The 2020 SU Elections are in many ways quite unusual. Held during a global pandemic, online voting has been swiftly given the official go ahead, and is now being worked on to be in place for Week 12. All of the usual conventions of an SU election have been upturned, and everyone, from candidates, the returning officer, and those covering the elections now find themselves in somewhat uncharted territory.
Add to this the unusual make-up of the races, with only two of them, the Welfare and Education, being contested. Initially two of this years Sabbatical Officers, Brian Treacy and Katie O’Dea, were seeking re-election, but have both since dropped out of the race. Conor Anderson, the current Graduate Officer, is running uncontested for the role of President, and Leighton Gray, the current LGBTQ Campaigns Coordinator for the SU, is now running uncontested for the role of Campaigns and Engagement. Sarah Michalek is also running uncontested for Entertainments Officer.
The two candidate Welfare race is an interesting choice between someone who wishes to develop the campaigning aspect of the role, and someone who is more content with relatively sticking to the status quo. Ruairí Power, with his roles in Fix our Education and as auditor of the UCD branch of the Social Democrats, is a recognisable face in UCD circles, but is a less conventional candidate than has been seen in previous years. Rebecca O’Connor, on the other hand, has less experience in the campaigning side of things, but having less radical proposals make her a similar candidate to previous Welfare officers.
Power and O’Connor agree on allocating around half of their time on individual student casework, however they differ in opinions on how to use the rest of their time. O’Connor wishes to make the Welfare officer a more visible face on campus, and create an “open-door policy” to office hours. Power wishes to split his time equally between casework and campaigning, arguing that “if you don’t tackle the structural issues, it’s only going to get worse.”
Ultimately, voters have a clear choice in this race: a candidate who wishes to focus the role on campaigns and lobbying, or a candidate who is less interested in the politics, and more on making the best of what they have.
The Education race is between two candidates, Darryl Horan and Hannah Bryson. Both are similar in outlook, having both been involved in the Fix Our Education group, and share many of the same ideas when it comes to what they would do if elected to the role.
Horan has been involved in national politics, working with People Before Profit in the 2020 General Election, and as such is a far more seasoned campaigner than Bryson. Whether this will stand to him in the online only campaign remains to be seen. He is perhaps a less conventional candidate for the role, stressing the importance of campaigns - not to the detriment of casework, as he acknowledges that there are students in immediate need of help.
Much of Bryson’s focus is on students with disabilities, and the quality of assistance they receive from UCD. Having served as the Disability Rights Coordinator for the SU this year, this is the area she can speak with the most authority. She has been a vocal critic of the Access and Lifelong Learning Centre for the way in which they deal with students who come to them for help, saying that they can be “very dismissive”. Horan agrees with her on this point, saying that “most students he had spoken to had negative responses, ‘“particularly those that would be queer’".
Both candidates are on the more radical end, both support UCD Anti-Casualisation and agree that the SU has not been radical enough, and needs to go further in challenging the University