Alumni Corner - Aoife Rooney

Deputy Editor during Volume XXVIII, Aoife Rooney recounts the thrilling saga of the RON Campaign during the 2022 UCDSU Executive Elections.

My involvement with student journalism in UCD is without a doubt the most worthwhile and memorable part of my time in Belfield. From writing my first piece a week before Covid restrictions were introduced, to getting the opportunity to work full time for a year as Deputy Editor, and everything in between, I cannot understate the value I leave on my time with The University Observer.

My most memorable moment during my time at The University Observer was the 2022 Students’ Union election results. The Union was having an engagement crisis, one I see has since been improved upon, but at that time, colleges were coming to the end of their first year back on campus since Covid, and could not get students to sufficiently engage with Union politics. 

Myself and the editor, Nathan, had, along with The College Tribune and candidates, gathered in a large room above the Atrium in the Student Centre to hear the election results. The Returning Officer read out the results, and we learned how every single candidate bar one had been out-voted by the option to Re-Open Nominations. 

I vividly remember there being rehearsals for the Juggling Society happening in the auditorium below us, and how the circus-like music travelled up to the then achingly tense room, scoring the announcement of results. It was a scene straight out of Succession - as much as student journalism can echo a show with such high stakes.  

One candidate after another, most of whom were in non-contested roles, lost out to the only other option, which was to open nominations and let students vote again. I blinked at the people around me, baffled at what had just happened, and tried to avert my gaze from the candidates who found themselves victims to the most ridiculous form of student mobilisation I had ever seen. 

This ‘mobilisation’ had been spurred on by the fact that an anonymous Instagram account had been able to convince students to vote this way. It was at its core, bandwagon jumping and not at all for any legitimate reasons. I remember sitting back in my chair, dumbfounded by the results, but also annoyed - not only by the amount of work that the candidates had put into their campaigns, but the work our team had put into an election special that I was then questioning the readership levels of. 

It can feel demoralising and futile to be so passionate about a cause that many people you’re trying to appeal to don’t have any interest in engaging with. Especially when you’re operating within such an all-consuming echo chamber that co-running a newspaper inevitably becomes. I think that might just be a symptom of early-career eagerness. 

Suddenly, what you are doing feels very important, and the thought that not everyone would be able to understand and appreciate that fact is inconceivable. While it is obviously important not to take yourself too seriously and have your feet firmly on the ground, hindsight has granted me the pleasure of looking back the very short time with immense fondness over the passion that my colleagues shared for the paper. It’s a privilege to get to work with people as excited about the work as you are, and isn’t a trait that should be dismissed as ‘greenness’ or inexperience. If anything, it is a testament to the common ground we all shared. Despite the many sleepless lights, funding woes, deadline pressure and all the stresses that come with a bunch of twentysomethings running a newspaper, I already know it will continue to regard it as one of the most rewarding and fun years of my career. 

It can be really intimidating to seek out these kinds of opportunities, but I cannot understate any more how much I owe to this newspaper. Whatever space it is you’re wanting to carve out for yourself in the world, let this by another nudge in that effort. Send that email, put your name down on that sign-up sheet, introduce yourself to all the intimidating people you can get your hands on, and take the same advice you would heartily dish out to friends.