Current LGBTQ+ Auditor Philip Weldon looks to return to a more activist-focused SU, as well as a concentration on social issues like consent and student mental health.

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WITH a successful year leading the LGBTQ+ society under his belt, Business student Philip Weldon believes that he has the skills and enthusiasm to breathe fresh air into the Students’ Union next year as President. His policies include a more activist SU, opening up more to external stakeholders, and fighting for students on issues like consent, accommodation, and campaigning to repeal the 8th.

One of the central tenets of his campaign, and a theme he keeps returning to is increasing the sense of activism and willingness to confront that he feels the SU lacks. “The role needs somebody who isn’t afraid to stand up for students and isn’t afraid to engage the university and challenge them when there’s issues that need to be brought to their attention.”

He mentions that the SU up to now has been too corporate, and that “there’s been certain issues in some areas where we could be a bit louder. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of activism and there’s nothing wrong with bringing a louder voice”.

Consent is a high priority issue for Weldon. “I know from speaking to [students], consent is a number one item. Your body is your realm, it’s your domain. Nobody else has a right to that.” Weldon would reintroduce the consent classes that were dropped by the SU this year, and he supports making them mandatory for freshers students. “We need to inform them what consent is, and we need to be very clear”.

“The role needs somebody who isn’t afraid to stand up for students”

To combat a possible repeat of the low turnout we have seen with this year’s classes, he proposes using student’s college ID cards “to scan them and make sure that they’ve attended, and if they don’t then you follow up on the reasons why not”. He accuses the University of “censoring” the sexual assault figures for campus, and states that consent classes would be better with more accurate statistical information.

In terms of accommodation, Weldon feels that this is an area where the University has let students down badly in recent years: “Its almost like students are second”. In his manifesto he proposes an online database, similar to UCD’s existing “accommodation pad” service. The main difference with this new site, is that it would be on the SU website itself as it has “a good bit of [online] traffic going through that” and there are better opportunities “to engage on social media more as well”. His new database would be split into sections where students can rate landlords, and also search for emergency and temporary accommodation.

“We need to inform them what consent is, and we need to be very clear”

Another idea that he proposes in his manifesto is working with external “stakeholders” to possibly increase development in and around campus. He has implemented a policy similar to this in the last year with the LGBTQ+ society: “We’ve brought in three different organisational partners who have increased opportunities for our members”. It is this opening up to external institutions that he hopes can unlock new opportunities for the SU.

On the student health service, and the wider issue of student’s mental health, Weldon feels that more can be done. “I think positive campaigns around the mental health issues and engaging people on the stigma issue is probably the main focus we should have next year”. He also says that the long waiting lists for the UCD counselling service are unacceptable. “We can’t really afford to have waiting lists when, for many, mental health is a creeping issue”.

Weldon is a staunch supporter of the Repeal the 8th movement, and has plans to promote the issue more next year. “There is a lot more that could be done, and one of the first steps is organising really concrete discussions, think-ins, and teach-ins to raise awareness and engage the student population”. He believes that working with other groups is key. “UCD for choice is a part of the SU so we need to be working with them more actively to organise a campaign around that”.

On the subject of his stances in the upcoming policy referenda (run concurrently with the elections), Weldon says that he is against the proposal to have a stance in favour of a united Ireland. He is in favour of the “free fees” option for the fees policy preferendum.