Entertainments Officer byelection: Sophie Sheridan-Burns - "Putting an Ents-spin on things"

Former Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences College Officer Sophie Sheridan-Burns is a 2nd year Planning and Environmental Policy running for the position of Entertainments Officer. Following the adoption of a new constitution by students at a referendum in early April and her College Officer term expiring, Sheridan-Burns thought the time was right to run for a sabbatical position.

"I kind of thought to myself, 'am I going to be more prepared this time next year?' - probably not." Having looked up to the sabbatical officers she has encountered over the last two years, Sheridan-Burns says she always wanted hold a sabbatical position one day and didn't like the possibility of the Ents race being uncontested: "I think people should have a choice, and I think people will put in more effort if they have to win the role instead of getting it by default."

Why Ents?

Sheridan-Burns ruled out running for a campaign forum position or taking another go as a College Officer early on, having not run in the recent sabbatical elections or put herself forward for a position at the last Council of the year. She's excited at the possibility of a "hands-on" role that she can focus on exclusively. "I loved being College Officer, and I always wanted to be working on it, but at the same time I had to put my studies first." Having previously mulled over a campaign for Campaigns & Communications Officer (now termed Campaigns & Engagement Officer), she ultimately decided that Ents is where her heart lies: "as much as I'm interested in campaigns, I don't think I'm interested enough to be running them...I love getting involved with them but you really need to be really passionate about a specific campaign to be running in the campaigns forum."

Shite Night, the Clubhouse and end-of-year events

Inspired by the success of 'Shite Night' in University College Cork and Dublin City University, where "shite music, shite karaoke, and shite games" reign supreme in a cheap, fun-filled BYOB night, Sheridan-Burns wants to bring the experience to UCD. While she admits that the university's Clubhouse Bar would not allow such an event to be advertised with a focus on drinking ("that's just not how they work", she says), Sheridan-Burns hopes that the BYOB portion of the night could be held in the Student Centre, where Student Services allow wine or beer to be served as long as the event offers food. She notes, however, that the Union would have to find a "clever way to market it so that people know it's BYOB but it's not marketed solely as a drinking event."

The Clubhouse could see more external acts visiting if Sheridan-Burns gets her way, noting that the bar's staff were "really willing to get on board." Although she admits it might not always be possible, she would prefer music acts without a cover charge and is hopeful that sponsorships could cover the cost of the events. The Clubhouse would also be central to Sheridan-Burns' end-of-year events, as she predicts that the UCD Ball, the mirage which received attention in this year's race for Union president, is a non-starter: "I'm not going to make promises like I'll bring the Ball back because it's just not possible. I would like to keep the Clubhouse events going, and maybe if possible have something...almost like RAG Week but not on the same scale on campus...some funfair rides, almost like Fresh Fest, actually, which works really well".

Forming a natural boozy circle of life, Sheridan-Burns wants to hold Hangover Clubs after events such as Shite Night, where students could expect access to free coffee, water and the Union's Welfare Officer.

'Early planning' for the Fashion show

Will the Fashion Show return to UCD next year? Sheridan-Burns wants to avoid the pitfalls which lead to the show's cancellation this year, in particular situations where the Union is searching for sponsors "three weeks before [the Fashion Show]." The early establishment of planning committees are crucial, according to her, and the Ents Forum would work with a separate committee for the show itself, which her manifesto says would be a more sustainable and cheaper event.

Council and managing the Ents Forum

As Entertainments Officer, Sheridan-Burns would be tasked with oversight of students on the Ents Forum, a core group which would provide another way to engage with the Union and focus on delivering events to students on campus. The Forum also sits on the Union's Council, the student-led decision-making wing of the organisation. Will there be a difficulty trying to encourage students who are only interested in events and entertainment to engage in the political work of the Council? Sheridan-Burns thinks such issues can be pre-empted: "I think...it's about training them so they know what's going on, because I find a lot of people are lost sometimes at Council."

"So getting them involved...and then making sure that whatever comes up is relevant." Noting that it's impossible for everything that comes up at Council to be relevant to the Ents Forum, Sheridan-Burns cites the RAG Week mandates which are discussed at Union Council and says there may be ways to put an "Ents-spin" on the Council's work.

However, Council meetings cannot begin unless they reach a threshold number of representatives present. The reintroduction of the Forum means that finding the numbers required to reach quorum, already a vexing task, will become more difficult. Having encountered attendance problems at her College Council meetings, Sheridan-Burns predicts that she could ensure proper attendance by the Ents Forum, noting that some people "just need a bit of discipline".