Julie Smirnova is a Senior Sophister politics and economics student from Naas, born in Koryazhma, Russia. Smirnova is running uncontested to be the next Communications and Marketing (Comms) officer for Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU). Speaking to Trinity News on why she decided to run for Comms, Smirnova said she “loves talking to people” and feels that she would be “in [her] element”. An active member of the College community, both inside and outside the union, Smirnova currently serves as TCDSU’s Citizenship Officer, and Public Relations Officer of Trinity St Vincent de Paul (VDP).
While her role as the SU’s Citizenship Officer has “a lot of behind-the-scenes laptop work’’, Smirnova draws on her experience in Trinity VDP as preparing her to be the first form of contact between students and the union. “With VDP, I’m in charge of managing the socials, I’m the one with the camera at all the events, and being a member of the executive committee you’re one of the faces of the committee”.
Smirnova emphasised that if elected, she wants to prioritise community, transparency and accessibility, saying: “transparency and accessibility kind of go hand-in-hand, but community is the pillar.” Smirnova believes that “every student should be able to easily access information about SU decision-making processes and events, as well as participate in them”.
Smirnova reiterated that she wants to “build a stronger union by building community”, and hopes that students will come to think of the SU as part of their social circle and college experience, “rather than an institution that’s separate from [their daily life.]” She continued to say that “you don’t think of community when you think of comms officer, but it’s the bedrock of the entire union.”
On the topic of accessibility and transparency, Smirnova outlined several tactics for how she hopes to actualise these ideals. She cited information workshops, adding an accessibility tool to a streamlined website, providing SU publications in alternative formats, arranging Sabbat Officer hours in a location with a lift, including “accessibility statements and clear descriptions to all SU events”, as well as adding “agendas and minutes to the [SU] newsletter”, while publishing summary infographics on social media.
Smirnova acknowledged the union’s ever-present issue with engagement, saying she found it interesting that this has been brought up “in every single Comms officer election”, and is “constantly reiterated, but then every year [it] stays the same.” She attributes the union’s focus on communication channels such as social media and their weekly email as “the main reason” for the issue not being rectified. “People aren’t really paying attention to those things, so you’re improving something that nobody is looking at,” she said.
“When people think of the SU they think about it as an institution, as if the SU is separate from them, but it’s a students’ union”
“In VDP for instance, the reason why people are so active in the society and so willing to come out and spend hours of their week volunteering and hours organising fundraising events is because they feel like they’re part of a community” she continued. “All of the information [about VDP events] are passed through word of mouth, so when students see reminders of them on emails or socials it’s nearly just a little reminder of what’s going on, and I think that form of communication is what the SU is missing at the moment.”
“When people think of the SU they think about it as an institution, as if the SU is separate from them, but it’s a students’ union. We’re all students and we’re all part of the union’’ she added.
Smirova hopes to gather students together in organising free SU lunches, cooking workshops, graphic design workshops and SU socials “constantly throughout the year”. She believes that this will “act as a catalyst for greater engagement with the SU’s political campaigns, activism and local issues.’’
On how she aims to promote more engagement with the greater student populace, Smirnova claims: “it’s pretty straightforward.” For her, “it’s just actually gathering people, putting them in a space together and getting them talking about things that might not even be directly related to the union. We don’t need to talk about the housing crisis at every event but if someone meets someone at a free SU soup lunchtime every Wednesday then they might get chatting about protests and they’ll know people going to it,” she added.
Smirnova also pledged to promote collaboration between the SU and other College institutions, aiming to improve digital engagement by arranging “social takeovers with class reps, societies, services and campaign groups ” alongside “key updates” on social media, as well as an opt-in weekly newsletter and the SU website.
On the subject of non-SU student-led movements and campaigns, Smirnova believes that SU officers “should try and support all movements in line with SU values as much as they can, even if that’s just sticking it up on the socials or sharing a petition.” She continued to say that “supporting grassroots campaigns is the biggest way we can increase student engagement.” “Anyone can bring a motion to council if they want to start up a campaign and they’ve got a group of people around them to get in touch with” she continued.
Concerning the union’s financial stability, Smirnova said: “the union is financially stable at the moment and existing partnerships that we have with sponsors are sustainable.”
If elected, Smirnova claims that protecting the relationships the SU already has, and building new ones will be her “main priority.” She added that she aims to “make the most of the diverse advertisement opportunities offered by Ents, the University Times, as well as our socials and website.”
Smirnova’s manifesto and performances so far at hustings have indicated that accessibility, collaboration and community are at the core of her campaign. Like her predecessor Aoife Cronin, Smirnova is running uncontested for the position.
Campaigning for sabbatical officer elections will continue until March 3. Voting will run from March 1 to 3. Students have until noon on March 1 to register to vote.
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