President race: Gabi Fullam wants to build a union to “support the most vulnerable”

Current Ethnic Minorities Officer Gabi Fullam believes she has the “integrity, passion, and drive” for the role

Gabi Fullam is no stranger to Trinity College Dublin’s Student’s Union (TCDSU), having held the positions of ethnic minorities officer and class rep. The final year philosophy and sociology student is also firmly integrated into other aspects of student life, having been involved in competitive debating and currently serving as co-editor of Icarus and editor of Trinity’s Women and Gender Minorities Review. She believes she deserves the student vote for president because she has “the integrity, passion, and drive to actually transfer those skills” she has gained from her institutional and activism experience as well as broader engagement in the College community.

When asked to summarise her vision for next year’s sabbatical team, Fullam responded that she would “really want to build a union that is there to support the most vulnerable”. Racial justice and gender equality on campus are priorities for Fullam, who is informed by her own personal experiences as a woman of colour. Fullam added: “I know what it’s like to be a brown person coming to college in Trinity. I know what it’s like to be a working class person, I know what it’s like to be a woman. So…most of my ideas would stem from those specific circumstances”.

Fullam plans to work on “providing safe spaces for ethnic minorities to meet up, to come together to have support from the union and enable concrete grassroots movements”. She also intends to establish a “black students and students of colour advisory group”, similar to that of Dublin City University Students’ Union (DCUSU). This feeds into Fullam’s aim to diversify the union and encourage engagement from a broader scope of students. Fullam explained how she wants to “see some levels of change here”. She emphasised that “you don’t see a huge amount of people like me getting involved in positions of power for such an international university”. She also hopes to incentivize both students and staff to partake in racism bystander training as a means of equipping the College to be able to “de-escalate or meaningfully support people in the aftermath of racial abuse”. Fullam suggests solutions such as integrating this training into the academic system by offering credits to people who complete a certain amount of hours, in order to address the fact that similar readily available resources are often not utilised by those who need them most. She also emphasises the importance of “treating reports (of racial abuse) seriously in College discourse”.

Campaigning for migrants’ rights is also something that Fullam has frequently engaged with during her time serving as ethnic minorities officer and hopes to continue to make strides with.  Further expansion of the Asylum Seekers Access Provision (ASAP) scholarship is one of her main objectives in this area. Fullam wants to hold the College to their commitment to take the necessary steps to “actually get this information out to very vulnerable groups, that are often very disconnected from Trinity” and make a greater effort to fill the spaces they currently do offer.

“She stresses the importance of addressing the College’s colonial legacy and taking a stand in regards to the Berkeley Library”

Renaming the Berkeley Library is also on Fullam’s agenda to make Trinity a more inclusive space for ethnic minorities. She stresses the importance of addressing the College’s colonial legacy and taking a stand in regards to this, proposing “using a system similar to what they did when they put women in the Long Room, where they opened it to public applications”. It should be “renamed by the community that it’s supposed to serve to be emblematic of that”. Fullam’s manifesto also highlights her plans for the union to engage more with creating an inclusive curriculum, something which she describes as “ a win win win for everybody”. Fullam envisages “more modules”, such as the recently introduced black studies elective, “but also the integration of, say, the history of people of colour or a less western centric focus”.

When asked how she would lobby for and support LBGTQ+ students, Fullam also mentioned examining the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in the curriculum, amongst other issues such as ensuring “clarity in who’s actually responsible for the administration” regarding naming rights and gender recognition. Fullam continued: ”I’d like to see further cooperation from Ents to make sure that they’re hosting events in LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces.” She also emphasises the importance of continually reforming the T-fund so that it meets the needs of trans students, as well as ensuring there are appropriate “means of reporting, disciplinary action” and “upskilling of staff”.

When it comes to addressing gender-based violence, Fullam plans to take a multi-pronged approach to what is a “deeply-rooted issue”. She discussed co-ordinating with the welfare and equality officer on campaign weeks to establish what some of these root causes are in order to best tackle the issue on campus. At College events, Fullam plans to introduce anti-spiking measures such as the provision of free anti-spiking lids, testing apparatus and respite spaces for students who wish to avail of them. She also stresses the importance of having mental health support in place for anyone who is dealing with the trauma of being assaulted or spiked.

On the topic of working relationships with other sabbatical officers, Fullam addressed the recent allegations against the University Times (UT) of journalistic misconduct and mishandling of anonymous sources on sensitive topics. Although UT has editorial independence according to the TCDSU Constitution, it remains a part of, and funded by, the union. Fullam began by emphasising the importance of having different papers on campus: “I think it’s good we have two papers on campus, to communally keep each other in check and as a form of balance, and in general to have more options for people who want to get involved.”

If such an issue were to happen under her presidency Fullam told Trinity News that she does not think her stance on the issue would differ because UT is union affiliated; she continues to add that “if something came out in say the Piranha, or a Trinity Publications thing, or TN had written or mishandled something in a really deeply rooted way, then I think the response would have to be the same”. Fullam added that “we should condemn it and I think specifically we should be looking at how the union can support victims of things like this as they come forward”.

Accessibility is another prominent theme of Fullam’s campaign and she plans to build a stronger working relationship with the Trinity Ability Co-op if elected. Reducing the cost of College for students with disabilities is a priority for Fullam, who explained that “we are at a critical juncture” in creating tangible changes here due to the Minister for Higher Education now considering either reducing or abolishing the student contribution fee. Increasing access to physical spaces on campus as well as to counselling services are further projects which Fullam hopes to pursue. Getting more funding and “continuously lobbying and raising noise about the fact that we need more staff to be able to meet the mass of the populace” are just some of her planned approaches to improving College’s mental health service.

A reform of the tutor system is also on the cards for the union if Fullam is elected. She discussed some of the current problems with this system, for instance, a “tutor might not have received any sort of level of necessary training to be able to deal with or support that student in a situation” where “a student needs an extension because maybe they’re disabled or have been bereaved”. To resolve these issues Fullam proposes centralising this system so that “there are very clear and consistent procedures” in place as well as equipping tutors with higher levels of training to ensure they can fulfil their role effectively as what Fullam describes essentially as that of a “first responder”.

Another aspect of College life that Fullam believes is in need of reform is scholarship examinations (schols), adding: “No union representative seems to really [support] it in their manifesto, even though it is this massive symbol of inequity within College, that puts a lot of people under huge stress.”

“A reform of the tutor system is also on the cards for the union if Fullam is elected”

She continued: “What I really want to do is look at making a student working group that can properly investigate into it, and collect that data. So what do the majority of students think about schols right now?”

Reopening of both the Science Gallery and the SU cafe are both points on Fullam’s manifesto that she feels strongly about. Having worked as a mediator in the Science Gallery up until its recent closure, Fullam has witnessed the value of it “firsthand”. Fullam explained that it is “one of the very few places where members of the community and students are welcome and able to intermingle and talk to each other”. Fullam added that it is “also important to keep funding for the arts up in Dublin as a whole”, emphasising that she plans to continue putting pressure on the College about its reopening and make sure “that the area goes to use for students in the interim while the next exhibit is coming up”. Fullam’s goal to reopen the SU cafe would act as a “source of student jobs”, as well as providing an essential space and service for the College community.

Whilst acknowledging the importance of reacting in the form of protest, Fullam envisions adopting more of a proactive approach to student politics within the union, particularly in regards to their relationship with stakeholders such as Transport for Ireland (TFI) and Dublin City Council. She foresees TCDSU having “prior input into decisions they’ve made”, while trying to get “our [student] voice heard” before something detrimental occurs. This would involve the union “setting up more consistent meetings” with Dublin City Council and not simply “relying on College for that information”. Fullam also plans to lobby for free public transport for under 25s, which she describes as “a game changer” for student security and safety.

Locally sourcing foods, tackling the issue of single-use plastics and divestment from the fossil fuels industry are top of the list when it comes to Fullam’s environmental sustainability goals. In terms of the sustainability of her campaign, Fullam said she is striving for “high social impact, low environmental impact”, opting to use small business cards, 2 posters and a minimal number of t-shirts which she says she “will wear forever”.

Concluding, Fullam said: “I want voters to know that I take this seriously, I have never taken anything lightly in my life, I’ve never said anything I didn’t believe in and I don’t think I’ve made any promises I can’t deliver on.”

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.

How are you planning to vote in the election? Fill out Trinity News’ poll and help us understand how students feel.

Ella Sloane

Ella Sloane is the current Life Editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister English Literature and Sociology student.