Having spent time working in various roles within the Union, Molly Greenough is running as the only presidential candidate in this year’s Students’ Union by- elections, after an initial campaign where students voted to Re-open nominations. Currently serving as the Welfare Officer, the graduate of Law and Social Justice aims to keep the SU as a familiar presence on campus, keeping students central in how they approach the year ahead.
A “self-proclaimed SU Hack”, Greenough’s previous experience includes serving as a class representative, a college officer, the mental health Campaign Coordinator, and a stint volunteering for the Ent’s forum. It is this experience that she believes will serve her for her time as President. Speaking on why she would be fit for the position, she points out that her experience has led her to develop an “acute understanding of the issues that are impacting students on a daily basis, whether that be financial hardship, mental health struggles, or anything in between.” She also believes that such experience, most notably her time spent as Welfare Officer, would see her take on a supportive role for the rest of the team, stating that “one of the key points of the roles is supporting the sabbatical officers and make sure they are able to complete their constitutional duties”, suggesting that she could see her “welfare officer tendencies will probably be kicking in next year”.
One of the key points Greenough aimed to address in her manifesto was one of fostering a sense of community on campus. She understands that “the lessons you learn outside of the classroom can be as important as those you learn in it, and I want the UCDSU to foster a sense of community and help students make the most of their college experience.” Greenough believes that while UCDSU did a good job in generating a feeling of community this year,, it was not viewed as a “fundamental objective”. “I think it’s happened as a coincidence rather than something purposeful, so I think that’s really why I wanted to include it first and foremost, because when you are on the ground every single week , speaking with students and engaging with other units of campus life, such as the counselling service, clubs and societies, it has positive knock-on effects on engagement and hopefully election turnout, so I think they have done a lot for community previously but putting it as an objective is what sets me apart in that fact.”
Greenough’s manifesto follows onto the subject of respect, in which she points to student safety and wellbeing as a “primary concern”. With the intent of creating a “safer environment for all”, her manifesto indicates a desire to highlight and spread information regarding existing policies and procedures in-place to support students, lobbying for the introduction of opt-out consent classes, the introduction of a ‘Consent Week’, and an increased emphasis on harm reduction policies and campaigns. The ideology of knowledge being power is clear in Greenough’s message. Speaking on current policies, highlighting the Dignity and Respect Policy, she noted that she does “think the policy itself is strong, but the communication of which is a bit weak from the University. I think students often don't know the supports are there. For example, a new support unit, the Dignity and Respect support advisors in November on campus, so I think there needs to be a more widespread focus on spreading general welfare related policies.” When asked if she could think of any blind-spots present in these policies in their current form, she pointed to was training for leaders on campus in helping them support students – “I think the one area that is lacking is wider-spread targeted training for those who, for example, may come into contact with disclosures during their time in UCD. I think there are gaps in the overall level in training that could be improved by the introduction of this type of training. The aim to empower all of our student leaders on campus is one area that those sorts of policies are falling short on, at the moment.
Following on from last year’s team, Greenough intends to continue on the momentum that they have generated on key issues. On this subject, she points out a mental health strategy, cost rental accommodation, highlighting the behind-the-scenes aspect of the SU, student feedback and communication, as well as scrapping the Student Contribution and replacing the National Student Accommodation Strategy as central to this point. Speaking on continuing the work put in from last year, she suggested that “It’s not like pushing an open door, but the lock has definitely been undone” in regard to issues both on a local and national level. She points to a previous “gesture of goodwill that there is room to join in on these conversations”, before suggesting that they “have a very long memory in the SU.”
Despite the presidential race falling uncontested in both the election and by-election, she remains confident in her mandate to represent the student body, should she win this time round. “I don’t take the re-open nominations vote personally, because it seems to have been across the board. I’m viewing it as a rejection of the lack of candidates rather than the candidates themselves. I personally didn’t see any critiques of myself, other than I studied law with social justice, which I can’t really do much about. I’m excited for the opportunity to sell myself again and hopefully do a better job of convincing students that I am the best person to lead the union. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous about the fact that I'm running uncontested again. I would have preferred to have been contested in both elections, but unfortunately that’s beyond my control.”
Greenough spoke candidly of her reaction to the election results, and her plans to rebuild student’s trust in their Union “I don’t think there is any one person that’s at fault for anything that happened. I think it’s natural that students become frustrated with their Students’ Union, it’s a tough time to be a student. When you aren’t seeing the results, it’s good to criticise the Union.I don’t want to say I saw it coming, but I did think that there would be a reopen nominations campaign based on the lack of candidates. Going forward, it’s important to realise that no matter what prompted the RON campaign there obviously is a general discontent with the Students’ Union and that will be important to address going forward.
Greenough spoke of the student perception of the Union and how the disconnect played a role in the failure to elect officers to many of the sabbatical roles in the election “I think there might be a general lack of understanding of what the role of the Union is, so first and foremost I think there has to be a lot of trust rebuilt. I hope to do that by being on the ground, chatting with students, there’s really going to be a big push at class rep recruitment, trying to get people in that aren’t typically involved with the Union, because there was a conception going around that we’re all a big friend group, so i’d really like to dispel any of those feelings. Going forward the Union has to be doing more large scale social events, whatever is possible on campus and even do stuff off campus as well. I do view the Union and my role as a political role, and to bring people into the politics you have to have a bit of fun as well, and that’s the direction I’d like to see the Union going in.”
The barriers in place for non-EEA students hoping to get involved with the Union in a sabbatical capacity was a large part of the opposing RON campaign. In response to this issue and what the Union can do as a whole to address it, Greenough argued that it is a “larger issue with visa policies. I image for some jobs it works okay, but with the niche nature of the sabbatical roles, anyone who wants to take a year out to take up a sabbatical role won’t be able to switch to a working visa, so I think it’s a larger governmental problem, but I know that this year's team have been chatting to other SU’s and they’ve encountered the same issues. I don’t think it’ll be an easy issue to tackle, I think for something of that magnitude to really work you would have to bring in other SU’s, and get a collective push to combat that.”