UCDSU By-election 2022: Graduate Officer Candidate Matt Amenda

Image Credit: Matt Amenda

Matt Amenda, currently pursuing a Masters in Library and Information Sciences, is one of three candidates running for Graduate Officer in the upcoming Student Union By-Elections. He currently serves as a class representative on the Student Union council. He is a non-EEA student from the United States, and is in favour of UCDSU rejoining the USI.

Amenda clearly has a passion for his fellow students and seems keen to provide outreach to postgraduates, as well as represent their interests at higher levels. His campaign highlights his approachability and eagerness to get stuck in, which are qualities that would stand to any sitting sabbatical officer. However, it is also immediately clear that he is underprepared for this role.

When asked at his interview, Amenda was unable to name the sitting Registrar of the University, the Bursar, nor could he identify the name of the board that oversees the finances of the university. He was also, at the time of the interview, unaware of the Postgraduate Workers Alliance (formerly on campus known as Anti Casualisation UCD), a group that has been active in UCD since 2019 and which launched a national campaign for the recognition of the working rights of post-graduate and PhD students. Amenda, however, did respond by saying that this is a group he will need to look up, and that he believes thet “the more workers rights for such hardworking folks the better [...] in general I tend to be for as many workers rights as possible, especially if they’re still going to school”.

When asked about how he planned to split his time between casework and campaigns, Amenda said “I think casework is extremely important and will probably be the first thing I do everyday [...] Casework first, campaigning second.”

Amenda is a candidate with ambition, with his primary lobbying concern being the cost of attending UCD as a non-EEA student, however his intentions of how to go about addressing this issue are ill-defined. He can clearly see the issue that is present, and is firm in his belief that it is a national issue, rather than a campus concern, however his thoughts on how to address it don’t appear to go further than connecting with other student unions to lobby the government, summing his plans up with a simple “United front, rally the troops first so to speak”. 

Amenda admits to his lack of campaigning experience in this regard, but believes that his customer service experience will stand to him in its stead, particularly when it comes to liaising with management and working face to face with students.

This face to face aspect of the role is something that Amenda clearly feels is important to centre in this next year, and will be doing so should he be successful in his campaign. In particular he wants to bring more events with better messaging to Smithfield campus, which he feels has been neglected by the union in this regard. He cites how when he was collecting signatures to run at the by-election, many student were unaware of what a Graduate Officer even was. Amenda believes that the best way to fix this issue is to run more events targeted at graduates where the SU and students can simply mingle, rather than events centred around campaigns. He wants to “Not just stand up on a soapbox and talk at them. Share a pizza, sharing some sodas, in between songs at a concert, getting the vibes of what everyone's problems are, face to face.” 

When asked for specifics on what these events would look like, he did not provide any concrete ideas for the style or purpose of the events, but stated that he would like them to be more of a “high profile monthly” event, rather than smaller and more frequent events. “Perhaps it's less of an events issue and more of a messaging issue.”

Amenda is a candidate with a lot of passion, who is clearly approachable and willing to get stuck into the work that needs to be done. He is aware of the issues faced by the student body in general, and by graduate and international students more specifically, however his lack of experience and direct knowledge of the workings of UCD does stand out. It is also worth noting that his manifesto contains many aspirations, but very few concrete plans, relying more so on his amiable personality and enthusiasm. However, Amenda, if elected, would not be the first Graduate Officer to have an interview that displays a lack of knowledge on the inner workings of the university, many of whom have gone on to have successful years on the sabbatical team.