Jill Nelis, a final year English and Drama, is running unopposed for the role of Welfare officer in the upcoming UCDSU Executive Elections
Her campaign centres primarily around substantive policy changes in UCD, as well as areas of physical and social accessibility she feels need to be addressed by the university and the Student Union.
Her working knowledge of the Union and the university's structures is not at the level that her most recent predecessors have been, something which is likely due to Nelis not being of a Union background. When queried about her qualifications for the role, Nelis highlighted her own advocacy work, as well as her experience as a Diversity and Inclusion officer at UCD Dramsoc “I went to this college for three years, and I just understood so many issues that I don’t think people who walked into this completely able bodied, completely untouched by everything, would understand. But also, I have held the position of Diversity and Inclusions [on UCDDramsoc] for a year now. I understood that to run a society and be part of a society you need authenticity, you need a heart, and you need a voice. And that’s one thing that I am prepared to do. I’m very active, and I’m very capable of learning, and I’m very quick to learn.”
I’m very capable of learning, and I’m very quick to learn
With the majority of Nelis’ manifesto being policy based, it is unlikely that much of the work promised will be able to be delivered within a single year. However, Nelis appears confident that her manifesto goals are attainable, as well as tied to student needs. Her housing policy proposal is tied to ongoing management conversations, and is based on prior policy. Her accessibility proposals are widely easy adjustments in nature, or are maintenance based. Her longest term proposal, the increasing of sensory spaces on campus, is tied to ongoing refurbishment projects across UCD, which allow for such rooms to be added across the Belfield campus.
When asked what the three main issues students face are, Nelis began with, “Housing. There is a housing crisis and it’s not getting better. And I think the pricing of our current housing is probably the one thing that everyone is concerned about. To me, I think, as well, total equality is a big thing for a lot of students. Everyone who I’ve [spoken to] just going ‘Hey like, what do you think is important to you?’ - because when writing my manifesto that was a big thing for me, I wanted people to tell me what they wanted out of their SU, not what I thought was important [...] Equality was one thing that really, really stood out to me, a lot of people in certain courses felt that they were being looked over, or being spoken over in certain senses, and that’s heartbreaking to me.”
a lot of people in certain courses felt that they were being looked over, or being spoken over in certain senses, and that’s heartbreaking to me
“The third issue I think a lot of students really, really struggle with as well is just, well, general stuff. For me, when talking to other disabled people on UCD campus, disabled observatories weren’t being opened, so access, obviously, was a huge part of my manifesto. I think, just, academic access, not even in a disability or physical accessibility realm. Proper access, to people who maybe might not totally have that door open to them, for a college education, or for financial support.”
Nelis has proposed to bring back staggered roll outs of accommodation on campus, rather than it all releasing at once prior to the autumn semester, which she feels puts returning students in an unfairly precarious place. Currently, university accommodation has allocated numbers for each year group, and are all released shortly before the return to campus. Nelis proposes releasing the rooms for returning students earlier in the summer, which allows those who do not get campus accommodation more time to seek off-campus alternatives. She also hopes to reinstate that students who live within a certain distance to campus do not qualify for on campus accommodation, and to allow students to set a maximum budget when applying for on campus accommodation. All of the above policies are either past policies she wishes to reinstate, or are policies that the union has been in communication with the university management about already.
You need to be the person that people will look at and go ‘She is friendly, but not only is she friendly, she is approachable'
Tying into her points on equality on campus, Nelis has two main points tying to accessibility for trans students, one focusing on central ways to allow students to inform lecturers of changes to names and pronouns, and another proposing that a GP with a speciality in trans-specific healthcare be contracted to consult with trans students looking to being their transition at regular intervals, to help smooth over the early stages of consultation. Nelis also committed in the interview to, if elected, lobby the government during the upcoming trans-specific healthcare reforms.
When asked what the most important part of the role of Welfare Officer was, Nelis responded, “Student engagement, I would say. You need to be the person that people will look at and go ‘She is friendly, but not only is she friendly, she is approachable. I want to tell her these things that have happened to me, I want to tell her my experiences. Because if I don’t, I’m not going to fix it.’”