Sabbatical candidate highlights privacy and safety issues in campaign reporting

Former ents candidate Nadia expressed “disquiet and genuine concern” over coverage of her campaign

A sabbatical candidate has expressed concern about how the University Times (UT) handled her concerns about privacy and safety in the paper’s reporting on her campaign.

Speaking to Trinity News, Junior Sophister (JS) computer science class representative Nadia shared her experience. For privacy reasons and safety concerns disclosed in confidence to Trinity News and UT, Nadia goes by her first name only.

While nominating herself for Ents Officer in the 2022 sabbatical officer elections in early February, Nadia explicitly wrote next to her full name that she prefers to “just go by Nadia”. When candidates running for the sabbat elections were announced,  TCDSU’s incumbent Education Officer Bev Genockey asked Nadia “if it was ok to say [her] last name just for the announcement”, Nadia told Genockey it “was fine” and that she “understood even though [she] would rather go by just Nadia because [she doesn’t] really associate with [her] last name”.

“I didn’t really wanna be a nuisance,” she explained to Trinity News.

Nadia said that while the privacy and safety concerns are the main reasons for why she chooses to go by Nadia only, there are several others.

“First of all, nobody can pronounce it,” she added. She also believes that her surname makes her stand out in a negative way, and puts her at risk of being discriminated against.

“My whole brand is just being Nadia, like that’s who I am and I don’t even really go by my mum’s last name that much,” she continued. Nadia explained that this is because of “potentially making [her safety concern] worse”.

During the campaign period, Nadia says that UT repeatedly disregarded her concerns and published her full name in eight online articles and one print edition. Numerous requests made by Nadia and TCDSU to remove her surname from the articles were allegedly ignored by UT, with her name only sporadically changed to “Nadia A” or  “A” in online articles.

Speaking to Trinity News, Nadia explained how she believed UT “completely took things out of context”.

“I remember reading the hustings articles and thinking I didn’t even say this stuff,” Nadia said. The experience caused the computer science class rep to experience “panic attacks” and fear for her own safety.

Nadia is currently not planning to take legal action against the publication.

Nadia said she did not feel it was appropriate for UT to use an initial for her last name in online articles, and print her full name on the print paper after she asked them not to. She said the experience made her feel at risk, as UT allegedly did not respect her request to remove her last name and has caused her to “have multiple breakdowns”.

Nadia continued: “Why is [UT] toying with students’ emotions as some prideful thing, there’s a lot of things bigger than [them] getting [their] way.”

“It’s a safety issue at the end of the day and students’ mental health are being affected,  not just mine,” she concluded.

Nadia has sought an apology from UT, but since the conclusion of elections on March 3, has not received one.

On February 7, prior to the beginning of the campaign period, Nadia informed Trinity News that she would prefer not to have her surname used to refer to her. She was referred to primarily as “Nadia” in this newspaper’s coverage of the elections, but her surname did appear a total of three times on the Trinity News website. On February 25, after being informed that there were concerns about the candidate’s safety, Trinity News removed all instances of her surname online and did not include it in the print edition published on March 1.

UT articles referring to Nadia using her surname, as “Nadia A’’ or “A”       

  •  February 7: “10 to Run in TCDSU Elections, with Two Presidential Candidates”.
  • February 20: “For All Three Ents Candidates, Safety on Nights Out Must be a Given”.
  • February 21: “Amicable Dining Hall Hustings See Candidates Ponder Accessibility and Safety”.
  • February 22: “Disjointed Equality Hustings Leave Little Room for Detailed Rhetoric”.
  • February 23: “Ents Candidate Nadia A Given Major Strike”.
  • February 28: “Sabbatical Candidates: An Astrological Analysis”.
  • March 1: “Exacting Questions at JCR Hustings Make Some Candidates – and Break Others”.
  • March 3: “Max Lynch Elected Ents Officer, Defeating Ross Donnelly and Nadia A”.

Nadia’s correspondence with UT

February 8: Nadia contacted UT Junior Editor Maitiú Charleton and asked if the first article published could be edited to remove her surname since she does not have “much affiliation with that name” and because of “complicated family stuff”. Charleton replied that he would “get back to [her] on this”. However, Nadia is still referred to as “Nadia A”, “A”, and her surname in the article.

February 17: Nadia contacted UT Deputy Radius Editor Ailbhe Noonan with the same request and reasoning to which Noonan said she would try her “best to do that”.

February 20: Yet, the second article published still included her surname. Nadia asked Noonan if she could remove the name from the article and the Deputy Radius Editor said she “asked if we [can] change it, and [will] keep that in mind in future’’. While Nadia’s surname was eventually removed from the article, she is still referred to as “Nadia A” and “A’’.

February 22: Nadia contacted UT’s Instagram page asking if the newspaper could refer to her “as just Nadia please” since she does “not feel comfortable being referred to as [her surname] due to family issues”, to which she received no response.

February 25: Nadia then contacted the UT Editor Emer Moreau personally to arrange a call “about a privacy issue being violated” that she felt “very uncomfortable about” and would “rather not text about”. She added: “It’s very important and I’m very scared about it now because my mum has contacted me about it.” According to Nadia, the UT Editor asked if the request was due to legal concerns, to which Nadia replied ‘“no, it’s not like that at all, I don’t have any history with the Garda, it’s just a concern for my safety”. Moreau then said she “would contact the lawyer” to see about the omission of Nadia’s surname in the articles.

Following the phone call, Nadia said she “realised [the UT Editor”] wasn’t going to do anything”, and she decided to message TCDSU. Speaking to TCDSU Welfare Officer Sierra Müller-Owens, Nadia said she “let her know what the problem was”. Müller-Owens called it “ridiculous” according to Nadia, and promised to contact Moreau about the issue.

February 28: The print edition of UT was published, which included Nadia’s surname in several articles. Speaking to Nadia on WhatsApp, Moreau suggested that she could use her mother’s maiden name instead, Nadia said she did “not feel comfortable with that either”. Moreau then “strongly” recommended Nadia to “look into the Right to be Forgotten” and said she “[has] to use some sort of surname in the interest of the other candidates”. However, the other candidates for Ents Officer were aware of her preference and had no issue with it, with Max Lynch saying he “saw no problem with that at all” and Ross Donnelly offering her further support with the issue.

March 6: In an email seen by Trinity News addressed to the UT editor, Nadia wrote to “formally express [her] disappointment and, more importantly, [her] disquiet and genuine concern at the manner in which” UT has published her name in articles written about the campaign for Ents Officer, Nadia wrote that she had specifically asked to be referred to as just Nadia by their publication.

In the email, Nadia outlined her disappointment with the handling of this issue: “The reasons I gave when asking to be referred to simply as Nadia were reasons which it was genuinely difficult for me to disclose and to explain.”

“I explained that I had family difficulties which meant that the use of  [my surname]  was uncomfortable, strange and more importantly, could give rise to real problems for me,” she continued.

“It therefore came as a serious shock and a horrible surprise when I saw the articles written, as they were in the middle of a campaign that I have worked so hard on, it was incredibly difficult to process and impossible to address until now,” the email concluded.

Speaking to Trinity News, the UT editor said: “The candidate did not contact me directly until halfway through the campaign about this issue. In the interest of transparency, we made the decision to publish her name as it appeared on the ballot paper. As the candidate was running for public office, it is in the public interest to publish her name as it appears on the ballot. I have been in touch with the Electoral Commission about this since the campaign ended as they are responsible for how candidates’ names appear on the ballot.”

EC, TCDSU and Junior Dean involvement

When asked how TCDSU acted or responded, Nadia believes while they were sympathetic to her, and attempted to reach out to UT, “they gave up” trying to resolve the issue and “tried to silence [her]’’.

“If they’re not doing anything and giving up, what am I supposed to do,” Nadia asked. “The only thing I can think of is exposing her in public because they couldn’t do anything else”.

During the campaign, TCDSU’s Education Officer Bev Genockey contacted Nadia after she posted about her experiences with UT on her campaign social media page.

Genockey asked Nadia to “take down the post” because it wasn’t “in the spirit of the campaign”, according to the Electoral Commission (EC). The EC, which has admin rights on all campaign pages, then intervened to remove the post and told Nadia she would be issued with a strike if she persisted. Their reasoning was that she was violating campaign regulations which prohibit “direct attack against members of staff/ students”.

In a message to Nadia, seen by Trinity News, the EC said: “If this becomes a repeated offence, we will have no choice but to issue your campaign with further strikes, which may result in your campaign being classed as void and your votes won’t be counted.”

They concluded that while they “understand [her] frustrations (…) a campaign page is not the place to directly call out a sabbatical officer”.

According to section 4.7 (a) of schedule three (which governs elections) in the TCDSU constitution, “verbal, physical, online or other forms of attack or intimidation used against other candidates, members of the electoral commission or any student or staff member will be considered a serious offence by the electoral commission and will result in a candidate’s name being immediately struck off the ballot”.

Speaking to Trinity News Adam Balchin, Chair of the EC, said: “Concerns around the use of ents candidate Nadia’s name were brought to the attention of the EC by the TCDSU welfare & equality officer and every effort was made to address her concerns in a timely manner.”

“With specific reference to the Instagram post in question, the EC asked the candidate to remove a post from their Instagram story on the basis that it did not uphold the spirit of the campaign and schedule three, as it directly called out another student. The candidate was not told they would receive a strike for posting about the issue regarding their name,” Balchin continued.

Nadia added that she spoke to the Junior Dean Prof Philip Coleman about the issue, to which he promised to “try to contact [UT] about”. Seeing her distress over the ordeal, the junior dean referred Nadia to student counselling.

Bella Salerno

Bella Salerno is currently a Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Fresh Middle Eastern, Jewish and Islamic Civilisations and French student.