UT Race: Clara Roche believes she has “the passion and the vision” to run the University Times

In an interview with Trinity News, Roche spoke her plan to improve accountability and accessibility, create a board of advisors and foster a “collaborative work environment”  

Clara Roche is a fourth year history and politics student and has been involved in the University Times (UT) since her very first days on-campus. As a first year Roche was a contributing writer, then in her second she became the deputy societes editor, and in her final years she has served as the deputy editor and a member of the editorial board. Outside of UT, Roche is an active writer for Evergreen Magazine, Trinity’s climate change publication, and an editorial board member of the Trinity Journal of Histories

Roche was removed from the UT staff in October following attempts by her and other staff members to remove the Editor but she still feels that she has something to offer to UT by running for Editor-in-Chief. Speaking to Trinity News, Roche believes that her long history of journalistic involvement has made her the perfect candidate for the job: “I think I have the most sort of behind the scenes insight into how the paper runs and I also think I have the passion and the vision to run it the best out of anyone.” 

A large part of this experience comes from the fact that this year, Roche was heavily involved in the removal of UT’s relationship with the Irish Times following a series of transphobic articles that had been published by the national newspaper over the course of years. 

When asked about the primary goals of her campaign, Roche said: “Improving accountability and accessibility and building a stronger sense of community.” Given the historically controversial nature of the UT Editor in Chief position, Roche is looking to use her term to build up the UT staff once again and create an environment where people feel comfortable regardless of “interests”, “socioeconomic status”, or “what other responsibilities you’re juggling.” Roche added: “I want people to know that there’s something for them in UT in whatever capacity they feel most comfortable expressing themselves.” 

When asked how she would manage her staff and run UT differently to ensure that issues on the staff are dealt with properly, Roche emphasised the importance of accountability. As such, a large part of Roche’s focus is more properly defining UT’s editorial and ethics policy through a formal constitution and an impeachment amendment and improving communication between the larger college community and UT.

“I think one of the most important things is improving accountability, both within UT and sort of campus-wide. And I think within UT one thing we could do is sort of formalise a constitution that’s approved by everybody on staff […] that would formalise the editorial and ethics policy to make sure that everybody has to obey it, especially the people at the senior level, and to sort of put measures in place that if the staff have a problem with how things are being managed, on the senior level, they have something that they can turn to and say, ‘Well, you know, you’re not obeying this constitution.’”

In order to ensure that the creation of the constitution is a process that involves the whole staff, Roche explained that it would be written collaboratively. “Maybe in the first few weeks of next year, when we’re having all our orientation events and things like that, it would be something that staff members could work on together.” 

Within this constitution, Roche plans on integrating an impeachment amendment. “I will use my platform to call for a referendum to make the UT editor impeachable, because 

I think that if the UT editor can be voted in by the entire student population that it’s only right that they should have some say on how they’re performing and whether they’re happy with the running of the paper.”

Speaking about whether similar impeachment procedures would be applied to the entire senior staff of UT, Roche said: “I think so. Except obviously, if they weren’t actually the editor, their removal would be easier and obviously, removal wouldn’t be the only possible outcome if people express their discontent, like, there would be mediation sessions.”

Roche also agreed that a potential “tiered offence system” could be a good approach to managing complaints. This would mean that each time a complaint was filed against a member of the staff, it would be logged and an increasingly severe repercussion would follow. If a staff member then reached a certain level on the tiered system, they would be removed. “I think a tiered offence system could be good, because obviously if several issues are raised over the course of the year, then that kind of indicates that people aren’t taking steps to improve upon whatever issue has been raised.” 

As far as to what would constitute a “sackable offence”, Roche said that “any major welfare breaches for example, breaching source confidentiality, and an unwillingness to learn from that mistake or admit to that mistake”, as well as “an internal welfare complaint […] if one staff member was making another staff member uncomfortable in whatever way I think that would definitely mean that I’d have to reconsider their place in the paper”.

In conjunction with the goals of the constitution and the impeachment provision, Roche believes that better communication between the larger student body and the UT staff would improve accountability as well: “I think we could also set in stone things like regular town halls, like we could agree that we’re going to schedule a town hall every so often and make sure students’ voices outside of UT are being heard on a regular basis, and not just when a crisis unfolds.” 

Similarly to past candidates for the UT Editor position, Roche aims to create a Board of Advisors composed of “a previous editor of Trinity news, a previous editor of UT, someone from the college with a legal background ,and someone on the college’s communications team”.  

Not only would this board assist in the creation of the UT Constitution, but Roche believes that this would be another step towards improving accountability and providing all students, involved on the UT staff or not, a means to express their concerns: “If there was an internal dispute within UT or a problem that somebody outside of UT had with it, they could call on the board of advisors.” 

Another tenet of Roche’s campaign is creating a “collaborative working environment” in which students work together on pieces: “For example, one person might do the research and another person might do the writing […] as opposed to just being assigned an article and being sent off to do it and given a deadline.” 

Roche is also an advocate for more “cross-section collaboration”: “For example, I think it’d be really great if the Irish language editor worked in conjunction with some of the cultural positions like the Theater editor, or the literature editor to cover Irish language events, and Irish language media and that kind of thing. Similarly, I think if there was a news story on, for example, the closure of a theatre, that could be worked on with a news editor and the theatre editor, so just people from all the sections working together and finding common ground.” 

As a member of the Trinity Ability Co_op, Roche also believes that improving UT’s accessibility through closed captioning on social media posts, audio reads of long-form articles, and addressing the lack of wheelchair accessibility in House Six, among other measures, is essential. 

When asked whether these changes could practically be made within a year, Roche said: “I think some of the things can be enacted immediately I think, if you’re making a social media post, for example, it would only take five extra minutes to make it accessible […] I think other things could be done on an as-requested basis. For example, House six isn’t wheelchair accessible. So if there was somebody who couldn’t access the office, I would get in contact with the [Central Societies’ Committee (CSC)] and see if there was another free space on campus that we could use to hold that meeting.” 

After her work in ending relations with the Irish Times this year, the importance of accessibility became very apparent to Roche: “I think it made me realise that if students don’t feel represented in the paper or comfortable or safe with our associations, then it doesn’t really matter how good our coverages are or what we’re putting out because at the end of the day, UT should be accessible to the whole college community. And if whether intentionally or unintentionally, we’re alienating a large portion of the college community due to our associations then we should go to every length to change that and to make it as accessible as possible.”

On this note of ensuring that UT represents the whole Trinity community in its coverage, Roche also plans on “reinstating” the positions of Ethnic Minorities correspondent and LGBTQ+ correspondent. As it stands, UT no longer has such positions on the staff as a result of general staff shortages. 

Since Roche has devoted much of her time outside of UT to Evergreen Magazine, she also emphasised the importance of taking efforts to reduce UT’s environmental impact while maintaining the quality of the publication.

Looking back at the work of past editors, she was very complimentary of the decision made a few years ago to reduce UT’s print editions from nine to six per year: “I think six editions is a good sort of happy medium, both in terms of cost and sustainability, while making sure that students get that experience of real world journalism. And I also think it’s really important for there to be a physical representation of UT on campus so it feels like an active part of the college community rather than something separate that’s entirely online.” 

Roche is also a proponent of a number of other sustainable changes such as building a “stronger online presence”, improving UT’s “focus on climate issues”, and appointing “a climate correspondent who is in charge of researching and avoiding issues related to the climate and the college’s emissions”.

Finally, in order to ensure that UT can consistently achieve the goals that Roche has planned for her term, one of her top priorities is expanding the staff again following this year’s reduction in the size of the team as a result of disagreement in how the publication was being run. 

Speaking about how exactly she would go about doing this, Roche said: “I think a way that we could do that would be to make the internal workings of UT more transparent. I think, having more workshops, and sign-up fairs and just having more events taking place outside of the UT office and actually on the campus, so anybody is free to get involved. And even if they’re not committing to joining, just somewhere that they can come and actually see what we’re all about and what we do on a day-to-day basis would make people more inclined to sign up.” 

Roche also advocated for the idea of collaborating with other societies in order to expand UT’s staff: “I think, also reaching out to other societies where the interests sort of intersect, so reaching out to Cumman Gaelach, for example, and letting them know that we’re open to Irish language contributors […] I think in UT, there’s a place for everybody’s interests to be represented. And there’s so much intersection between what we write about at UT and just what students are involved in in the college as a whole. So just letting them know that there’s another place for them to take their interests and express their ideas.” 

Though most of these plans will take place during the school term, Roche added that she would start the process long before September: “I’m going to try to hire as many people as possible over the summer. And also, ideally, if enough people are in the country, have some kind of orientation and bonding events to make sure that everybody knows each other, knows what they’re getting into, by the time the semester starts.” 

To ensure that her staff are happy and are not overwhelmed by any mental burdens that may come from being a student journalist, Roche also plans on providing sensitivity and welfare training: “ A lot of our previous journalists are obviously now working in professional media and a lot of them have been very helpful and reached out over the past year so I’m confident that I could reach out to some of them and they would hopefully agree to come in and do a workshop on what they’ve learned about sensitivity and welfare in a professional environment.” 

In addition, Roche aims to appoint a welfare officer: “I think we could possibly appoint a welfare officer who is a student, and if they familiarise themselves with ethics policies, and journalism, and things like that, and they could just be somebody that the rest of the staff could call upon to make sure that they’re handling topics with the sensitivity they deserve.” 

When asked about the first steps that she would take upon entering the position, Roche said that her first priority would be trying to “get our staff back up to a functioning number.” Then she would focus her time on appointing a board of advisors: “I think appointing a board of advisors would be the best first step, because I think that would also allow us to get oversight on a constitution and it would probably help with staff retention, if people thought that there was some sort of external force holding us to account.” 

“I’m really looking forward to building UT back up again, because this year as deputy editor, it was really inspiring to see how creative people were, how many ideas they had, and how proactive they were. So I’m really excited to feel that sense of inspiration again, and that sense of community again.” 

Ruby Topalian

Ruby Topalian is a Senior Freshman, Dual BA student of Middle Eastern and European Languages and Cultures. She is the current Features Editor of Trinity News, having previously worked as Deputy Societies Editor.