Next to the desk of the outgoing President of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), hangs a copy of her manifesto dotted with a column of check marks. “I keep my manifesto up here, and I’ve been ticking things off throughout the year,” she tells me. “I do feel like I’ve met what I set out to do, and I haven’t wavered from that initial kind of urgency I felt towards delivering on a different view of the union that had themes of anti-racism, liberation, and justice at its very, very core.” However when asked of her highlights Fullam is hesitant to single out any one issue in particular: “What I think is most important about this role is actually facilitating other people to step into leadership positions.” While making reference to some of the “big” achievements of her term, Fullam adds that one of the things she is most proud of is the “internal work done to allow part time officers to step into leadership capacity to carry out and bring other people’s vision to fruition”.
“What I think is most important about this role is actually facilitating other people to step into leadership positions”.
One of Fullams earliest victories was the changing of College’s graduation system so that Graduates would be called up in alphabetical order rather than by degree classification: “I think it’s huge for students just to be able to relish in what is a really special day without worrying about whether other people know your grade, and to be able to have that level of personal privacy and just comfort and what should just be a good and happy day.” The change was of personal significance to Fullam who was among the first crop of students to graduate under the new system, which also saw the introduction of the Irish Language into the ceremony for the first time. Another enjoyable campaign for Fullam was the reopening of the Students’ Union Cafe in Goldsmith Hall. She points to the importance of the move, which provides students with cheaper meal options and job opportunities, during a time when students are faced with a cost of living crisis.
One of the most notable achievements of Fullam’s was the denaming of the Berkeley, which is now referred to as the X library in all TCDSU communications. College followed suit in April, deciding to rename the library after a report by the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group and a public consultation. A new name has not yet been chosen for the library. Having previously served as ethnic minorities officer, she was involved in the campaign “right from the start of her time in the union”. Fullam nonetheless believes that this is just one step in the long process of decolonisation: “Obviously, anti racism doesn’t begin or end with denaming the library, but I think it’s a pretty big symbolic step. And I think it’s really good that the level of scrutiny and intellectual debate was all there”. She also stresses the importance of there being “some level in which it is the students themselves that own and decide what is honoured” by College. “Think about if it hadn’t happened,” she adds, “if you had all the facts on your side, all the logic on your side, loads of precedent globally. Lots of students involved, consistent mandates [to rename]. Imagine if it then didn’t [happen], like that would be so demoralising”.
“Obviously, anti racism doesn’t begin or end with denaming the library, but I think it’s a pretty big symbolic step. And I think it’s really good that the level of scrutiny and intellectual debate was all there”.
While Fullam is ultimately happy with the move from College, she does feel that it took too long to happen: “It felt like a lot of pushing, but it did in fact, happen. It’s frustrating at times, but I’m just, I’m just happy that they met us halfway on this. But I also don’t think that this would have happened if the student union and grass root students hadn’t realised it.”
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) organised nationwide walkout was also a big story last year. On the topic, Fullam stresses the need for the USI to become more proactive on students rights and focus particularly on targeted escalation, saying “It’s great to have a big walkout. But then what do we do? And how do we move forward on these issues?” She does express some optimism that her fellow TCDSU alum and incoming USI Vice-President of campaigns, Zaid Albarghouthi will help to push forward and deliver in this arena. She also finds the positives in the large number at which students turned out, which she says she was “shocked” by. “I hope that those students will continue to have faith in the fact that together, we can do something”, she concludes.
Fullam’s year, however, wasn’t without its difficulties. Reflecting on the year’s challenges, she opened up about her experience dealing with “demoralising” racial harassment online during the role: “I suppose I didn’t foresee that to the extent it happened. And also, like, it was kind of hard because I hadn’t been prepared for it”. These incidents unfortunately were not Fullam’s first encounter with such abuse having had her posters vandalised in the early days of her campaign last year. “You don’t want to make more noise about it, to give people attention for that, but obviously, it did leave me feeling unsafe at a lot of points”, she says. Fullam also expressed her belief that the union was “unequipped” to protect her in the situation, while acknowledging that the anonymous nature of the abuse makes it “hard to take action in a proactive way”. On how the Union could better support a future President of colour, Fullam adds: “I think we definitely do need to be more open about that as a reality of the Union”. She feels that the “intuitions of Trinity itself” should also take such cases “really seriously” in future.
On a number of occasions TCDSU council failed to reach quorum, meaning council could not proceed with voting on any motion. On how engagement could be increased within the union, Fullam expresses hope that “the proof [will be] in the pudding” and that when students see the work being done by the union they will “want to show up and be part of that”. She understands however that council is a “large time commitment” while acknowledging that she herself wasn’t one to regularly show up to council during her time as a class representative in her early years at college. She nonetheless stresses her belief in the importance of having a quorum at council: “We have a high quorum, and we set a high standard for ourselves. And I think it’s really important that we persist in that and that idea”. While she notes that it can be “difficult when you don’t reach quorum and get a motion, you really want to come forward voted on”, she feels that it is critical that “internal checks and balances” are adhered to.
“We have a high quorum, and we set a high standard for ourselves. And I think it’s really important that we persist in that and that idea”.
Everything being said, Fullam does not have any regrets about her year. She finds it easy to look back and say things like: “I would have been in the arts block more walking around talking to people before Council happened to get people involved and engaged”. However she would also have to consider if she would have then progressed all her projects to the extent she did. “If I could do it, again, with all the knowledge I have now, it would be done differently, and probably better. But I came in, because I thought I had something ready to give. And I feel like I’ve given it. I think that’s kind of what the job is about.”