The 2020-2021 Students’ Union round up.

Speaking to Conor Anderson, outgoing UCDSU President, Ruairí Power, current Welfare Officer and incoming President for 2021/2022, Leighton Gray, outgoing Campaign & Engagements Officer, Carla Gummerson, returning Graduate Officer, and Sarah Michalek, returning Entertainments Officer, The University Observer asked about their reflections on the year for the Students’ Union - the highs, lows, and what they know now.

What was the highlight of the year?

Carla Gummerson: For me particularly it would be being able to give out the PhD conference funds, it has been a huge highlight... Particularly for my role, it has been really great to be able to hand out... The free vending machines for period products, I’m very excited about that. 

Ruairí Power: I would say the nursing and midwifery video... It’s still a live issue, and there’s going to be a focus on that next year to get that bursary increased to accurately reflect the contribution being made. I really like the direct platforming of students. I think that was quite nice.

Leighton Gray: I think I would be the same, with the Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) fees freeze. It was a real big thing for us as well, especially Conor.

Conor Anderson: I mean the entire campaign around GEMs was my favourite bit.

Sarah Michalek: I think the whole year was a massive learning point, just with online events they were all different. I knew more each time we did it. I think the highlight was maybe the first year quiz series because it was successful and it was my attempt at trying to get people to actually talk to each other and meet each other online. I think overall I enjoyed trying to figure out the logistics of everything.

With previous Sabbatical experience, how important did Anderson find the year as Graduate Officer when taking on the role of UCDSU President?

Anderson: Massive. [..] If I could wave a wand and mandate that all Sabbatical terms were two years with no consequences I would. I cannot overstate how much benefit I got from already having a year. Just the fact that I knew all the staff, that I was aware of the power structure within the university... the first year as a Sabbatical Officer, the learning curve is a vertical wall... The typical lifecycle of a Sabbatical Officer is you spend the entire first term learning the ropes, and then you have, maybe, two months in the second term to actually get anything done - which is an excellent recipe for Sabbatical Officers never getting anything done because the university operates on a much longer time scale. The university operates on the scale of two to five years, and we’re these little mayfly creatures with single-year terms... We come in mid-way through a project. We come in after the project starts and we leave before the project is done. And then it is completely out of our hands, and it’s all in the hands of UMT and Academic Council. But they have different agendas than we do. You can see that €48 million edifice that’s being planned. That’s their agenda, that’s what’s being focused on. 

Do the roles within the Students’ Union work well? 

Anderson: I think the roles work. It’s a strength and a weakness because it depends who ends up in the role. But I think a strength ... is that ... you get to make the role what you want... I was allowed to focus almost entirely on this rabble-rousing, pseudo-labour organising; town halls meetings, getting students to write letters to their schools, and focussing on [the] grassroots. That was my idea. Obviously, each role does have constitutional delimiters, but I think the roles work.

Gray: I suppose with mine; technically, constitutionally, social media isn’t part of my role but it has taken most of my time, and that’s partially because of Covid. I do think in a normal year it wouldn’t work as well, just because all the campaigns have become social media focussed, more or less, so I could combine the two. I do know that some of the permanent staff are hoping to maybe have a [designated] social media person so that it’s not just the C&E Officer. That being said, I do think it’s worked for me because I have been able to support everyone else’s campaigns and be [..] a little supportive person in the background that knows stuff about campaigns and can support wherever it’s needed. I think generally it’s been grand, but it’s just sorting out the social media aspect because it does take up a lot of time.

Michalek: The ENTS role, which was obviously reintroduced recently, I think it’s great. I was asked recently ... is it necessary to have an ENTs Sabbat and an ENTs staff member? Absolutely!.. I also think the ENTs forum is a great thing, it’s another way to get students who are more into events, giving them an opportunity to get involved as well. Overall it’s putting on events from a student’s point of view. Obviously I wouldn’t have had an entire year online [as a student], I would have had half a year online, and in general being able to connect with students on that level, because I know what it’s like. I think it’s good.

Gummerson: For me, I think there's a huge necessity for a Graduate Officer. I think if there was no Graduate Officer role, and this was to land on the Education Officer, I don’t think that role would be able to handle it, their role is so in-depth anyway with the undergrads. I think it met every expectation I had because I got into this to help students and that kind of was my main focus. I knew casework was going to be 70%, if not more, of the work that I do. I love my job, hence why I re-ran for it, and I think it definitely fits in with everyone else and the role is fit for purpose.

Power: I would agree with Carla to a large extent. [Welfare] at times, can feel like it’s a role I would like not to exist because you’re in place for when something has gone wrong. The workload at times can be quite exhausting. You do have quite a lot of things within your remit, it’s kind of an all-encompassing role... For example, sexual harassment was a big thing this year, particular with Dr Ní Shuilleabháin at the beginning of the year. Part of what I’d like to do is to limit the remit of the Welfare Officer. It’s really positive as part of the Dignity and Respect review, there’s talk of getting in a designated unit to look at that. So that’s what we need to have - targeted interventionism from the university side of it, so that the supports are in place and you don’t need a Welfare Officer to fill the stopgap. It’s the same with accommodation, dodgy landlords, things like that. I think there’s a need for more systemic reforms to negate the need for one, but I think there will be a need for one for quite a while. I think it’s functional, it’s just a lot of work, and it’s a bit stressful.

For personal reasons, Hannah Bryson has been unable to work during the past trimester as Education Officer. The absence of an Education Officer has meant that this casework was shared among other Sabbatical members. How has the Union found this?

Gummerson: We’ve been grand (she laughs). We’ve been doing well I think, we’ve pulled it out of the bag really with one person down. I think myself, Conor and Ruairí, wherever fits, wherever it aligns within our role [we share it] ...All the emails get sent to [the Education] email, and that gets then disseminated through us all. The Education role would sometimes get some Welfare questions within it, which would pertain to Ruairí really. My job is the same thing, other than for Graduates, so it really aligns with it. I think we’ve done the best that we could. It has been a little bit more difficult because there has been more work on us, but I think we’ve been doing a [good] job in this regard. 

Anderson: That’s it!

Power: I would have looked at the library part of it, Carla has been doing great work on SUSI and academic supports. We have had to break it up. It has been challenging - workload wise - there’s no question on that. But I think we’ve got through it largely unscathed at a time when there’s a lot of queries coming in, particularly when things have been moving online. Disability and Access, because that was quite a big focus of Hannah’s this year, there have been issues coming up with lecture recordings and things like that. There’s a lot of casework to be managed on it. I think we have gotten through it fairly alright.

How well has the Students’ Union coped with the lack of a Housing Officer? 

Gummerson: I’ll come in because I feel very strongly about this area. I think we are definitely lacking. I really feel we need an Accommodation Officer, it’s something we have spoken about at length, in more recent weeks even. That’s simply to do with a lot of the private accommodation [that] we don’t have any hold over. It’s fine for Res, we can try battle with management, which they actually were very flexible this year with us. I just think when it comes to the PRTB and private landlords, it gets messy. It gets messy, particularly for international students. This year we would have seen a lot of international students go home and be stuck with contracts that they can’t get out of because they paid for the whole year. I feel, anyway, we have felt the loss of not having a Housing Officer.

Power: It was a disaster. Absolute disaster. It all came in September. At one stage everything was just blowing up. Things had just been moved online so you had hundreds of issues with that, rental contracts had all been cancelled at the same time. I couldn’t deal with it. I think I got through the bulk of it, certainly, stuff got missed. It’s something that is a full-time job for those few weeks and it’s something that needs to be put back in place... You need to have that specialist training. I will say Threshold has been an absolute God-sent in that they have the specialist advice there, but we have basically been outsourcing to them for the rest of the year. While we might have an idea, I always go to them to confirm and see, is that a correct interpretation of the law. I think we possibly have a role to play in the more campaigns focussed side of rental agreements going forward ...I think we could move into that sphere, but in terms of a support officer, I don’t think that’s for a Sabbat. While I did try my very best, it was very challenging.

Gray: There was huge anxiety about it. You could even see it in our Renting 101 thing this week and it got a lot of interest, and there was a lot of questions and you can tell it probably will be a September problem, but it is arising now..r If you had a normal year with a lot of people doing their first year and no Accommodation Officer, it probably would get very messy. 

Having spent an entire year online, the UCDSU faced an entirely different term in office than any who have been in the roles before. What impact did they think online college has had on engagement, both for ENTs, political campaigning, and the other roles of the union?

Gray: It’s interesting because I was really worried about engagement going in, obviously everyone is. The trend hasn’t been great. That being said, I think the online aspect made it a bit more accessible to different types of people. There were more new people, or people willing to give more time because it was online and they didn’t have to physically go to spaces. [But] it’s kind of difficult to manage the expectations and continuation of a campaign, because what happens when a lot of new people look at campaigns is that you have a lot of people who don’t understand how campaigns work in terms of time... Sometimes this stuff takes years, so that was a little difficult to manage. But the people that came in and were happy to really help, they came in hard. I suppose with Class Rep numbers and election numbers ... election numbers doubled -

Anderson: - more than doubled

Gray: - so something was working. It has its hits and its misses, but especially student groups who came together in the form of getting to know people around you and form some kind of social interaction which added to it. It’s not ideal for some, but it is ideal for others, and it definitely had its pros and cons, but obviously, it worked in some senses during the year.

As a follow-up, it was asked whether Gray felt the C&E should continue to focus, even in part, online?

Gray: That was what I was intending to do before Covid hit. I was going to try to have more accessible activism, and I do think it should stay to a degree because that’s the only way some people can engage with it for whatever reason. If you’re leaving a cohort of people then it’s not inclusive activism, and then that doesn’t get as far. 

Michalek: I think people are very frustrated that everything is online. They spend all day on Zoom and they’re being told; ‘ok you want an event? Cool, come on Zoom!’ - that’s not what they want to hear. I think there’s a lot of frustration around the fact that people can’t meet their friends, people can’t meet new friends, new people - especially first years or anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to get involved in student life... Kind of like Leighton said, it’s not that people weren’t engaging at all because it was online. I think in first semester people still had this idea that ‘things will open back up, so I don’t need to go to that online event, will have in-person things, this is just a temporary thing’ and then once they realised that maybe this is the reality they started going more. Definitely semester two saw more engagement for events. For me as well, I had to learn to put on online events that are more engaging, and cater them more to what students actually want, and what is most doable and sought after. The ENTs online ball was pretty much one of the first things I did. It was good that I got to collaborate with other Entertainments Officers because I don’t think that’s been done very often. But it was a case of ‘oh, here, go watch this DJ on your screen for two hours’. We tried to make it engaging but we couldn’t even all be presenting it because we couldn’t be in the same room. I think it was the case that people just had to accept this is how it is, and I’m going to put on events to the best of my ability with the restrictions in place.

Anderson: I mean the bizarre thing is that I almost feel that we had better engagement this year politically than we did last year. Certainly we had a bigger win than we ever had last year. I honestly don’t know how much of that is down to what we were trying to do. The big [on-campus rent] campaign we ran last year was a doomed campaign. There was no way we were going to do it. It’s UCD. What we were campaigning for then was never going to happen, no matter how hard we tried. But the campaign we did this year was evidently much more achievable because they were asking for a fees-freeze, which is different from money back - and UCD is never going to give money back. The focus last year was very much on the top-down, here’s the plan, we’re going to have a big protest, we’re going to try to do an action, we’re going to paint a banner... versus my strategy which was just ‘meet with students in terms of their class and see if they can get twenty people to come, and see if they can get fifty names on a letter’. I don’t know what that kind of engagement would have looked like in a normal year, but in terms of the number of students that came to me, and who I had conversations with, talking about getting politically engaged - I mean we had letters sent by science students, business students, medical students, we had students in res interested. And keep in mind we had students like politics students which never materialised. Science students wrote a letter and then it fell through because they’re in their Masters year. Business students were really fantastic, but their demand was never going to happen because they were asking for a refund - you have to weigh [up] what you’re asking with, how many people you have, what your leverage is. The GEMs were the most involved and the longest-running campaign, so they were the most successful. We had nothing like that engagement last year. There’s an element of that [which] is [that] a lot more students were pissed off at UCD this year than they were last year. Trying to mobilise students around the [on-campus] rent [last year] - most students aren’t paying rent at UCD. A lot of the students who are the base of the Students’ Union aren’t paying rent at UCD, and a lot of the students who come to us are in financial difficulty, and if you’re in financial difficulty, I’m sorry to say you’re not living on-campus with rents what they are. It was more difficult to mobilise people [then]. But then you have all the people emailing me about the student levy. People are pissed-off, because it’s obviously unfair. I think it’s a bit of both. It’s a strategic difference, I think, that drove some of the engagement we had politically, but it’s also just a material difference because everyone’s pissed-off. Everyone’s mad. 

How would the UCDSU rate their lobbying efforts with GA and other boards, and their correspondence with UCD management?

Anderson: Zero, but I didn’t try. As far as I’m concerned GA is a rubber-stamping body and we go on there to put on a little song and dance for management. It is a non-factor as far as I’m concerned. The amount of time and effort it would take to really effectively utilise GA, versus the reward we would see - we would have to spend a huge amount of time on it, do a huge amount of research, do a ton of lobbying with individuals, and the reward would be nothing as far as I can tell, because I have never seen anything get voted down at GA. Nothing ever gets called for a vote! UMT, Management, Deeks, the Registrar etcetera etcetera just bring their plans, do their presentations, and then everyone sorta goes ‘yeah, ok, cool, sounds good’. And this gets less true the lower down you go to subgroups, like the Student Experience Group (SEG), the education groups, some of the Academic Council subcommittees, where there is actual debate and you do see policy being pushed through. But again, our terms [as Sabbats] are too short. We don’t have the experience, we don’t have the background, we don’t have the time. If we want to also do all the other student-facing lobbying, and then you add events into that, we don’t have the time to effectively research and plan. We can maybe get a couple of good submissions going, but even then, they are kind of like ‘oh look, well done, good job, cute little submission’, and then we’re gone! The working group is formed in May, and all of us are out by that point.

Gray: I don’t sit on a lot of boards because the C&E role doesn’t, but I have been talking to the Dean of Students about a submission, and he suggested that it should go to SEG, [and] SEG was the end of March. So it took 4 months to get into SEG, and they were late so they gave me even less time to speak, and when I did [I] got a bunch of people speaking over me, because they decided they knew better, even though I was talking about a trans issue. That was annoying. They let me speak at the end and I [explained] ‘you’re wrong, this is the issue’, and they were like ‘alright (shrugs shoulders), see ya!’. It’s very frustrating. I can’t imagine being in meetings like that all the time. And even though those are the very few interactions I’ve had with people like that, Mark Rogers has been not effective. I think he walked out in the meeting I was in”.

Anderson: I made him storm out!

Power: Well he did say he had to go...

Gray: He did say he had to go, but he stormed out.

Anderson: He left in a huff. I will also say, I respect Mark Rogers. I think he’s a great academic. I think he’s a decent guy and I like him a lot. We just represent opposing sides. On September 24th of last year, we had an emergency meeting with Mark Rogers and the three deans, Barbara, Maria and Jason, where they told us UCD was going fully online... It was the Friday before the first day of term... They told us this...and then I was like ‘I don’t know what to say, I told you this was going to happen, I described this as the nightmare scenario. It’s in print from two months ago, when I said the only thing we cannot allow happen is for students to come from abroad, do their quarantine and then go directly into the teeth of another lockdown’. And basically [what was said] was ‘I was hoping we could have a productive conversation, but I see some people just want to keep bringing up the past’ and he left the meeting.

The way they’re described, many of the meetings that the UCDSU attend and take part in seem like a foregone conclusion. So then, where are the decisions being made? Who is making them? Where is the nitty-gritty happening? Who is pulling the strings behind the scenes?

Anderson: UMT.

Power: Even sometimes I feel it is a select few members of the UMT. When there’s something that you’re in agreement with management on - one example of this is the University For All initiative. That’s universally positive, ‘we’ve got great time for that initiative’... I actually put in very little effort and emailed one or two people, and said ‘look, we’d love to get more in the new buildings on campus’ - because that’s endorsed by the UMT, it’s no problem. It’s just so easy to get that kind of structural change done, and when it’s even a minor, minor thing that would be of tangible benefit to students, if there are any reservations from management, you’re strung along, you go through SEG, you go through everything. Realistically it comes down to two or three people that decide how everything is managed. If you’re not in their good books, or don’t go about things in a way that they appreciate, you’re pretty much finished and you can get nothing done. Conor was saying he doesn’t put in the effort on GA. Conor speaks very well on GA. But I will be someone who wastes a lot of time in advance reading through all the papers and preparing a really good long spiel, but it doesn’t matter

Anderson: And then they cut him off! It’s like that old joke. People always say to use the proper channels because they control them. They’re confident they won’t work. UCD is not democratic at all. It’s top-down. UMT control everything, they make all the decisions, and also, by the way, staff feel this too! It’s not just students - it’s academics, it’s staff. They’re the exact same way we are. They’re less able to openly condescend to academic staff in venues like GA, but they just blow them off the same way they do to us. What management do is they do a lot of “consultation”, basically surveying. It’s focus-grouping basically. None of it is on any kind of binding basis... UMT meets once every two weeks! GA meets however many times a year. UMT is meeting every other week and having strategic discussions with people at the highest level of management, and then these groups that are supposedly in charge of these things meet twice a year, four times a year, and those are the only times that we, as Sabbats, get in to try make some kind of presentation. And it’s treated like some kind of consultative process. Even the Covid-19 group I sit on - it’s the Covid-19 Consultation Committee. It’s not binding! We’re not voting on anything. We’re not passing any kind of resolution. It’s just to get feedback, ‘see what people think’, and they just do whatever they want to do! They’re under no obligation to take those opinions into consideration. 

What’s the biggest disappointment of the year?

Michalek: Not being in person. Not being in person and not being able to fulfil expectations that were set. For me anyways that was it, not being able to facilitate people meeting each other and just having the craic, and not being able to feel like part of a community I suppose. We obviously did our best online, but even after Council every second Monday we’d be going to the Clubhouse... Even the Happy Pear, I was so excited for that. And it was still great, and it was still very engaged with but it just would have had so much more oomph in person.

Gray: I’m kind of the same. A lot of my campaign was ‘let’s just throw ourselves into protests and sit-ins’ and that was all gone, essentially my campaign for running was gone by the time I was voted in. And yes we adapted, and it’s been grand, but it has been a shame not to be able to utilise the people power that we have been seeing this year in a face-to-face way. We’re the same as students, we do feel really disconnected. It’s a shame - nothing we can do - but it’s a bit lonely and disappointing.

Anderson: For me, it’s definitely [that] in February I hit a wall. The Nursing video came out and, basically, I hit a wall and lost all my energy, and the Smurfit campaign fizzled, and that’s a big disappointment to me... I really wish I could have kept the energy up more for the Smurfit students because they were the second campaign to coalesce after the GEMs, and it just didn’t quite come together the way the GEMs did, and I feel if I could have worked a little harder, or been a little more active or vocal, then maybe it could have. That for me is the biggest bummer. Other campaigns came together and fizzled, but that was the biggest.

Power: I would definitely say it was the figures at the beginning of the year was probably the thing that set me off the most. They put out the speculative figures of how much people would be back on campus - the forty to sixty per cent. That was very stressful. It was a few weeks of back and forth between ourselves and management, a few weeks of writing letters to the Registrar trying to get clarity on it. I think we were very vindicated in what we did, trying to see is this the reality, are students going to be caught out? We were dogged in our communications... I thought we went about it properly. It was unfortunate, it pitted us very quickly against management at the beginning of the year. But the consequences of it were so severe. The whole time I’m inside Residential meetings with students who are getting fined, and it’s not the Estate Service’s fault - they’re lonely, they’re meeting up in small groups outside. This has a huge impact financially. There are so many students feeling completely lied to. And they were lied to.  

Anderson: Yes, they were.

Power: And of course we will maintain good relationships, and we’ll move past this going forward next year, we can’t see a repeat of this. It was really frustrating that despite the efforts of ourselves, from academic staff, that it just had such a detrimental impact on students that lasted the whole way through the year. I found that difficult. It didn’t matter how much work we did, how much we tried to advocate for students, it just happened anyway. 

Gummerson: They’re kind of similar to my one - a bit of a mix with the Smurfit students and I suppose particularly because such a high amount of them are international students. They were brought over here under false pretences essentially and have been left to study in a room for the whole year with no thought at all for them, about what they’re going through. For myself, not being able to be down on campus was quite difficult and was a big disappointment. But I think that disappointment could have been eased a little bit if the students weren’t there. A lot of them would have went home at Christmas. The pressure and stress that would have put them under - that was very difficult for me... I felt a bit useless. How do we help? What do we do? Again Ruairí would have had a good few Res meetings from that cohort and it was really tough. You’re sitting there, and you’re nearly in agreement with the student - they’re just trying to make a friend - and it happened that two or three of them were in the room and the RAs caught them I suppose and then they were brought up. You’ve put socially-starved students into isolation essentially in a different country, and then expected them to thrive? That was a big disappointment for me, and not being able to do very much for them.

Did the Sabbatical team enjoy the year?

Gummerson: I think it’s clear for me - I wouldn’t have re-run if I didn’t like it. Of course, look, it’s hard. There are parts of it that are hard. I have gained so much personally though - from my own personal skills to some great friends, and learning as well. I’ve just loved helping students. I love seeing students getting their cases sorted. I thrive off that - they’re small little things that you just think are going to be difficult to get sorted and then it gets sorted like this (as she clicks her fingers), and the student is de-stressed and it all goes well. It is difficult... I would be on quite a few [committees and boards] and for me, that is something that I struggle with because I believe in student partnership. It’s something that I feel when it works, it works well... But yeah, I love my job, I love everything about it - even the difficult days. Conor made it look so good! (laughs)

Anderson: I mean obviously I ran again - I love this stupid job, and I love this stupid Union. The hardest thing about this year is that the wins didn’t feel like wins. We had a number of really solid media days, the wins with the GEMs, the rush of the campaigns, everything in the media in September/October, we had the Dolores Cahill thing... but as soon as I would get off the phone, I’m just here at my laptop. In a regular year we’d go out to the Clubhouse, we’d go out to celebrate, we’d do something, so that was really hard. If this was a normal year, with the amount of stuff we accomplished, that would have been so much fun and so energizing. But even with all of that, even though it was kind of a bummer, and isolating, and feels very disconnected, I would do this again if I could do it again.

Michalek: I definitely loved the role, even though it was a massive challenge. There was a lot of learning about myself - what I’m able to do and what I’m not able to do. It was also, genuinely, working with a really great team... I’m only delighted some are re-elected! Even when I’d put on these events, when some weren’t very well attended I’d feel really bad, but I’d get random little messages off students; ‘that was a really nice event’, ‘that was a good competition, I appreciated that’, or yesterday someone messaged me ‘I finally got around to going to exam supports!’ and it made my little heart so happy. Things like that really do build you... I suppose it was also a sense of purpose. Despite being disappointed knowing I wouldn’t be able to do a lot on campus, it was still this sense of purpose [that] I still want people to be able to meet each other, I still want people to have something to go to, to be entertained, and I mean, in all fairness to us, I think we have put on substantially more events than any of the other SUs that I know of. It gives you a sense of fulfilment, despite the struggle, it’s really rewarding.

Power: I found it grand. There were parts of it I really enjoyed - I’m a bit of a policy nerd so I like being able to see that kind of stuff progress. One thing I’m really excited [about] for next year is we started that mental health forum. I really want to try to get a fully costed development plan... But I [did] find [that] it is stressful. For every half the day you’re having great craic, and you’ve lovely co-workers, and you’re able to help people, that’s brilliant, but it can really get you run down. Like Conor was saying, you can hit a wall at times. It has been mixed. I’m hoping next year will be, not easier, but more interactive so you’re not going cracked by yourself. Mixed, but I definitely would resonate with a lot of what Carla said in terms of seeing a student get sorted out. That makes it worthwhile.

Gray: I’m obviously the only person who didn’t re-run, but that being said I’ve been in the Union the longest out of anyone here. This is my fifth year in the Union and I think it’s just coming up to my time to finish and move on. I suppose I’ve had a slightly different experience to everyone else. I have been very open on our social media about having Borderline, so the highs were pretty high, and the lows were pretty low. I loved interacting with students, I loved when campaigns went well, I love that a bunch of trans kids - that are actually adults but are babies to me - came to me and spoke to me, and felt represented in the Union for the first time and that they had someone to go to, which I think is one of the biggest things for me. I loved when meetings were going well, and stuff was going places, and campaigns went well, and students felt empowered. But, at the same time, the social media felt really difficult. Conor and Ruairí will probably know this the best, where I would be in floods sometimes over the messages we would get. Like the BDSM, we got death threats, and then we posted something about menstrual hygiene [that] said ‘open to anyone who menstruates’. A lot of TERFs attacked me personally and assaulted my identity. Especially when we were doing a bit more with MASI in semester one, there was a lot of people pulling the whole ‘what about’ery. It’s very difficult as a campaigns person and as an activist to get the ugly side of people pushed forward to you all the time, which is why, possibly, having an actual social media person might be beneficial. Maybe it’s just a Covid thing, everyone’s so at home, and so frustrated, but really it has not been good for my mental health, in the way social media is. I’m hoping next year Darryl won’t have to be as on the social media as I was. Apart from the social media part, I really loved working with these guys. I loved working with nice students. It was nice to get things done. But I do think my time at the SU - it’s probably a good way to close it.

What is your advice for the new members of the Sabbat team?

Anderson: My advice is to take all your cues from the students. Do what they want you to do, and if you’re doing what the students want you to do, and you’re campaigning for the things they’re asking you to campaign for, they’ll be with you all the way... It feels so good to help people who are interested in organising to help themselves. 

Gray: I think the biggest advice would be finding the balance between relaying the reality of campaigns to students... I think it’s important to find a good balance in explaining how campaigns work, in terms of time and numbers... If you communicate how these things work effectively, you might get less people because they’re less disillusioned, but you will get the people who will actually do the work with you, and get stuff done.