‘I think that somebody has pissed him off’ - Union bogged down by endemic communication issues

Persistent examples of poor communication within UCD Students’ Union have been causing discontent, with members of the Union’s Executive noting that the recent “lack of communication makes the union look very bad”, minutes from the most recent meeting of the Union Executive show.

Discussions held at the sixth meeting of the Union’s Executive concerned the need to focus on improving the reputational damage of the Union and addressed a cancelled debate which would have seen candidates for the Irish presidency address students in UCD in anticipation of the 2018 presidential election. The event had initially been promised at Union Council in early October.

The Union Executive is responsible for making decisions on the day-to-day operation of the Union and is made up of the Sabbatical Officers, the College Officers and the Irish Language Officer. The group heard that a meeting, to be chaired by a “neutral third party”, would be held to resolve persistent communication issues arising between members of the Executive and Campaign Co-ordinators. A "UCDSU Communication Meeting" held on the 14th November 2018, in which college officers and campaign coordinators discussed issues they saw with the lack of communication. When asked about the agenda of this meeting, UCDSU President Barry Murphy told The University Observer that some of the proposed solutions raised to address event promotion were for college officers to “promote themselves and reps events” which he said would be boosted on the SU’s social media accounts, while campaign coordinators will be promoted through the Union's Campaign & Communications Officer Thomas Monaghan.

According to Murphy, some of the proposed solutions to address the social media posts over the weekend, were for members of the Executive and Campaign Co-ordinators “to give anything for inclusion in All Student Email [sic],” giving Class Representatives a deadline of the Executive meeting prior to when the event is scheduled. However, the minutes from both the Union Council and Executive suggest that these solutions were not followed up on, with the sixth Executive meeting taking place at the beginning of semester two noting that some members still have an issue with the Union’s communication.

Members of the Executive also heard that a number of Campaign Co-ordinators were not invited to receive training and feel “sidelined”, generally and at the Union’s Council meetings. Minutes from the meeting indicate dissatisfaction among Executive members over the situation, with a number of Campaign Co-ordinators believing they should receive training similar to that received by Sabbatical Officers. Additionally, an unstated number of Class Representatives from last year’s by-elections “were not informed” of Union Council, suggesting that they were subsequently absent from Council meetings, and that College Officers “do not know their class reps.” There was an acknowledgement that Class Representatives “won’t want to engage with a union where there is no communication.”

8 Campaign Co-ordinators sit on the Union’s Council and are tasked with fronting campaigns to push the organisation’s agenda on issues such as gender equality, the environment and mental health. An additional Campaign Co-ordinator for Diversity & Inclusion will be elected at the final Council meeting of this year should Union members vote to adopt a proposed constitution at a referendum on 1st and 2nd April.

The Executive was told that a number of the Union’s College Officers were not informed of training sessions held for Class Representatives, which was described as “not okay” in the meeting’s minutes. Members of the Executive heard that College Officers were subsequently “unable to answer questions” coming from their Class Representatives. Law College Officer Edward Leonard stated that he could not meet with a Class Representative for Law as he had not received the results of a contested by-election and did not know who the Representative was.

Members also expressed frustration over the former-Agriculture, Food Sciences and Veterinary Officer Amy Mulchrone, as relevant Class Representatives had received “no contact from their College Officer.” Under Union rules, Mulchrone de facto vacated her seat on the Union’s Executive Forum due to persistent absences from Executive and Council meetings. At a Council meeting in January, Murphy stated that Mulchrone’s absence was “disappointing” and unfair on those who had contested Mulchrone for the position last year. A member of the Union Executive, Mulchrone had never attended a meeting of the Executive or Council.

Organisers of Class Representative bonding sessions failed to address accessibility issues in advance, with Executive members lamenting that affected students were not informed early enough that neither the transport nor the accommodation were wheelchair accessible. Union sources have told The University Observer that sabbatical officers Barry Murphy and Thomas Monaghan were responsible for organising the trip at which a student who required a wheelchair had to be carried around and be booked into a hotel to stay there on their own, despite allegedly requesting to be booked into accommodation with other trips-goers. Apologies were issued by the relevant Executive members.

Minutes show that the Union may also be experiencing difficulties communicating with University officials, with Leonard stating that he has not received replies from Paul Masterson, former Marketing & Events Manager for the UCD Sutherland School of Law. In response, Murphy suggested that “someone has pissed him [Masterson] off” as “he has stopped replying to our emails.” Paul Masterson is currently a programme office administrator in the Engineering & Architecture programme office.

Concerns were also raised that Union events were inadequately marketed to students, with an Executive member noting that “certain societies are appearing more on the SU social media then [sic] some of our own events.”

“Advertising for events needs to be improved”, one member stated; “for example for bingo loco the event was only advertised 2 days in advance”. The Executive also heard calls for more sponsored social media posts for the Union’s events, in particular for Lá Na Gaeilge. The Union’s Campaigns & Communications Officer Thomas Monaghan is responsible for social media communications and for the Union’s website, which has not been updated to include details such as the names and contacts of this year’s College Officers. Executive members heard calls to update it as soon as possible and were told that “the lack of improvement on [the website] is unacceptable.”

This article was amended at 11.14am 19th February to reflect Paul Masterson's current role in the UCD Engineering & Architecture Programme Office. The article was subsequently amended at 12.43pm, following a source's clarification that Niall Torris was not involved in the class rep bonding trip.