Michael Bergin reflects on the success of RAG week 2023, and what this means for UCDSU’s place on campus going forward
RAG week (or raising and giving week), was held recently in UCD for the first time in four years, from the 30th of January to the 3rd of February last. Throughout the course of the week, there were numerous events on and around campus, with the aim of these events being to raise as much money as possible for the SU’s chosen charities. This year, the chosen charities were the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Threshold, the national housing charity.
Among the many events that took place over the course of the week were a “Derry girls night” in the Grand Social, a Buskathon, a Domino’s pizza challenge, and a Pie-face event in the Quad, where students would have the opportunity to throw pies into the faces of SU Sabbatical Officers and College Officers, amongst others. In addition, it was announced that RAG initiatives would continue for the duration of the term, with students being encouraged to come forward with their own ideas to raise funds for the two charities.
Speaking to the University Observer, UCDSU Entertainments Officer Ciara Moroney expanded upon the importance of the chosen charities, and their invaluable work. “Both are charities that do tremendous work for students, and that we regularly work with on student cases. We think what they do is inspiring, and so we’d like to try and continue that and help them in their efforts.”
"The RAG week this year launched our efforts for the rest of the semester."
However, despite the enormous benefits that a RAG week brings to campus, and the opportunity it provides to raise funds for some extremely deserving causes, there has not been a RAG week on campus in UCD since 2019. This fact presents something of an abnormality. If there is so much to be gained by having a RAG week, not merely in terms of raising funds, but also in increasing engagement with the student’s union, then why has it been so sorely lacking from campus in recent years?
On this, Moroney reflects on the inherent challenges that managing events in a university as large as UCD can present. “UCD is such a large campus, that sometimes it can be hard to create this tight-knit community, and each year the sabbatical team gets to choose how they would like to fundraise. Some teams might not have chosen to do a RAG week and fundraise throughout the year at different events, and while [a RAG week] is something we have chosen to do this year, the RAG week this year launched our efforts for the rest of the semester. This coming semester we will be putting an extra effort into fundraising, though we have fundraised before at last semester’s events.”
“I wanted to create a community feeling on campus this year”
Going further, Moroney highlights that this year’s RAG week is intended to be the beginning of a renewed focus on fundraising in UCD. “I wanted to create a community feeling on campus this year, and try to sow the seeds of the culture of RAG week for future years. I wanted to start small and do it well, that hopefully it might continue, though it's always at the discretion of the new team.”
As such, this raised the prospect that there hadn’t been a specific reason as to why there hadn’t been a RAG week on campus since 2019, but instead it had just been pushed to the side in favour of alternative means of fundraising. Speaking on this reality, Moroney broadly agrees. “Obviously the pandemic had a role to play, in that we weren’t on campus, you could have had a RAG week online but it would have looked completely different to what's seen as traditional. I wanted to have a full week of trying to raise funds for charity and fun events.”
Finally, Moroney reflected on RAG week 2023, and deemed it a success, stating “I would deem it a success, in that we brought a lot of different people together, whether that was ourselves and societies and staff or students coming together to fundraise, bringing a bit of life to campus with music. These are all things that we hope to continue with this year, and hope that they continue with in the future. I hope that the culture of RAG week does get established and becomes a memorable week that students can look forward to every year.”
“I hope that the culture of RAG week does get established and becomes a memorable week that students can look forward to every year”
As such, RAG week 2023 can be seen as a success for the SU in increasing engagement just before the election cycle begins in earnest, but also in creating what is hoped to be a long-lasting culture of community on campus, that has been sorely lacking in the wake of the pandemic.
Community, as Moroney states, is a difficult concept to create and nurture in a campus as large as UCD, however, it is essential to maintaining the integrity and efficacy of the Students’ Union, amongst other student organisations. The recent lack of a RAG week on campus can be seen as a result of a number of factors, namely a concerted effort to pursue alternative measures when it comes to fundraising, and the lingering presence of the COVID-19 pandemic being felt on campus. Alas, it seems as though, with RAG week 2023, a new mould has been created, which should, hopefully, open the way to a greater sense of community being felt on campus, and a greater level of engagement with the Students’ Union.
Ultimately, the greatest test of Union engagement will be the upcoming SU elections, though regardless of the results of these elections, it can be said with certainty that the current SU Sabbatical team has achieved a renewed sense of community on campus that had been missing for four years.