The UCD Students’ Union is constitutionally obligated to the hold a Student Council every three weeks during term time. At the Councils, class representatives, college officers and members of the campaigns forum gather together to discuss motions that have been brought forward concerning the Union’s operation and how the sabbatical officers can improve the college experience for all UCD students. Motions that have been passed by a majority vote are documented in the UCDSU Policy Book which is available for all students, and is a way of tracking the progress made by the student council.
The UCDSU Constitution states that “policies and mandates set by the Union Council, shall lapse after 3 calendar years”, requiring the UCDSU Policy Book to be regularly updated. The most recently updated Policy Book includes the motions passed from the final council meeting of the academic year 2017/2018. This version of the book includes 67 policies, divided between policies that have an ‘ongoing’ or ‘yes’ status. UCDSU President, Barry Murphy explains that policies that are listed as “‘Ongoing’ means that work on the mandate is currently happening. In some cases this may involve discussing with our counterparts in other SUs about similar work they have ongoing or completed, discussing plans to implementing that work, continuously lobbying others to implement the work or working to engage students in the work required. A mandate listed as ‘yes’ means that it has been completed ie. the letter has been sent or the campaign has achieved its goals. UCDSU Sabbatical Officers can and do revisit mandates as directed by Council.”
Certain policies fall under the responsibility of particular sabbatical officers to see the mandates carried out. In the role of Campaigns & Communications Officer (C&C), Thomas Monaghan is mandated “to post objective details on the Student’s Union’s social media platforms as to what discussions occur at council.” At the last student council, the topic of the UCDSU website maintenance was brought up in discussion, as the C&C Officer and President were mandated to update the website with the current college officers and campaign coordinators. Monaghan explained that “it is currently under maintenance and it will be updated once the issues are resolved” with Murphy adding that a staff member was being trained in script writing for the website. Since the end of the crossover period during the summer, Monaghan said that he takes “every opportunity to promote our social media platforms by speaking to large crowds at once during our events such as the crowd of 1,500 people at Pretty Little Thing Student Sample Sale or speaking to the 800 students who attended the Freshers’ Ball as well as when I address a lecture.”
Among some of the policies that concern the student experience is the Union’s responsibility to expand the supply of Halal options across campus. According to Monaghan, the Union has “been successful in promoting and including more diverse dietary options for students such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy free foods. At the moment, we are researching the ability to increase Halal options in UCD, however, the core difficulty we face is logistics in supply and getting large quantities of Halal options delivered.”
Often the sabbatical officers will prioritise certain policies in their manifestos, which they feel need the time and input to successfully see through. Welfare Officer, Melissa Plunkett said that she is prioritising providing condoms in the on-campus residences, but also “providing support information on bathroom doors” to services is another mandate she is working on. An example of this policy is the Niteline contact information on the bathroom doors beside the health services.
Every year, UCDSU is invited to attend the Pride parade by the LGBTQ+ society. They are also mandated to take a positive stance on, and actively campaign for the licensing of PrEP when they attend Dublin Pride Parade. Given that a monthly subscription to PrEP costs approximately €100 a month, Plunkett has said that she is “open to more events on this topic and I’m trying to educate myself on this matter” and has reached out to the LGBTQ+ society for their input on making the SU more visual in promoting PrEP.
A recurring issue that practically every Education Officer includes on their manifesto is to lobby the University to lower the fees around repeating exams. Council has passed a motion which mandates the Union to undertake actions and propose how the Departments of Education and Skills, Finance, and Public Expenditure and Reform and the Higher Education Authority would implement the “free fees” initiative. Crosby has said “while issues such as housing have dominated the social and political landscape in recent months, the lack of funding for higher education in Budget 2019 and the IUA’s #SaveOurSpark campaign has shown that publicly funded third level education and the reduction of costs to students should remain a core focus of the SU.” He added that he will prioritise working on promoting the campaign to raise awareness among students and the Irish public. He believes that the best way of promoting the campaign is “is the promotion of the IUA’s Change.org petition to the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, which asks that the Minister address the funding crisis in higher education; lobbying of local TDs, Senators and MEPs by students, SUs and all those interested in securing the future of higher education and sharing of these actions and of the campaign itself to whichever audience an individual has access to through social and traditional media.”
Crosby has said that through his work on the “Supports for Students Working Group, which is a collection of representatives from all of these supports who aim to ensure that the various organisations in UCD can work together effectively” he is prioritising creating and distributing “two academic guides for first and final year students, which highlight to students the various supports available to them.”
The Graduate Officer, Niall Torris has worked on postgraduate fee certainty and postgraduate student supports by working with Aisling O’Grady, Head of Student Advisors, to introduce a “Graduate student advisor”. Torris is reportedly “exchanging perspectives on what the role should look like and are attempting to align the role as much as possible with the needs of graduate students and QQI Guidelines for Research Degree programmes.” Torris is focusing on collaboration in his aims of improving engagement on the Blackrock campus by “organising events in conjunction with the Business Student Adviser Nadia Clarkin such as the recent movie night held in the Smurfit Lounge. I am currently discussing with Nadia further plans for events on campus in Smurfit.” He also prioritises the work on improving conditions for PhD students by “continuing to raise the issue of the value of scholarships on and graduate school boards, particularly where the introduction of “fees only” scholarships in exchange for teaching assistant hours is suggests/introduced.”