and society involvement with Ents throughout the year, as well as by hosting workshops that address issues facing students. She explained that in the next two weeks she will go into further detail about the various events she wants to introduce, but that her main promise is to deliver “captivating events where you can’t help but get groovy”.
Luke Rynne Cullen, a fourth year History and English student, introduced himself by referring to a lifelong passion for music. He cited his experience in events management acquired through both his current positions as Trinity Ents Live Events Officer, as well as Auditor of Trinity Orchestra. Cullen mentioned a number of events he hopes to organise such as a Trinity Oktoberfest, a Christmas fair, and a Rave in the Woods. Cullen hopes these Christmas events will mitigate some of the added stress put on students by the Trinity Education Project (TEP), a project which Cullen criticised as “disastrous”. On top of this, Cullen promised regular support throughout the year for PROs and Ents Officers across societies, stating how he wants Ents to be a “catalyst” for other creatives in College. Cullen closed his speech outlining his plans for his Abba Appreciation Night, exclaiming “may the winner take it all”.
Communications and Marketing
Muireann Kane, a Senior Sophister History of Art and Architecture and Italian student, and the only candidate running for the position of Communications & Marketing Officer, was the third speaker. Kane began by asserting her suitability for the role. She continued to emphasise her intention to “develop student opportunities and continue the improvement” of the community in Trinity. The current Art Installations Officer at Trinity Ents stated that she intended to create “a platform for students at present and our soon-to-be and current alumni”. She said she intended to do this by “developing on established relations with companies [in order to] secure further graduate and internship opportunities”.
The Offaly native, referring to her manifesto, stated her intention to secure “ethical sponsorship” and also to continue to “maintain the implementation of our blossoming eco-friendly ethos”. Kane concluded by expressing her desire to “never make a promise [that she] can’t keep”. She said: “I hope the combined trifecta of my word, my manifesto, and my campaign is suitably suggestive of my capability [to be] your next Comms and Marketing Officer.”
Fourth to speak was Aisling Leen, a fourth year English Literature and French student, and the sole candidate for the position of Welfare Officer. Gesturing to the Dining Hall behind her, Leen began by referencing her experience in activism, stating that the occupation last year marked a “huge moment” for her in which she realised she could play a part in “inspiring change and making life easier for students”. The Kerry native expressed her desire to engage in campaigns which strive to “change culture, break stigma, and start conversations”.
Leen then cited her involvement in both DU Meditation as Treasurer, and as a volunteer coordinator of the Welfare Committee. The former, she says, has done great work in facilitating conversation about mental health, and equips students with tools to help with stress. She emphasised the importance of inclusive and intersectional campaigns so that every student’s voice is heard. Finally, Leen made reference to her manifesto in which she outlines her plans to focus on issues such as abortion provision, sexual assault policy, equality, and off-campus supports. Before retreating from the steps she promised students “big campaigns, a listening ear, and a shoulder to Leen [sic] on”.
The race for Education Officer began as Sally Anne McCarthy, TCDSU Engineering, Mathematics, and Science (EMS) Faculty Convenor, and Niamh McCay, TCDSU Citizenship Officer, contested the position with their opening speeches. Sally Anne McCarthy emphasised her frustration with current student issues, including lack of engagement across the SU and students’ experience with the Trinity Education Project (TEP). McCarthy explained that she is running for the role because she is “disappointed with how so many things have been done, and [she] want[s] to do them better”. She highlighted her desire to implement later office hours to accommodate students with long hours or on work placements, to run an online TEP help-desk to answer students’ queries, and to establish a Students’ Choice Educator Award. McCarthy promised to give “every student a louder voice” in College.
McCarthy responded to a question from a student on how she would tackle a lack of engagement among students with the Union, saying that the Union “desperately needed to hear” the opinions of all students. She outlined the ways she would like to change the SU to involve more students, such as introducing anonymous voting at SU Council. Outlining her experience in College life, the second candidate for Education Officer, Niamh McCay, explained that her ideas are “for every student”. McCay decided to run for the role of Education Officer having identified “where change needs to happen” in College. She explained that she hopes to tackle issues of accessibility, students’ experience of exams, and reaching out to off-campus students. “I have spoken to people in College who matter; the Vice Provost, the Academic Secretary, but also those who matter the most: our students,” McCay said. Responding to the same question on student disengagement, McCay said that it is “one of the biggest issues” that the SU faces, highlighting that there is a wide range of students who can’t easily access the Union. “We need stronger engagement with staff and students”, McCay said.
The last race was for the role of President, with Laura Beston, a final year Film and English student, speaking first. The current TCDSU Officer for Students with Disabilities admitted that although she may have a reputation for being “radical when the time calls for it”, she has learned through her activism that students want to be listened to. Beston suggested organising regular caucuses so that problem areas for students can be identified and solved. Beston cited the lack of a reliable complaints system as one of the biggest contributors to SU disengagement, and aimed to dramatically decrease the “amount of time wasted trying to find the person to solve the problems students have”. Also on Beston’s agenda was providing students with the opportunity to upskill, be it through Adobe Suite, Microsoft Word and Excel, DJ workshops, or Lifeguard Training. Beston promised to fight “vehemently for what is right and just” in terms of national issues, citing rising rent prices, less job security, and punishing grant requirements as problems faced by students. She also assured that she would provide practical supports for students so that students can see that “the SU really does strive to serve them”.
Daire Hennessy, a third year BESS student, was the last candidate to speak this afternoon. Hennessy primarily focused on the issue of inclusion in his speech. He began by asking the gathered crowd: “Who here thinks they are an average student?” He then went on to tell the audience that they probably were not average students due to the fact that they were attending an SU event. The average student, according to Hennessy, “doesn’t attend SU events and might even actively dislike the Union”. Hennessy cited representing and serving students as the goal and purpose of the SU, and believes that inclusion is the means to achieve those goals. His solution to disengagement with the SU is to “meet students where they’re at”. Hennessy criticised past candidates who offered to cut their wages in order to pay for the Trinity Access Programme, saying that it misses the point. He believes that access students aren’t missing out by not being engaged in the SU, but the SU is missing out by not having access students involved.
The next hustings will take place tomorrow evening after TCDSU Council.
Reporting by Mary Hartnett, Michael Gilna, Peter Kelly, Lauren Boland, Sarah Moran, Thea Lawler, Shauna Bannon Ward, Lorna Aylward, and Eliza Meller.