What about the students?
The University Observer had begun chatting to Úna Carroll, the former UCDSU Welfare Officer, weeks ago. Over the course of several phone calls and messages we had discussed her relationship with the role and difficulties she had encountered. Two of the biggest and most challenging issues that the UCD Welfare Officer comes into contact with are those surrounding Direct Provision, and those associated with sexual harassment and violence. At the time of our conversation, we could not have predicted the deluge of information which has since come to light on the pervasive nature of sexual harassment and assualt in UCD.
Since The University Observer has printed its last issue, the world has been left to grapple with a dystopian reality. Sometimes I find it difficult to wrap my head around what the world is living through. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted entire economies, societies, and environments. In our own UCD-centric world, students, academics, and staff were forced to isolate, travel home, and study from wherever they were holed-up - hiding from the virus. It was an anxious time, with the stress of GPAs and degrees adding an additional burden. The variance of support from course to course shows that the level of engagement with students came from individual schools, not UCD.
Blame can never be placed on the victim or the circumstance. It lies with the perpetrator alone. While University College Dublin is not to blame for horrific assaults committed or the Covid-19 pandemic, the support and response shown by the university to students’ suffering is nothing but shameful. These two situations are incredibly different, but both are examples of students and staff being abandoned in the aftermath of a traumatic event. I think what jolted the university population to attention was the realisation that it wasn’t only students suffering, but high-profile professors also. The idea that no-matter your station or situation the university will make no effort to protect you is frightening and disheartening.
The first editorial of The University Observer, September 2019 read “There are kind people working in UCD. Behind the scenes there is a network of people [...] doing their best to help students who come to them with problems. It would be nice, for once, to see money spent to help them”. A whole year, pandemic and editorial team later, The University Observer’s sentiments have not changed.
Where is the university when students need it? Why, instead of tangible support, are students faced with jargon and policies? It is hard to know where to begin when trying to solve systemic failures in empathy. Caithfimid, muintir na hOllscoile, tacaíocht nach bhfuil ar fáil ón gcoláiste a thabhairt dá chéile. Tá sé de dualgais againn a bheith cineálta.