Candidates in the University Times (UT) Editor race fielded questions about transparency, accountability and inclusion from students at hustings this afternoon.
Mairead Maguire, the paper’s current Deputy Editor, and Ailbhe Noonan, Deputy Radius Editor, are contesting the race. The event was the only hustings of the by-election which follows the vote to reopen nominations in the March election for UT Editor.
Asked how she planned to dismantle alleged toxic structures within UT, Noonan noted that “it can be really scary” to make contact with figures high up in the paper. She intends to increase transparency and spotlight UT staff on social media, so that people are “less likely to see us as an institution”. Noonan also said that she intends to work with TCDSU part time officers, such as the ethnic minorities, disability, and LGBT+ officers.
Maguire was asked how she would ensure that UT writers receive training on how to write about sensitive topics. Maguire wants to ensure writers know “the right language to use”. She plans to “signpost welfare services” and ensure that UT’s “ has a positive effect”.
Both candidates were asked about the systems they would put in place to hold UT editors to account and allow for more scrutiny. Noonan spoke first saying she would combat this by “making ourselves much more present” and “more documents detailing who to contact when you have an issue”.
Noonan also highlighted plans to make UT’s “editorial ethics policy much clearer” and take a “much more active role” in this. “The editor should lead by example.”
Maguire noted the importance of “listening to students” and “more regular town halls”. Maguire spoke of her plans to create a “board of advisors” that would “hold [them] accountable”. Maguire also wants to hold “about one” town hall “per semester”.
The candidates were asked about UT’s annual “Trinity Twenty” article that spotlights key figures on campus, and whether it was appropriate for attacking students. Maguire said that the articles were “obviously satirical” and bring “a lighthearted element to UT”. She said it “gets a lot of engagement” but that she was not opposed to “getting rid of it”. Noonan responded by acknowledging the criticism “that sometimes the satire and the language can go too far”, and “perhaps we need to work on addressing our language”.
The candidates were asked about recent articles published by UT on their campaigns, and whether that revealed a problem with journalistic bias. UT staff have retweeted the article about Maguire’s campaign, but not that concerning Noonan, and the articles stressed Noonan’s apparent lack of experience.
Noonan responded first, saying: “When I read the two articles I was a little bit surprised”. She said she thought the articles took “a little bit of a different tone”, but she did not think it was “a deliberate institutional decision” or “bias”. She said that the “conception of a clique around UT” was something “we need to address”, and noted her plans to increase transparency and bring a human element to the paper.
Maguire agreed with Noonan, saying: “I wouldn’t say it’s deliberate”, and highlighted that the tone of the articles was the responsibility of the respective writers. She added: “We do need to be more open and…clear that people are welcome.”
Both candidates were then asked what steps they would take to ensure that transgender students feel included in the paper. They were specifically asked if they plan to stop printing with the Irish Times in light of the ongoing Trans Writers Union’s boycott of the paper.
Maguire spoke first saying that she will “hit the ground running on that” should she be elected. In her capacity as Deputy Editor she has “been able to start on that already”. Maguire also wants to “create a mentorship programme for LGBT students”.
Noonan said that she would make “every effort to cut ties with the Irish Times and go digital” should that not be possible”. “Everyone who wants it should have a voice available in UT.” Noonan also wants to work with “organisations like Belong To” saying “it’s very important that we understand how allyship works”.
Campaigning for UT editor began yesterday, April 4. Voting will take place from April 6 to April 7.
Additional reporting by David Wolfe and Ellen Kenny.
A disclaimer on these series on pieces can be found here.