Over the last few years, there has been an observable change in the type of person students have voted into the office of SU President. The shift in their priorities has seen two incumbent Welfare Officers get elected to the position of president in the Students’ Union for the last two years
The last year that no sabbatical officers carried on their roles within the SU was between the 2007/08 academic year and 2008/09 term. Interestingly enough, the latter year is commonly observed as a tipping point for the SU, from which a lot of the financial issues (that came to light in 2011 and 2012) and racking up of debt can be traced back to
When students do eventually rack their brains for a reason to vote for candidate A or not vote for candidate B, it usually comes down who they feel has the best ideas for the SU. In previous years, that method for picking a candidate has led to many people undeserving of election a role within the UCDSU sabbatical team.
The presidential race, and most other races, shouldn’t be about the ideas any given candidate running for the position can bring to the table. It should solely focus on the candidate as a person. All students’ eyes and attention should be focused on drawing into question Feargal Hynes’ character, and not the campaigns he feels the SU will/might get involved with should he be elected.
His ideas shouldn’t even really factor in. Any candidate could promise that they want to reduce the resit fee, campaign for marriage equality, and demand the provision of better mental health facilities, but until they are actually mandated to do exactly what the students want by a policy referendum, they really don’t have to follow through on their promises.
This is a Students’ Union, and you as students should be bringing ideas to the SU President and not letting them or their sabbatical team decide by themselves what issues affect students and need to be addressed. It isn’t rocket science to know that they can’t know exactly everything that affects every student.
As mentioned, when voting, you shouldn’t be giving Hynes a first preference for his ideas. Your preference should be based on breaking down what his experience and credentials are, and based on his character.
First and foremost, you want a president that will listen to students’ issues and cater for them first, and not simply come into work on a daily basis looking to cross another unrealistic promise off their manifesto.
So, solely assessing his character, it is evident that Hynes is somewhat charismatic. He can speak at length about issues that affect students, but then again, you wouldn’t expect any less from someone running for office.
Another positive aspect of his character is that he is mindful and compassionate to a certain extent. He will admit that he is not well-versed in the intricacies of mental health; proven by the fact that he intends to “tackle mental health”, which is akin to saying you’ll remove someone’s lungs so they can’t be affected by second-hand smoke.
Similarly, using the term “sufferers” when relating to people who have issues with their mental health is a poor choice of words and something that he has openly apologised for, citing again a lack of knowledge about this issue that affects students greatly.
Nevertheless, despite these issues not affecting him personally, he had the compassion to notice that they are worthy enough to include in his manifesto. Equally in this regard, he makes marriage equality a priority of his.
Then again, citing these issues and making promises to boost the quality of mental health facilities on campus and get people to register to vote for the referendum on marriage equality could be construed as populist issues to support with empty promises because he knows it will drum up interest in his campaign and more importantly, votes.
If this is a tactic to get elected, it is clever tactic, but not a sly one on his part. Hynes appears very genuine when he says that he wants to address these issues. UCDSU will probably march alongside supporters of marriage equality and Hynes will advocate for better mental health facilities on campus, but it is the naivety to feel that it is as simple as making a demand and even loosely saying he will demand such is also shows short-sightedness.
Who will he be demanding these mental health facilities from? Who will he demand a more transparent Union from? Who will he demand a lower resit fee from? How could he possibly convince the Gardaí to ignore all the health and safety issues with having a UCD Ball on campus? These demands are very empty in their delivery and specifically relating to the demand about lowering resit fees; this is something that every candidate feels they can change. What makes him different?
Those are the sorts of questions voters need to ask. What does actually make him different? How approachable is he? Can you trust him to follow his mandate? This is not saying he is unapproachable or will betray his role, but merely pointing out that students need to exercise more critical thinking and not just vote for the notion of a UCD Ball back on campus. Always vote for a person’s character first, and then if you can trust them, you can have more faith in their promises.
Looking at his character is so important because it feeds into what kind of president Hynes might be. Based on his manifesto, it looks like he will be an Ents-focused one; he openly admits that “Getting the ball back on campus is #1 for me.” This type of president is a stark contrast to the somewhat welfare-focused presidents that Rachel Breslin and Mícheál Gallagher ended up being.
Over the last few years, there has been an observable change in the type of person students have voted into the office of SU President. The shift in their priorities has seen two incumbent Welfare Officers get elected to the position of president in the Students’ Union for the last two years. Regardless of the fact that Breslin and Gallagher were virtually unopposed, students chose to elect them to the role of SU President.
The aforementioned two were Welfare Officers during a time period when finances were a serious issue affecting not just students, but it was also an issue that the SU had to deal with themselves.
De Brún, Breslin, and Gallagher to a certain degree, have been forced to put in place strict fiscal measures to cope with the crippling debt the SU was in due to reckless financial behaviour by previous presidents.
Meanwhile, it was also crucial that the SU began to make a concerted effort to ensure that the organisation doesn’t fall into such a economic mess again by releasing audited accounts and hiring a General Manager to oversee operations and maintain some continuity between the high turnover of sabbatical officers.
Objectively, Breslin and Gallagher have come in and wiped the slate clean, putting the SU back on course and also campaigned successfully increase counselling service hours. So, is the SU ready for another ents-type president?
That doesn’t mean you should vote for RON. It means you should make Hynes convince you that he is capable of financially keeping the SU in check while also taking huge risks to bring the UCD Ball back on campus.
Aside from focusing on his character, it is important to assess the continuity that a candidate brings. Hynes admits that he has taken a step back from SU life this year to focus on his studies; and it is a just reason.
It must be kept in mind though, that this year there will be no sabbatical officers continuing their current role or seeking election in a different sabbatical role in the SU. Continuity is key in the SU, and although you can say that previous officers will be there to help or lend advice, there will be that lack of experience on a day-to-day basis.
The last year that no sabbatical officers carried on their roles within the SU was between the 2007/08 academic year and 2008/09 term. Interestingly enough, the latter year is commonly observed as a tipping point for the SU, from which a lot of the financial issues (that came to light in 2011 and 2012) and racking up of debt can be traced back to.
Admittedly, some support structures have been put in place that will hopefully ensure that this won’t happen again, some of these structures involve a Board of Directors on which former SU Presidents who are somewhat responsible for the financial mismanagement sit, which is food for thought.
Remember to think about who it is you are voting for. Hynes is a genuine candidate and means well, but UCD students have the right to representatives who mean business too. And Hynes could well be that president if you push him to represent you on the matters that you care about.