Education race: Bev Genockey on why the union needs to be “always striving” to improve engagement

In the race for Education Officer, current Deputy STEM convener hopes to improve student engagement and support

Having served in several representative roles, and currently as Deputy STEM convenor, senior sophister Zoology student Bev Genockey enters the race for Education Officer with a focus on “engagement, employability and equality”.

In an interview with Trinity News, Genockey identified her experience in these roles and the union, alongside involvement in academic issues as a result of the pandemic and the shift to online learning, as what piqued her interest in running for the role of Education Officer. She commended current Education Officer Megan O’Connor for her “fantastic work, considering the circumstance”, but stated that “I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think that there were things that I could improve”.

With engagement and equality being a large focus of her campaign, Genockey claims to want to “help create an education that’s accessible for everyone”. She defined this as “something that doesn’t benefit the few but benefits a lot of people”.

As students now find themselves in another semester of remote learning, one of Genockey’s key focuses is on navigating the way through this with support, but also looking at education in Trinity post-pandemic. Speaking about online learning, she admitted to its negative aspects, however, highlighted that “students with disabilities have been advocating for remote learning for years before the pandemic”. Looking to the future of learning at Trinity, she proposed that “if you’re somebody who would have a more rounded education if you could do college through a sort of hybrid model, then I want that to be a possibility for those people”.

“I want students to be given the opportunity to assess the feedback that they’ve received.”

To further facilitate students during this period of remote learning, Genockey says she would like to refocus the Education Committee as a group of people who work similar to the Welfare Committee, running small campaigns and providing resources regarding academic issues such as assignments and exams. She also proposed the introduction of feedback assessment forms, saying: “I want to focus on the quality of the feedback received, because oftentimes, you can get feedback, but you might not find it beneficial.” 

She continued: “I want students to be given the opportunity to assess the feedback that they’ve received.” 

When asked on Trinity’s overall response to the pandemic, she added that she thinks that “they’ve performed poorly in terms of their management on their end”, explaining that “there’d be situations where students wouldn’t know what was going on”. 

“You’d have a government announcement, you’d be waiting nearly 48 hours for college to comment on that, which isn’t good,” Genockey explained. She hopes that the College can be more “upfront” in future, so that “students can better inform their decisions”. 

On the topic of fees, Genockey stated that she doesn’t think it’s fair that students continue to pay high fees despite being online. She explained that “there’s certain things that the university can do” and she would “100% always advocate for that”. 

“But a lot of these things are government level change,” Genockey explained. She continued to emphasise the importance of a strong relationship between the union and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in order for students to “have a voice in these things”. 

When asked about Trinity’s decision to not decrease rent prices this year she stated that she thinks that “it’s abhorrent that they didn’t reduce the rent prices”. She added that she would “push the college” on this issue, saying that “there’s things that we can do as a union”. 

Genockey also raised the issue of the reduced on-campus accommodation for students with disabilities despite being expected to pay the same as other students, explaining that it is “bizarre” to her. Genockey also added she would welcome the creation of Trinity College Dublin’s Renters Union (TCDRU), which was established earlier this year. She explained that she thinks “they do good work” and while there’s “no formal sort of an alliance between the SU and the renters unions”, she thinks working “in tandem with them could prove incredibly beneficial”.

“It is our responsibility to try and engage with them in some way”

Genockey has previously stated her stance on the issue of student engagement, of which she admits she and her opposing candidate Daniel O’Reilly disagree on, stating: “Daniel has one view on engagement, which everybody knows, and I have something of an opposite view.” 

She continued: “There’s no doubt that engagement with the union is low or poor, but there’s also no doubt that TCDSU does a lot to try and engage students.” She expressed that she thinks “engagement is sort of one of those things that you should be always striving to improve in the background”. Genockey went on to add that, however, she thinks that “for as long as we cannot differentiate between who feels like they can’t engage, and who simply doesn’t want to, then we always need to try and improve the quality of engagement”.

Genockey further communicated her stance on the issue by saying “students don’t have a choice in whether or not they’re members of TCDSU, but I think that for as long as we don’t give them that choice, then it is our responsibility to try and engage with them in some way”. She acknowledged the fact that some students may never want to be involved with the union, but stressed that “we cannot just assume that they don’t want to, we have to try”.

With engagement being a core focus of her manifesto, Genockey is proposing the “Run for Something” campaign, which would run from Freshers’ Week to First Council and would highlight the various TCDSU roles that students can fill, other than being a class rep. She explained that she is “inclined to believe that there are people out there who don’t want to be class reps, want to do something else”.

“I think we spent 90 minutes on Ents, half an hour on Disabilities, I’d nearly flip those”

Ensuring class reps are equipped with training and information stood out as one of Genockey’s main objectives. She asserted that “if class reps are a wealth of information, then you’re reaching students on the ground that maybe you couldn’t from a sabbatical position”. In her manifesto, Genockey proposes redesigning class representative training to include more faculty-specific information, as well as disability awareness and equality training sessions. She stressed the importance of providing such training, saying: “I would focus on things like disabilities, maybe for a slightly longer period of time at class rep training than say, Ents”. 

Genockey continued: “I think we spent 90 minutes on Ents, half an hour on Disabilities, I’d nearly flip those.” She went on to suggest the possible re-allocation of budget in order to provide this sort of training, which could, as she explained, be outsourced. Genockey stated that “if that’s what benefits class reps and students more in the long run, that would be a kind of sacrifice or an alteration that I would be prepared to make”.

In her manifesto, she proposed the possible reintroduction of the Academic Senate,  of which current Education Officer Megan O’Connor decided not to reintroduce this year. Genockey said the decision to re-introduce the senate would depend on student popularity. When asked about its necessity, she said that “I don’t know if it’s needed”, but went on to add “I don’t think it’s past the point of reform”. She hopes that if it were to be reintroduced, it would exist “purely to critique and analyse College policy relating to academic issues”. She stated that its benefit would be twofold with the proposed repurpose of the Education Committee. 

One of her other objectives included providing in person top-up training sessions for students who missed out on vital lab and field work as a result of the pandemic. She says she hopes to work alongside College to provide these sessions in August, before term starts, and that she would also “explore the idea of potentially running them during reading week”.

The introduction of a Diversity and Inclusion document that will be circulated around teaching staff was outlined as one of her goals in her manifesto. This is something that Genockey says she would likely “start work on this year and it might not be circulated until second semester, but certainly before the by the end of my tenure, if I am elected”. She proposed that this would begin with promotion on social media and weekly emails, in order to gain perspectives from students, and would work alongside the Welfare and Equality Officer and the Officers for Students with Disabilities, Ethnic Minorities and LGBT rights. 

Regarding the upcoming election, Genockey stated that she thinks “it’s gonna be a really interesting election period with it all being online”, and she hopes that “it actually just brings the opportunity to reach more students than before” through social media. “A completely online election means that you have to try even harder to engage with students, which is why it’s one of my core principles.”

Bonnie Gill

Bonnie Gill is current News Analysis Editor for Trinity News and previously served as the College Correspondent. She is a Senior Sophister Film Studies and English Literature student.