With debate on the referendum to impeach UCD’s Student Union President Katie Ascough taking over the campus, a recurring thread among students is the question “how did this happen?”
Perhaps wondering how she was elected in the first place is not an effective use of our time. After all, she ran a colourfully well-funded campaign, made some propositions that were attractive in a generic way, and successfully hid her views from most. As most of the sabbatical officers have pointed out in statements, they got on quite well over the summer and had no issues with her until recently.
It is only natural that the truth would come to light in the midst of Ascough actually having to act as president and make good on her promises. Each aforementioned statement from the sabbatical officer provides a differing account to the one presented by Ascough, and with her falling back on her campaign promises, it is necessary to analyse them.
One promise was to improve mental health supports. Aside from the fact that seeing mental health as a goal that can be achieved by adding more Zumba classes is reductive and frankly insulting to sufferers of mental health issues, another issue springs to mind. Namely, what of the mental health of people in the LGBT+ community?
As Amy Crean said at the hustings, the union is meant to be fully inclusive, and that is “not just inclusive of ideologies, that’s inclusive tangibly of people.”
Respecting “differing viewpoints” is key to tolerance in our society. However, the rights of LGBT+ people and their status as human beings does not fall under the banner of “differing viewpoints,” as she suggested at the hustings which took place earlier this week. As Amy Crean said at the hustings, the union is meant to be fully inclusive, and that is “not just inclusive of ideologies, that’s inclusive tangibly of people.” Ascough “accepting” that she has “opinions that might not be the norm in UCD” is not enough. The student body, as a whole, does not accept that her ideology could affect her view of who among them counts in her definition of “everyone.”
Another promise was to promote consent and raise awareness of sexual assault. In a piece for Alive! magazine, Ascough wrote that girls on nights out “need to be extremely aware of the kind of attention” they are “drawing” to themselves, and that men need to respect women “even if those women might not be showing the utmost respect for themselves.” Seeing this, compounded with her piece on upholding chastity, how can we be sure that she would take a progressive, empathetic stance on the issue and not further perpetuate the culture of victim-blaming?
As for her other hard-hitting promises to get microwaves and a burrito bar, considering the latter resulted in Ascough being denounced by Boojum as “manipulative,” it is safe to assume that things are not going as planned. In terms of looking out for the actual students who are supposed to be represented by the Students’ Union, this is not particularly helpful.
Her ideology could affect her view of who among them counts in her definition of “everyone.”
Likewise, isolating herself in a defensive bubble and cursing everyone who goes against her is not a good sign for the Union. Like another flailing president, Ascough and her campaign have devoted a sizeable portion of their time to denouncing newspapers for reporting facts, or reporting at all. Instead she is telling people to ignore credible sources such as the University Observer and the Referendum Fact Checker and refer solely to her Facebook page for “facts.” This is not to mention her excessive use of the so-called “bullying line” and general victim-playing, evident in her two open letters thus far.
Ascough has put more time and effort into saving herself and reassuring people that she will uphold her promises than she has making tangible steps or interacting with the people she so desperately wants to represent. She is utterly incapable of recognising her own bias when it comes to a veritable range of issues, or acknowledging when she is in the wrong. Saying that both sides of this campaign are equally deceptive is the definition of centrism and also a working example of why it is no longer a viable political stance.
Katie Ascough perhaps reflects the current presidential trend in another way, in that she will tell the people what she thinks they need to hear to get where she wants to be, before crashing under the weight of their disappointment. She is not being punished for her views, but it becomes clearer with each passing day exactly how much they impede her ability to act as our president.