Candidates in this year’s Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) sabbatical officer elections had their first opportunity to appeal to voters this afternoon, at a hustings held on the steps of the Dining Hall, in line with tradition.
The event marked the start of campaigning for the elections, which will run until Tuesday February 28, with voting to run online from February 28 to March 2.
Zöe Cummins centred the improvement of the education experience as she launched her campaign for president at hustings today. Cummins currently serves as Education Officer for the union.
She wants to set up a “vetted grinds portal on the SU website” with “tutors and capped tuition for students who are struggling with their course. I see it day in, day out and we don’t quite have the structures to support these students.”
Cummins also said she would like to bring back training courses and employability courses, “the likes of bar and hospitality training, barista training, first aid training, again students need this but I don’t have the capacity right now with the casework I do to bring this into place.”
Cummins additionally promised to fight for placement students to receive fair wages for their work. “Placement students, literally life-saving work you’re doing, but you have to pay for your own scrubs, pay for your own taxi fare and buses into your early shifts. It’s not good enough. I will fight with the IMO [International Medical Organisation], fight with the likes of the USI to lobby the government to actually give you a fully livable fair wage for fair work.”
Cummins also expressed plans in her speech to reopen student spaces which were closed as a result of previous pandemic measures, such as the “Hamilton restaurant” and the Buttery Vault.
László Molnárfi began his speech with an announcement that he wanted to “share (his) vision” for the TCDSU. He emphasised his desire for the union to return to the grassroots, saying that the union should “amplify students’ voices from the bottom up rather than pacify them top down”.
Throughout the speech he criticised the union, claiming that it has become “co-opted, bureaucratic and moderate”. He said that “we’re all sick and tired of the union of doing nothing”. In particular, he highlighted the unions lack of action on students “being kicked out of the Buttery for just bringing (their) own food,” as well as rising fees and rent, and the waiting lists at the welfare services.
Molnárfi said that he wants to be a president that advocates for an “equitable education system across the board”. He also highlighted the need for TCDSU to “escalate its’ actions when our demands aren’t met”.
He also criticised the union for “measuring engagement in how many condoms and goodie bags are given out”. However, he stated his belief in the “rebirth of the student union”. Concluding, he said that the union should “refuse to let (students) be treated like cash cows.”
Tilly Schaaf highlighted why she is running for TCDSU President: “The SU is where you go to make change, so that’s what I’m doing.”
She outlined her experience saying she’s “made speeches and posters for manifestos” and she’s “definitely made some politicians uncomfortable”. She said her priorities are: “Transparency, the climate, and active student dialogue”. Schaaf emphasised that “when management hears [students] opinions”, “efficiency goes up, and spending goes down”.
She called out College for “exorbitant rents, websites and apps that just don’t work”. Schaaf explained the potential solutions to increase support: “Trinity can hire five more counsellors, Trinity can hire very competent IT professionals to improve student portals”.
Regarding Blackboard in particular, Schaaf called for the interface to be “user friendly”, and to show “what is due, what and when exams are”. She also pushed for improvements on the Trinity Live app: “We want logical timetables and a Trinity Live app that’s all in one.”
Schaaf concluded her speech with a call for a greater link between the student body and TCDSU: “If you’re angry and frustrated and annoyed by something, so should be the union… We want the SU to really know what it represents.”
Catherine Arnold, the sole candidate running for education officer, said that the education officer is “the memory and the foresight of the union” and that they are “willing and ready to prove to you all that I can accomplish both”.
The final year sociology and philosophy student noted that College is an “institution for the privileged” and that they want to address this “with real solutions”.
“What is a college really supposed to do? We’re supposed to teach people, qualify them but most importantly the college is the environment where students can find safety, community and the ability to be who they want to be.”
Arnold promised to be a “proactive” education officer if elected: “I want to look at the systems we currently have, whether they’re working or not and ask if there’s a better way. Are we serving our students? Is the college serving its students?”
Arnold also wants to “foster a relationship that is unshakable with the college, and create structures that will be working to improve the lives of students” long after their term in office.
Welfare and Equality
Sole Welfare and Equality Candidate Aoife Bennett started her speech by emphasising that “welfare and equality is the backbone of any union” believing she could “make a positive change in this role”.
Bennett’s address stressed the dual importance of the union as a “radical entity that fights for long term, systematic change” and acting as a “support on an individual level for each and every student,” stressing that these help to create a more “just and equal College”.
Outlining her priorities for her campaign, Bennett noted she is “keenly aware of the recurring issues students are facing,” including her push to “expand on the free period products initiative” while also committing to “fight for a change in national policy”. Concluding her speech, Bennett explained that she will “run consent workshops, diversity training and promote the student services available”.
Communications and Marketing
Beginning her speech, uncontested Communications and Marketing candidate Aiesha Wong said she wants to “amplify the use of social media” so that students “know what they’re supporting”.
Her speech emphasised her manifesto points of “restructuring the weekly email” to make it “slimmer” to cater to our “post covid attention span”. She’s pledging to do this by placing more emphasis on digital content for “the video based generation” which includes creating a TCDSU TikTok.
She also wants to organise “upskilling opportunities” including barista and graphic design classes. Finally, Wong wants to ensure that sponsorships are “student based and student focused”.
Running for Ents Officer for the second time, Nadia showed “[her] determination” in her dining hall hustings speech.
Nadia promised an “unforgettable year for all” in her speech, joking that she has been to “more Trinity events than lectures”, and highlighting her involvement in Dublin’s nightlife. As a “queer POC female”, Nadia also promised to celebrate minorities.
Additionally, she expressed the importance of student input as “something that I will be encouraging through Instagram”, and referenced Trinity Ball in her efforts to ensure that next year will bring a “possibly bigger and better venue”.
In her emphasis to make Ents “bigger and better for all”, Nadia expressed her frustration over “people running for sabbat positions who make empty promises as it’s what people want to hear”.
She ended her dining hall speech announcing her nighttime event “Manifiesta” set to take place this week in aid of the victims of the recent earthquakes in Syria and Turkey.
Junior Sophister politics and economics student Sam Kelly highlighted his experience as current Ents Officer of the College Historical Society (the Hist) and long-time Jigsaw youth volunteer.
He touched on three main points from his manifesto. With “Ents for Good”, safety is his key priority, in particular that students feel safe. He also proposed collaborating with the union to provide “free cup protectors at every event”.
The second point of his manifesto, ‘Ents for All’, Kelly explained, is about accessibility. Kelly elaborated that while he cannot make sure that all events are accessible to everyone, he can commit to ensuring there are accessible events for every student population.
Kelly’s third point “Ents for You”, focused on direct communication and support for events officers in all student sports clubs and societies, including a comprehensive Ents handbook which they can turn to for information on organising events. Kelly finished his speech by publicising his Bingo Loco event on Wednesday night.
Ents candidate Olivia Orr, giving the shortest speech of the Dining Hall Hustings, advocated for “safer, more accessible, and more enjoyable” events for students.
The third year PPES student has previously served as the JCR Ents Officer in her second year and is currently the TCDSU Ents Treasurer. Orr believes that she has “the ability and the institutional knowledge” to fulfil the role of Ents Officer.
Orr is looking to introduce a suggestion form to bring in ideas from students on what events they would like to see or would what they would like to see changed about ongoing events.
Unlike the other candidates, Orr is looking to keep next year’s Trinity Ball on campus instead of moving it to an alternative location, emphasising that it is something she has “already began fighting for”.
The University Times (UT)
Clara Roche, the sole candidate contesting the election of a new UT Editor, said that having served as the paper’s Deputy Editor, she has “the most experience and the strongest vision to make the paper the best it can be”.
“I want to use my experience to make UT a welcome place for the entire college community. During my three years with the University Times, I gained experience writing and sourcing content for each section, building and maintaining sources, and managing and collaborating with a staff of over seventy writers.”
Roche was one of four senior staff members sacked by the UT Editor in October after 32 members of staff called for the impeachment of the Editor.
Roche said that she would restore the roles of Ethnic Minorities correspondent, LGBTQ+ rights correspondent, and Irish language editor to ensure that UT’s reporting covers “the entirety of Trinity’s diverse population”.
She promised social events, workshops, and sign-up fairs to be held “all across campus”, adding that “there is a place in UT for everyone”.
Roche emphasised accountability as core to her plans for editorship: “If I am elected by the entire student body then I think I should be accountable to that same group of students.”
She outlined plans to create a Board of Advisors, to codify the paper’s editorial and ethics policy, and to host regular town halls and college-wide surveys “to make sure that students have a venue to raise their issues and ideas”.
The next hustings event is Council/ Equality Hustings, due to take place tomorrow (February 22) at 6pm before TCDSU Council.
Reporting by Shannon Connolly, Kate Henshaw, Ellen Kenny, Eva O’Beirne, Adam Balchin, David Wolfe, Ella Sloane, Aidan Cusack, Evan Skidmore O’Reilly, Sofia Ferrari-Bravo, Rose Heaney, Charlotte Kent, Faye Madden, Conor Healy, Miriam Treitinger, Holly Thompson, Ella McGill, Madison Pitman, Ruby Topalian, Libby Marchant, Jayna Rohslau, Emily Sheehan, Alan Nolan Wilson and Stephen Conneely.
This article was updated at 2:00am on February 21 to correct spelling errors.