End of Year Review: Shane Comer – Education

Shane Comer will be the final Education officer, with Dylan Gray and Adam Carroll splitting the position as Graduate and Undergraduate Education officers respectively, next year. Comer has seen this as indicative of the importance of the role, and praised the constitutional committee for allowing the Education brief to thrive.Comer’s work with the Library has emerged as his personal stand out achievement, particularly, he says because: “Finding out a week or two weeks before term starts that there would be no Sunday opening hours gave us very little time to mobilise on the issue.” Though an eventually successful campaign was run to reopen the library on Sundays, many students will not be able to forgive the delays in making this happen for the first semester.

The vast problems and incapable nature of the SUSI system has not only been the main talking point of the academic year, yet also may prove to define Comer as a sabbatical officer: “Obviously I couldn’t get money to the students quicker, what I did was work closely with the Welfare Officer on the outset to ensure that the Student Assistance Fund was set up and advertised sooner to those affected by SUSI, additional funding through the welfare fund was offered to students.”

In relation to his promise to lobby against the increase in fees, Comer was honest of his assessment of the Gilmore 250 campaign: “It did fail, fees did rise, we can’t argue on that point”. Comer believes the campaign was worthwhile, however: “I put a lot of work into it. Do I regret the amount of work I put in? No, I do think the time I spent on the Gilmore 250 campaign was well spent”.

Comer succeeded in running study skills seminars for mature students, along with organising clinic hours, which will continue for the duration of the term, especially centred around exam time.

A non-mentioned manifesto goal achieved by Comer includes building links with the Careers office and the continuation of a heightened sense of the need for internships for students by the SU: “Having worked very closely with the university a taskforce has been set up by the university, to look into the possibility of work placement into courses and they have also hired a director of internships, a new staff member that has been hired upon my recommendations”.

While this is an interesting development, and certainly relevant to students, it’s difficult to ignore the simple fact that of all the officers elected, Comer made the fewest promises, and many of them remained unfulfilled. Throughout the conversation, a recurring excuse emerged for many of these, where Comer claimed that he had brought an issue to the University to be told ‘No’ and it seems that is where his input ended.

The Postgraduate Lounge and Erasmus Fund promises suffered here, but two larger issues that this is applicable to include his promise to remove the €50 fine for forgetting your student card at exam time, about which he says: “It was in place for the Christmas exams and it will be in place for the summer exams. The possibility of having it reduced was a possibility as well. When it comes to things like this every avenue is explored, as I said to you the deterrent of the university, they are reluctant to see it moved.” The other issue, that of the 24 hour study area, is something which was close to being implemented, as Comer explains: “When the new student centre was opened the agreement that had been in place between the SU and the student centre management and University authorities wasn’t followed through on.” Though he is still sourcing alternative locations along with SU President Rachel Breslin, this is something he says his successor will have to take the mantle on.

Though it could be argued that Comer had invested much of his time in the library opening hours, it is also difficult for many students to ascertain where the rest of his time was spent, as no further actions or visible campaigns took place to put pressure on the University to offer a better deal to students. With so few concrete promises, this is a more valid concern now, than in other years where visibility has often been a noted issue.

Given that the one running theme throughout his manifesto was to appear more visible, even through social media, it’s disappointing to note that ultimately his uses of social media appeared sparse, and he himself lists communication this year as one of his biggest failings: “Communicating enough with students, and with media as well, just being able to communicate what’s going on is something I need to work on.”

Comer summated his own term in relation to his three priorities, saying: “Accessible? Most definitely. Active? Yes. Visible? Not as much as I should have been. Being visible and being accessible often counteract each other.”