Photo: James Healy

Conor Viscardi is a second year history and geography student, but his research into implementing his campaign promises falls short of the mark

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Conor Viscardi is running uncontested for the position of Students’ Union President, and plans to build on his experience as Arts and Human Sciences College Officer over the last year. Viscardi, who is a second year History and Geography student, aims to make campus a friendlier and more inviting place while also aiming to gain attention from the government on issues such as fees and accommodation.

As SU President, Viscardi would be responsible for overseeing the workings of the Union, as well as managing the other officers and providing leadership to the officers. On the education side of the Union, he has a number of goals.

He is aiming to increase learning materials for students, explaining that there is a shortage of books for some courses. “You’d take a two pronged approach in dealing with the library, in one instance for general reference books, and then you’d also talk to the schools themselves as well for specialised things as well,” he says. Despite the fact that he refers to learning materials, he explains that he is “talking about the books purely”.

He also aims to promote entrepreneurship in UCD, believing that all faculties should be encouraged to take on entrepreneurial projects. “When you look at entrepreneurialism, it’s mainly marketed at commerce students,” he explains. “But I think other students from different disciplines as well could excel in entrepreneurialism and use their academic disciplines to enhance their entrepreneurial projects.”

He does, however, concede to not knowing what the Innovation Academy does in UCD when asked if this work was already being carried out. “I’m not fully aware that they do so already, but that is something to be promoted and looked into, and if it doesn’t exist already, that is something that we’d do ourselves. But I think a separate Union initiative wouldn’t be a negative thing as well, to kind of connect students and have more kind of widespread engagement in such a thing.”

In his goal for fostering a community atmosphere in UCD, he states in his manifesto that he wants to start an OpenUCD campaign. “We go to a very diverse college where there’s a huge student body from varying international and cultural backgrounds,” he says. “One of the things that I’d like to promote is that diversity, through different events, even like when you look at the different events, what you want to do is that you want to come up with innovative ways to showcase diversity but also showing that there’s interconnectivity there as well.” He cites his work as College Officer as an example of the kind of work he’s done.

In his manifesto, Viscardi also says he wants to bring buskers onto campus. He says that he hasn’t been in touch with campus services yet on this idea to find out if buskers would be allowed. When asked if he thinks students want buskers on campus, he says “I think they do as well. When you look, as well, that a lot of people, they’re members of Music Soc, they’re members of TradSoc, I think that using them as a platform to promote such a campaign, while being independent as well, is at the same time run by the SU is very important as well. I think in terms of creating a kind of engaging environment as well, music is a very good way to do it.” He says he would like to see it becoming “almost like a Grafton Street model”.

On the accommodation crisis, Viscardi says “it’s about continuity”. He plans to lobby the government, however he currently has no other plans for dealing with the crisis. “If I was to be elected, you’d instantly talk to the people like the President and the C&C officer, whoever’s involved in the campaign, and see what they did, and see what you might do differently as well. I think one thing to definitely look into as well, is definitely considering contacting commercial outletters and things like that as well.” He also says: “I think that one thing that the government could have encouraged as well, is that they could have thought about giving tax incentives to households in South Dublin if they rent out their accommodation to the students, maybe some sort of a model like that, that’s something you could recommend to them.”

If elected, Viscardi will be elected to a managerial position that will see all Union staff ultimately answerable to him, as is outlined in the SU constitution. Viscardi says he has never been in a managerial position before, but says: “I think that’s just the nature of the position… if you are elected to be the UCDSU President, that’s just the way it is, and you are in power to have that decision making capacity.”

On the area of Ents, he wants to diversify the lineup “a bit further”. He feels that UCD Ball, which will not be going ahead this year, is a complex issue that won’t be his main priority. “I’m not saying that I won’t be campaigning for a UCD Ball. It isn’t on top of the agenda, but it something that I will consider. But I do think that we have to think about what a UCD Ball is and what we’re trying to achieve with it.”

Analysis: Practically President 

Conor Viscardi’s campaign to be SU President is hindered greatly by what appears to be a lack of thought put into his ideas, or indeed, the meaning of the role of President. His manifesto outlines several very vague ideas, and these ideas are also not well articulated in interview.

When pressed on his ideas for bringing buskers onto campus, his OpenUCD initiative, amongst others, he displays a lack of knowledge and understanding of how UCD works, and how the Union works. The ideas are whimsical and are focused on having a fun atmosphere for students, but fail to take into account that ultimately, he will be leading a limited company that has a turnover of over €1 million a year.

As Viscardi is running uncontested, he is highly likely to be elected, unless there is a strong re-open nominations (RON) vote on the day. If he is elected, he will have to dedicate great thought to his manifesto and all the ideas he has outlined. Currently, his goals lack substance, and will take a great deal more work to make them viable.