Rekha Vishnu Nagargoje is a 30 year old student currently studying for her Masters in Digital Marketing, and is a candidate in the upcoming Graduate Officer By-Election. She contributes to the Student Advisory Board as an International student.
According to Nagargoje, the Union is “the right way they[students] can approach a topic and convey it to authorities”. She freely admits that her only previous formal involvement with the Students’ Union was her aborted race for the role of Campaigns and Engagement Officer earlier this year, but is confident her professional experience is more than qualifying saying ““I [have] a background in digital marketing, I’m a professional. I have worked in this industry for 5 years...I have transferable skills I can apply to the graduate officer position. I have leadership because I was a manager, and before that I was a team player because I was working in a team” She also highlights her experience in communication.
Nagargoje believes the most important part of the role is to understand the needs of students, “You are there for them, and you need to understand them really well to go forward”. She repeatedly highlights her communication skills and ability to connect students with difficulties with the relevant bodies in UCD. She believes that rent, fee compensation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and high fees for international students are the biggest concerns for students. For graduate students, she also believes that “considering the pandemic, jobs are really tough to find out the particular one”. Her manifesto and interview offered no solutions for any of these issues.
On the question of what distinguishes her from her opponents, she argues it is her maturity and professionalism, adding “I can take decisions emotionally but can follow it practically rather than going forward with immediate action because sometimes we don’t need to go too aggressively for things to happen”. She does however welcome the radical moves of the Union last semester, saying “The rent is really high, and UCD should consider lessening this”. She also admires how this radical move inspired much of the Students for Fees Compensation movement.
Her lack of direct involvement in the Union shows more than once. Nagargoje had never heard of the Finance, Remuneration and Asset Management Committee (FRAMC), which supervises the finances of UCD, and did not know anything about what committees she would be expected to sit on should she be elected. She also needed the interviewer to explain what a Students’ Union Council mandate was and what the Union of Students in Ireland was, although immediately upon learning this information she stated “I do recommend that UCDSU should join USI because it has its own pros and cons... The only disadvantage is confidentiality of data, and our problems should not go out of our own university”. Her manifesto consists entirely of her experience and does not contain a single policy or idea. She puts this oversight down to it being her first time designing a manifesto.
On several issues Nagargoje flipped her opinion as a question was asked. When asked if students care about Student Union Elections, she stated “Yeah they do. Not the majority, but at least 60%[sic] of students take [the] Students’ Union seriously because they want their voice to be heard and to convey their message to authorities”. When told that engagement was in fact low, and getting students excited about the work of the union is a perennial issue, she said “There are many students who are not aware of the students’ union as well. I came to know about the Students’ union through the website and not everyone wants to search through the website, so we need to create awareness that the students’ union is there”.
Having decided that engagement is an issue, Nagargoje proposes two solutions, “the first thing we need is to create Awareness, and the second thing is to create active engagement events, were we can gather all the students, and let them know what the student union is”. She also proposed having student societies advertise Student Union events to their members saying UCD societies can post events on their own social pages, so whoever is following those societies can come to know about events” When asked if there could be a potential confusion over the right to organise events advertised by both societies and the union, Nagargoje answered in the negative, saying “People will come to know this event is created by the Students’ Union, and these are our promoting partners”.
On her official campaign Facebook and Instagram pages, the profile image is a photo of Nagargoje wearing a UCD scarf and posing with President Deeks. When asked if this was a controversial choice considering the campaigns she had voiced support for, she stated “I put that picture so that people will come to know that I am a UCD student, that’s the only purpose” When asked if her support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, should concern Muslim students in UCD, she stated that she only supports his actions over the lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, and does not agree with everything he says.
Without having researched or proposed any policies or ideas to focus or campaign on, the candidate’s solutions to problems were invented as the question was asked. Nagargoje believes that tutors and lab demonstrators should still be paid by UCD, but has not heard of the UCD Anti-Casualisation campaign, who are campaigning against the casualisation of Graduate students’ labour. When asked for her opinion of working with employees within the Union, she suggested “It’s up to HR but I would ask them to have some team building activities”, before going on to say “There will be a new hostel opening in UCD so why not hire only UCD people...because it’s our need, and we need to supply solution to our students”.
While she has a good CV for digital marketing, it is difficult to see Nagargoje performing well in this role given her unprecedented lack of basic knowledge about the political goings-on in UCD. If elected she will need her hand held by other Sabbatical Officers as she learns what most candidates know before they ever think about running.