Studying a Masters in Engineering Management, 23 years old Aaditya Shah is a Class Representative currently, as well as one of the founding members of Students For Fees Compensation.
Shah’s knowledge of UCDSU is solid, being the only candidate who could correctly name the UCD committees he would be sitting on were he to be elected. His knowledge of UCD’s organisation beyond the Students’ Union is lacking however, having not heard of the Finance, Remunerations, and Asset Management Committee (FRAMC), the body who supervises UCD’s finances.
Shah believes his experience in student societies in Thadomal Shahani Engineering College, his time as a Class Rep in UCD, and his work with Students For Fees Compensation are all relevant experiences for the role of Graduate Officer, “I have attended a lot of council meetings, so I know the proceedings and the roles of the sabbatical officers” He also cites how closely Students For Fees Compensation have worked with current Graduate Officer Conor Anderson, and how this insight into the role has prepared him.
Shah believes that the main focus of the graduate officer should be to “get the students who are in their final year of their postgraduate programmes to get involved in the activities of UCD, and help them build their career”. He believes the job market and probable recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic are graduate student’s biggest concerns as “It kind of reduces their chances of landing a job”. More generally, Shah believes that students are most concerned about fees compensation, the hikes in rent, and the Blackrock campus canteen being too expensive.
When asked to distinguish between himself and his opponents, Shah stated “I have seen almost every candidate show some activism. They say they are ready to fight for everything...What I say is, if you stick to the basics, and you stick to what is right, you don’t always need to be an activist. Everything can be done with words, and everything can go smoothly. I can be an activist as you can see...but only if it’s a really serious matter...if you sit down and have a word with the committees and authorities in UCD, everything can be solved”. When asked if he supported the more radical moves of UCDSU last Trimester, Shah responded “That was radical and in a way nonviolent action. I’m not sure what’s wrong with [using committees], they do not listen to students, so i'm not too sure about that”.
However Shah’s lack of involvement in campus activism is evident in other places too. He is unaware of the Anti-casualisation campaign.
On the issue of recruiting class reps and increasing engagement, Shah proposed an email campaign; “Dropping an email to all of them, in short, inside 500 words, what exactly would be the duties and benefits of being a class rep” He supports keeping online voting beyond campus reopening, stating “Because I have not experienced offline elections yet, I don’t know how it proceeds...But if there is voting in the law building on a monday, there is a chance a law student does not have lectures on that particular day. That might reduce the number of votes and elections should be fair and the maximum number of votes reached”. Shah thinks a mix of voting methods works.
Shah’s manifesto is light on detail, with many aspects not fully planned out. When asked about if he had spoken to the relevant parties for any one of his many ideas, for instance having expert talks bringing companies in to promote recruitment, Shah had not. His reasoning was “Actually, I decided to run for the graduate role five or six days back, and one of my modules has started, so I haven't had time”. This means that many of his bigger ideas are as of yet fairly unformulated as plans.
His most ambitious proposal is to resolve the issue of the prices of the Blackrock campus canteen by having a food truck or catering service to compete with the canteen on the blackrock campus. This competition, he argues, may drive prices down. While he has yet to speak to any relevant caterers or managers, he proposes that it be like the food stalls which set up outside the Quinn building on the belfield campus weekly. “A couple of them on any other day could come to Blackrock”
While his focus on career development may be welcome for many graduate students, and his drive and experience in the Fees Compensation Campaign valuable for the role, Aaditya Shah’s poorly planned manifesto, along with his eagerness to try and resolve issues through the correct and approved channels may deter voters who support the radical shift in this year’s union.