Comms race: Smirnova on track for straightforward win

Polling at 92.7%, Julie Smirnova has little to worry about in the election

Running uncontested for the role of communications & marketing officer, Julie Smirnova received 92.7% of first preference votes in a poll conducted by Trinity News.

Uncontested candidates in Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) elections can usually expect to earn around 85-90% of the vote on average, with the remainder voting to re-open nominations (RON) for the role. With only 7.3% voting RON in the poll, Smirnova can expect a significant victory in the solo race.

Of the 574 responses received in the survey, 53.3% said they knew how they planned to vote in this category, while 38.3% said they were completely undecided. 8.4% of respondents said that they did not plan to vote in the comms & marketing race at all.

Smirnova polled equally well among Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences students and Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics students at 91.2% and 91.8% respectively, well within the margin of error. The incumbent citizenship officer was notably more popular among female students polled, at 95.3%. Male students approved of her at a rate of 88.1%.

Smirnova is a Senior Sophister politics and economics student from Naas, originally born in Koryazhma, Russia. 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).

As one of three uncontested races this year, communications and marketing has received significantly less attention than multiple-candidate elections. Smirnova has consequently faced less scrutiny and questioning on policies in comparison to some other candidates. With Media and Halls Hustings being merged due to the cancellation of some campaigning last week, candidates have faced fewer questions at this stage of the race when compared with most years. That being said, Smirnova has certainly presented herself as a candidate fit for the role.

She was pressed at Council Hustings on her plans to maintain social media engagement, to which she answered that Facebook was “dead”, and Instagram was “bigger and badder than ever”. Smirnova claimed she wished to make better use of Instagram and Twitter, though arguably TCDSU’s presence on those platforms is already very strong, with a notable pivot away from Facebook in recent years. Smirnova did not outline further what plans she would implement for social media, other than “coordinating” communication across all platforms.

The citizenship officer has stated continuously throughout her campaign that she wishes to “build a stronger union by building community”, and how she hopes to make spaces for marginalised groups in that union. When questioned in Council Hustings by QSoc on how she would have a positive impact if elected, she said she would aim to “make a space for [LGBTQ+ students]”, as “platforming different voices is the only way”. Smirnova also touched on possible social media takeovers by QSoc and the LGBT+ rights officer, but did not offer any additional information as to how she plans to implement or facilitate this.

She has also spoken throughout her campaign about issues of engagement within the union. In her interview with Trinity News, Smirnova acknowledged that the issue has been brought up “in every single comms officer election”, and is “constantly reiterated, but then every year [it] stays the same”. She attributed 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,” Smirnova said.

Speaking about accessibility and transparency with Trinity News, Smirnova did outline several tactics for how she hopes to actualise these ideals. She cited information workshops, adding an accessibility tool to a streamlined TCDSU website, providing union publications in alternative formats, arranging sabbatical officer hours in locations 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.

At Council/Equality Hustings, a member of the International Students Committee questioned Smirnova on what considerations she was taking for those who speak English as a second language. Drawing on her own experience as a bilingual person, speaking both Russian and English, Smirnova pledged to “take a step back” and “listen” to those who speak different languages and who are not native English speakers. In relation to inclusion, the Mature Students’ Society pressed candidates on how they would make College and events accessible to mature students, given “mature students are often forgotten”.  Smirnova acknowledged that it’s important to have events that cater to mature students, and that these events are publicised and boosted on the union’s social media, which is something she would like to work on if elected.

In this uncontested race, barring some seismic change, Smirnova is all but certain to be elected as TCDSU’s next communications and marketing officer. Her campaign has demonstrated she is a strong candidate who understands what is required of her role and the SU in the incoming year. With inclusion and social media presence at the heart of her campaign, Smirnova is looking to increase engagement and accessibility throughout her term next year.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.