THIS year there are four contenders for the role of President of the UCDSU, an improvement from last year when the race was uncontested. The role of President is possibly the most stressful and contentious of all the sabbatical officers. Head of the union, the President acts as the face and spokesperson for the union. For that reason most of students feel that the President should have similar views to them and be aware of the main issues that are affecting them.
However, with President it’s not just being aware of the issues, the candidates should also be aware of how exactly these things affect students, what causes them and who is making the decisions. The SU constitution calls for the President to sit on all the senior boards of the University, including FRAMC. As the union remains outside of USI, the main weapon that UCDSU can wield is speaking for students on these boards. As such union President in particular needs to be direct and always question how any decisions are going to affect students.
Katie Ascough is running on a platform of “Back to basics” and focusing on issues within UCD. While she is aware of the general issues that students’ are dealing with, it seems more to come from people that are telling her what they are rather than personal experience. Listing mental health and accommodation on her manifesto as particular areas she wants to tackle, Ascough was not aware of the latest increases in on-campus accommodation cost or who is the head of the student health service. While this can be learned, it does seem contradictory for a candidate focusing on life in UCD.
However, her manifesto is broad and will impress many students and she is at least nominally aware of the main student concerns. Ascough’s main stumbling block will be her pro-life stance. She does not mention repeal the 8th on her manifesto and also neglects to mention her involvement in the Yes for neutrality side in the abortion referendum last semester. Ascough also refused to deny that she would canvass to save the 8th if a referendum was called in the next few months.
As chief spokesperson of the union it will be very difficult for students to reconcile a pro-life president with the majority pro-choice opinion prevailing across campus.
With the push to repeal the 8th in UCDSU and nationally over the last year, a referendum is likely in the next few months. This will become a prominent issue for students.
Ascough’s stance is in direct contrast to all of the other candidates standing for President, such as Rebecca Hart who suggests a “Reveal for 8” campaign on her manifesto.
Hart is the only candidate with previous SU experience and details a very light manifesto with not many developed ideas. She stated in her interview that consent was a priority, yet neglected to put it on her manifesto. Her ideas on increasing community seem very small yet this is not always the role of the President.
Hart was aware of the President’s role on some of the higher university boards however, and did want to push for a stronger union position. She was also well versed in how the union works but she is definitely the establishment candidate.
Though he has no direct union experience, Philip Weldon also suggests an establishment position. Though aware of issues that need to be fought for and possessing a distrust of the university, in the running of the union Weldon does not present any dynamic new ideas. Suggesting that the union needs more corporate sponsorship is contrary to the meaning of a union, an organisation there to solely to work for the benefit of students. However, he is one of the only candidates that seems to be aware of the current deficit in UCDSU.
Weldon’s general policies seem broad and could easily appeal to students. Supporting free fees and aware of the most recent hikes in on-campus accommodation, Weldon does touch into most grievances. Though he does seem unaware of the unions’ current structures, misunderstanding the campaigns forum. Weldon presents an anti-establishment manifesto, however, it is unclear if he will be able to live up to this.
In contrast to the other three candidates, Ronan Bartley is the most surprising candidate. Unlike the others, Bartley has no experience running a society or campaign. A left of field in every sense, the third year English and Drama student appears to have become fed up with how the university treats students and decided to run to combat this. While he is aware of all the different boards in UCD and the presidents’ role on them, it is unclear if he will be able to actually manage a body as large as the union. With no society or union backbone he will also find it difficult to assemble a campaign team.
This is one of the most open races for President in years. Students are being offered a diverse range of candidates and it is difficult to see a clear winner.