Graduate: Uthra Lakshmi - “Bringing cultural events to the Smurfit campus”

Uthra Lakshmi is studying an MSc in Food Business Strategies at the Smurfit Business School and she is running for the position of Graduate Officer. Laksmi says that the role of Graduate Officer will give her a great opportunity to put the Smurfit campus on the map.

Lakshmi’s understanding of the Students’ Union for representing 30,000 student and “standing up for their rights, representing them in a fair way and giving them a voice,” shows in her awareness of the amount of student casework that the Graduate Officer is required to manage. Lakshmi showed a basic understanding of what potential and common issues graduate students will face and how she can help students with “anything to do with students and their academic council, any sort of issues with their professors, module coordinators and any other personal conflicts as well.” Lakshmi was also able to identify two boards that the Graduate Officer has a seat on, namely the Academic Council and Governing Authority (GA). However, she displayed a lack of knowledge of the Student Union’s council structure, stating that “the three sabbatical officers and one graduate officer, we all have the speaking rights,” failing to mention the class representatives, College Officers and Campaign Coordinators who also attend student council. Lakshmi also incorrectly stated that there were 4 total sabbatical officers, when there are 5.

With little SU experience under her belt, Lakshmi believes that “Smurfit Business School has no connections, premise-wise, to the Belfield campus. But it has given me an extra edge to campaign myself out here because I represented Smurfit for various events.” If elected Graduate Officer, Lakshmi would aim to increase the time she spends on the Smurfit campus, form one day a week to “at least a couple of hours thrice a week.”

When asked about her views on UCD joining USI, Lakshmi was unaware of what USI was as an organisation. When told that USI is a national representative for third level student unions, she said that she would support UCD joining the organisation, “we need more of the representation coming from larger universities like UCD.” Lakshmi admitted that she has not yet read the proposed amendments to the SU constitution and does not know “what is at stake, so I’d say that the people who are doing the job right now know what they’re doing.” Similarly, Lakshmi did not know what the Student Centre Levy was or that students were being asked to vote on its extension in a policy referendum alongside the executive elections. When she was given a brief explanation that a proposed extension to the levy was intended to fund the expansion of the Student Centre facilities, she remarked, “I am for it, I would support that,” seemingly without knowing the issues raised over the lack of clarity around the budget, prioritisation of facilities for construction and the possible result of a ‘No’ vote in the referendum.

Events make up a significant proportion of Lakshmi’s manifesto. “We need representation from the Students’ Union [on the Smurfit campus] having a little booth at least, to kick start any networking [events] if you want to start anything. People are reading newsletters but they aren’t really going to any events. If you send an event notification from UCD, it’s that we have to come to UCD to do that.” Low engagement with SU events is something that has constantly plagued the union in the past, especially among postgraduate students, Lakshmi believes that there is an interest for events on the Smurfit campus, citing coffee mornings and a free headshot event for graduate students this past year. Adding on that, Lakshmi wants to increase the frequency of events for graduate students “it should not just happen in Belfield, it should happen in Smurfit. We have a great restaurant there that can be used to conduct these events.” Lakshmi would like to hold more cultural events such as culturally representative and fitness events that are happening on the Belfield campus, brought to Smurfit.

Discussing the postgraduate workload, especially for graduate students who must take on teaching assistant roles in tutorials and lab demonstrators, Lakshmi believes that these students should be allowed extensions on their deadlines. “Financially, whatever support you can give, I’d fight for them,” Lakshmi believes that the Union should fight to give graduate students “a little at a time” in terms of aiding the reduction of fees.

Lakshmi supports a more radical activism, giving the examples of sit-ins for students, when the Union does not see the progress it is looking for. Lakshmi then goes on to say, on the difference between EU student fees and Non-EU student fees, that she does not believe she will try to close the disparity between the fees, “there’s nothing to comment there...I think it’s fair play.”