Michael Geary is a 4th year Animal Science student running for the position of President, who is serving as Ag Soc auditor for 2018/19, and has had no direct experience working with the UCDSU before. The presidential race is less crowded than it has been compared to recent years, which might allow for each candidate to be examined more closely by the students who will elect them. However, this is not a good sign for Geary, who’s manifesto and ideas become less clear the more one looks into them.
Geary’s manifesto is not short on big ideas, such as ensuring that “students who are required to undertake PWE (Professional Work Experience) receive a living wage” and ensuring that he will “work with my Welfare Officer in order to further progress the union’s work on promoting positive mental health.” However, as well intentioned as these ideas may be, he offers no concrete plans on how they will be implemented or achieved.
His lack of experience working with the UCDSU shows, as he does not appear to be quite clear on what the role of the Students’ Union is. When questioned about the boards the President sits on, he is unable to name them, nor does he know what FRAMC stands for (the Finance, Remuneration and Asset Management Committee is one of the most important boards on which the Union’s President sits), nor does he know who sits on the Student Council, as well as not being sure on who has speaking rights in it. He gives equivocal answers on the topic of UCD re-joining USI, stating that “there’s pros and cons to joining the USI” which include the money saved from not being a member. He trusts that the students will “make the right decision again next year with regards to joining USI” and stating that he has no personal opinion on the matter when pushed, aside from stating that “at the minute it seems to be working very well, not being a member of USI.”
His answers on what direction he wants the Union to go in are equally vague, answering that he would work alongside the campaigns officer next year, doing “whatever we need to do” when asked about the issue of protesting and a more radical approach to student politics. He wants the Union to “collaborate with societies” and would like to see the Union help them to fundraise and to “promote UCD as a community.”
The campaigns Geary feels are most relevant to students are those surrounding accommodation and mental health. On the topic of accommodation, he wants to “push as a union to make sure that we limit the amount of disruption that’s going on in student accommodation” caused by the construction work on campus, giving little in the way of detail on the matter. He also suggests in his manifesto that, as President, he would like to see students informed of their rights as tenants, telling the University Observer that “landlords are taking advantage of students across the country” and that the Union needs to “campaign for cheaper accommodation.”
Speaking on the state of mental health services in UCD, he acknowledged that they were under pressure, and suggested that the SU might “fundraise for these worthy causes.” He wants the Union to promote good mental health, citing Lust For Life, a mental health awareness charity, and suggests the Union could get speakers such as Bressie in to talk to students on mental health and wellbeing. When asked what type of student might need the most support from the Union, he says that “all students need protection. I consider all students as equal.”
On the topic of students with disabilities, Geary answers that the union will do “whatever it needs to do” to help those students, and that he would be speaking to someone on the issue to gain a greater understanding. About students who are in Direct Provision, Geary states that the Union should be offering them “whatever support they need, whether it be for accommodation or whatever.”
The notion of fundraising comes up again when he suggests that the SU could raise money by fundraising in order to increase the number of rental laptops available to students in the library, as well as making more rooms available for students to study in. He says that “the assumption is that every student has a laptop, and that is far from the truth. A lot of students rely on the services that UCD supply.” When pushed for a response on whether or not UCD should fund these things directly, Geary answers that “it’s trying to work alongside them” and that “resources are very limited”, but that the Union should have more of a stance and push harder to get these services for students. He believes that it’s both affordable and achievable.
One idea that Geary comes back to several times is the idea of building a stronger sense of community. He says that presently the union “lacks a sense of community” and wants to bring back the sense of community he sees in the Ag faculty into the union. He wants to improve RAG week and aims at boosting attendance by talking to students and asking them what they want to see and do, citing AgSoc’s successes with events such as Take Me Out.
Geary’s focus on community and fundraising is commendable, but his stances, or lack thereof, on issues such as protest, USI, and making demands of UCD, demonstrate his lack of understanding on the precise role the Union has traditionally played. His background in societies may go down well with students who wish to see the Union move in a different direction, but his lack of knowledge on the workings and role of the Union may cast some doubts over how effectively he will go about enacting these changes if elected.