President: Joanna Siewierska - ‘It’s a hopeless situation but I am not going to be a hopeless President’

Joanna Siewierska is a 4th year Law and Social Justice student and is running for the position of President. Siewierska attributes her desire to bring her passion for social justice and student rights to the union, as the reason she is running for SU President. Describing the union as “a collective of voices, students coming together, and fighting together for things that are important to them,” she believes that there are a number of issues where she may not be the best spokesperson for and would like to use the union as a platform for student voices. “No union or no organisation is a one man or one woman show, so I would be very careful about that.”

While Siewierska has a very-student led vision for the union, she lacks the knowledge of the current structures and operating procedures that a presidential candidate needs to be aware of. She was unable to identify the boards that the President sits on, mentioning only the Governing Authority, being unaware of the Finance, Remuneration & Asset Management Committee. Unlike other candidates, Siewierska was able to identify all parties who have speaking rights at Student council meetings. Her vision for the Union, however, does not disclose her personal stance on USI, the proposed constitution and extended Student Centre levy policy, stating that “I’m a bit careful when it comes to referendums to tell students what I want, because I think it is very important that people say what they want.” Although she did state that she believes that the “old constitution needed a revamp, and needed a lot changes. I really hope that students take a thorough read of what’s in front of them and remember we do need changes, but we also need the right changes.”

Listing her experience as an elected officer on the Irish Second level Student Union (ISSU), and working as a trainer for class representatives on a European level, Siewierska would like to provide all future class representatives in UCD with the training that was introduced this year and grow “the design of training...that is available to every single representative.” Currently, class representatives are not mandated to receive any training from the Union, but may be offered it. Siewierska believes that “when you put yourself forward to represent your class, you’re interested in what that entails. You’re interested to some extent with what the Union does, whether that’s the social aspects of the Union or more lobbying aspects of it.” She wishes to keep the full training that every class representative receives to the basics, reassuring “that we will prepare you for every aspect of the role.” These include an introductory class representative training “to understand the function and the structure of the Union,” particularly the channels of communication available to them within the union and making the organisation of class night outs as “hassle-free as possible.”

In favour of radical forms of student activism, Siewierska believes that while they are important forms of civil disobedience, “they should never be the first actions either.” If elected, in the planning of campaigns for the Student Union, escalating actions should be one of the options, but it is not something Siewierska “would push for or try to force people to do if they didn’t want to.” If the Union are meeting roadblocks with staff, Siewierska believes that “we need to try different ways of raising our voice.” Taking a pragmatic view on national-level protests, Siewierska says that apart from attending rallies, protests and lobbying “there isn’t really that much else we can do other than vote in elections.” With regards to the housing crisis, Siewierska doubts that progress the Union has made on its lobbying efforts, “have we gone very far when we look at what is being built on campus? I don’t know.” However she wishes to continue the lobbying work of the Union on affordable and quality accommodation, and “keep pushing in the channels that we have to push’s unacceptable that students are turning down offers because they don’t have a place to stay.”

Extending the invitation to the Dublin Tenants’ Association and other tenants group on campus to host sessions on their rights, is just one of the events Siewierska has planned for her term. “It is a hopeless situation but I am not going to be a hopeless President.” To build on the events that the SU currently hosts, Siewierska doesn’t believe it is necessary to adjust the budgets to make the likes of Green Week, RAG Week or SHAG Week bigger. “When I was involved in the ISSU we had shoe-string budgets and we managed to make national media, and we managed to make noise about things that are important to us.” Pop-up events and pushing campaigns throughout the year, instead of just having weeks dedicated to one theme, is a possible avenue that Siewierska would like to pursue.

Speaking about the lack of knowledge students have about the SU, Siewierska was able to give an example of supplying free sanitary products in the SU corridor. Commending the Homeless Period drive to collect sanitary products for people in need, she was unable to identify the Mature society as the instigator of this drive. She did say that she would be open to working with any groups to support this campaign.