By improving events hosted by the Students’ Union, Ryan Oakes hopes to increase student engagement with the union, and to improve its reputation amongst the student body.
Ryan Oakes is one of six candidates in the unusually crowded race for UCDSU President. Following a turbulent year, Oakes, a 21 year old, final year Law with Social Justice student, wants to “make students proud of their SU” by focusing on engagement, Ents and events, food, and the ‘little big things’ that he believes will improve campus life.
After four years of SU engagement, Oakes says that he has seen “highs and lows” and that this year was “one of the lowest lows I’ve witnessed.”
“I think it’s a situation not like anything I’ve ever heard of… you hear all these different stories from throughout the years and there’s never been anything like this and it’s a very difficult transition, and the current president is doing a lot of work to balance new duties and old duties from the vacant C&C office.”
Oakes believes that his understanding of and experience with the SU will help him in rebuilding the damage wrought on UCDSU’s reputation in the last year.
Speaking of “the former glory of Ents,” Oakes states that the office is currently “in a transition period” after the departure of Paul Kilgallon, the Union Events & Marketing Manager who had over a decade of SU and Ents experience.
“I think that the President has to take an active interest in Ents and has to encourage the whole team to take an interest in Ents, because in my experience, when that happens is when the best events have occured.”
“I think that the President has to take an active interest in Ents.
This transition period, he believes, has also affected the running of this year’s RAG (Raise And Give) Week. Stating that it would have been a “huge loss for the Union for it not to occur” as a result of Kilgallon’s departure. Oakes points out that, three years after the return of RAG Week, there are “no traditions, [there are] no kind of consistent events that people can point to.”
“Anyone who’s familiar with RAG Week in NUIG knows about Donegal Tuesdays and I think that RAG Week is certainly something that could be improved by a long-term vision.”
Oakes argues that Ents is a particularly important aspect of student life, stating that “you have to accept that some students are fortunately never going to have to avail of things like the Welfare Officer… for some students, their engagement with the SU will be Ents.”
Speaking about the rising cost of off-campus accommodation, Oakes states that the “lip service line would be to say that, ‘Oh, we will lobby the government.’ I think that’s the bare minimum that the SU should be expected to do.” He states that there are “discussions that UCD mightn’t necessarily be privy to because of not being in membership [sic] of USI.”
When asked about his opinion on the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Oakes states that it “can seem like an attractive idea” but that “there’s often a lot of negativity around it.” Rejoining, he says, depends on whether USI is willing to facilitate any demands that UCDSU make. He draws parallels between the campaigns that USI and UCDSU have run separately, which have both had “success on national level.” Ultimately, the particular “iteration of USI” will have a bearing on whether UCDSU rejoins.
Oakes has identified a lack of knowledge surrounding what students are actually interested in as an obstacle to student engagement. To make students proud of their Union, he says, the SU must “[identify] what students are interested in.”
“[In] reality, there’s not enough data on what the students are interested in…I think the SU needs to do more work rather than reaching halfway across the gap and wondering why students aren’t taking their hands.”
Oakes questions how effective ‘long text posts’ are at communicating to the UCD body, and wants the SU to move towards producing more, high quality media content. “Untapped potential” in UCD should be brought in, Oakes says, to produce media content around the day-to-day running of the Union as well as to introduce the Officers.
He also believes that information on the Union, and on student life generally is not readily available. “A big part of my manifesto is making people aware of the services the SU provide, what it can and should be doing.”
“[For] students who aren’t even on campus as well as people on Blackrock campus, people on placement, people on erasmus who are returning, all the information on SU services should be [on the website]… I think they should be able to find out more easily than they currently can.”
Oakes supports, in principle, the campaign to remove Aramark from UCD campus. While commending the group on their initial organisation and near-ubiquity on social media, he also states that, with regard to the situation of Aramark staff members, he is “cognisant of where both sides are coming from” and hopes that he would be able to “act as a happy medium between both parties.”
Without stepping on anybody’s toes, Oakes seems to focus on expanding the role of Ents, creating a long-term vision for the SU and managing expectations when it comes to movement on the ‘Big Stuff.’