Education: Brian Treacy - “An Education Officer who has done his homework”

Brian Treacy is a final year Social Science student, running unopposed for the position of Education Officer in the upcoming UCDSU elections. In past UCDSU elections, one-horse races have had the unfortunate side-effect of producing under-prepared candidates - individuals who don’t feel the same pressure to dot the I’s and cross the T’s of their campaign and manifests. Thankfully, Treacy shows no signs of succumbing to this affliction, but instead demonstrated a refreshing level of preparation during his interview.

Treacy is highly complimentary of Stephen Crosby and the rest of this year’s sabbatical team, saying he sees his role as “to continue the work of the current Students’ Union…but also bring new ideas.” He prides himself on remaining above all a student first, someone who can represent the values of those he represents. In terms of new ideas, Treacy’s manifesto is awash with plans – almost to the point of its own detriment. The proposed accommodation funds, recorded lectures, and detailed assignment calendars during registration come across as a rush of promises, one on top of the other, without a clear layout of how they’ll be implemented. There are so many varied and underdeveloped policies crammed into one small 2-page manifesto, that the sentiment unfortunately comes across as slightly naïve. Following the interview, though, it becomes clear that this interpretation, and perhaps the manifesto itself, does Treacy does a disservice – here is a candidate with vision, an education officer who’s done their homework.

Repeat and resit fees are the eternal Everest of Education Officers, the issue closest to UCD students’ hearts (and pockets). As those who have gone before him, Treacy states that he will advocate for a reduction in these fees, but, more unusually, introduces an alternative solution to the problem. “As well as reducing the resit and repeat fees, I would like to look into why students are failing.” Citing previous research by UCD registry and UCDSU, Treacy claims that students are “failing because of a lack of guidance...and the heavy workload”. While a UCD review will investigate this more fully over the next few years, Treacy states that he wants the solution to focus on preventative methods, placing focus on the significant fail rates in UCD. Treacy says he wants to help those “at the borderline of failing… to flourish” rather than “trying to alleviate the damage of the cost.” While this might be a more palatable approach for university policy-makers, UCD’s repeat and resit rates remain the highest in Ireland and a key issue for many UCD students.

Treacy has already met with the UCD Registry and discussed plans for “an online system that allowed students at the start of the year to see the assessments that they had” during the registration phase – in other words a condensed calendar of all assignments, presentations and class tests. He hopes that this will allow students to pick modules more appropriately and spread out their assignment dates as suits them. According to Treacy, UCD registry is keen to implement this scheme and is willing to implement it as soon as they can; he would simply serve as the student voice to help keep the structure accessible to student users. Combined with a series of SU-run seminars on how to answer different assessment formats, Treacy seems optimistic that he will be able to alleviate some of the pressure on students, and lower fail rates. In addition to his communications with the Registry, he references dialogue with UCD Careers concerning seminars with industry leaders.

Accommodation is not usually considered under the remit of the Education Officer, but Treacy says he views it through a ‘holistic’ lens, the current housing crisis is one of the key ‘barriers’ keeping students from entering or participating fully in UCD. He says that of the approximate €25,000 budget the Education Officer manages, he will be aiming to put the bulk, approximately €18-19,000 towards an accommodation support fund. However, in a campus of 32,000+ students, this amount might be considered a drop in the UCD lake. Treacy does not seem unaware of this, while the Education Officer has a limited budget to offer, he mentions goals of petitioning both UCD and the government for further supports.

Pending changes to the SU constitution mean that the role of Education Officer is shifting more towards campaign organisation, an area which Treacy seems keen to prioritise, referencing his intent to act on this both within his manifesto and several times during his interview. He supports a more “radical form of trying to get funding to solve the issue – along the lines of protests and marches, [but] also social media”. He has spoken to several lecturers with expertise in housing and states clearly that the housing crisis will likely be his dominant campaign issue, one on which he hopes to collaborate with the new C&E officer.

While some of his aims, such as the introduction of audio-recordings in all lectures – for which he proposed an optimistic ‘opt-in’ strategy for engaging lecturers – lack full structure; for the most part, Treacy’s campaign is one with a vision that is sorely lacked by many other candidates in other races and years. It is clear he has been thorough in his research and proactive in organising meetings with relevant campus actors. On more general topics of the SU, Treacy seemed measured and informed. His stance on the extension of the student levy is tentatively supportive, on the condition that students should be the ones to benefit from any developments, and UCD is held accountable for providing new facilities as promised – with no additional charges or constraints following construction.