UCDSU Election 2021: Graduate Candidate Carla Gummerson

Carla Gummerson is the current Graduate Officer for the UCDSU. She is 33 years old and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Social Science and a Masters Degree in Public Policy. She is the sole candidate running for Graduate Officer in this year's election.

Gummerson deems that casework is an important aspect of her role as Graduate Officer; “The case work, and helping students and supporting students and advocating for students I see as a major part of my role". 

But she also adds that the Postgrad Workers Alliance Group (PWAG) has been “quite a part of [her] work this year, supporting them” through spreading awareness and publicising things for them. She thinks that the PWAG is effective, she said of them that “they’re keeping the pressure on.” She wants to keep advocating for “pre 2010 restoration of their money” and has been trying to spread awareness on their behalf. 

Apart from advocating for PWAG, she is campaigning for the Back to Education Allowance for Masters Students as high fees are such a barrier for low-income students. She hopes to accomplish this through an email campaign, videos and hashtags. She doesn’t "see why some reduction can’t be done” and that the problem of high international fees comes down to “lobbying the government for more money for the university” so the money can further support things like student advisor, counselling, ACCESS and Lifelong Learning, but also reduce fees. 

She also wants to work on campaigning for publicly funded education, and campaigning spouses of PhD students who have come to Ireland (when they are not allowed work and PhD stipends are not enough to support two people) and period poverty.

She feels that her biggest achievement is “welfare-related”, as vending machines in the student union bathrooms for free period products will be available. She describes it as a “milestone” for the Students' Union to have period products freely accessible for students. But she hasn’t “done enough for Masters students”, she says. Despite her organizing coffee mornings and attending open days, “it’s not enough” and “I know I haven’t done enough” she adds.

As part of her manifesto, she wants to organize “Master student orientated events'" and hopes to do it college by college, working with College Officers to engage students in that after having observed Sarah Michalek, the current Ents officers organize similar events for first years. She wants to do more social events like quizzes, but also career-related events and give them a space of their own. She thinks that she has done a lot with Smurfit students, but neglected Masters students in Belfield. She has done work bringing up the concerns of Smurfit students and acknowledges that they have been “disregarded” this year. She wants to further support Smurfit students by talking to management more. 

It’s not just Master students who are getting their own events, Gummerson plans to dedicate a Postgraduate Month with “social events, well-being and health events” and gives space to “PhD students and Master research students can and spread the world about the work” and “to celebrate their work” as they are a “very hidden group”. 

With regards to the “Shut Up and Write” Sessions, Gummerson is trying to fill in a gap for more sessions similar to what is being organized by the graduate studies. These sessions would involve students sharing their writing and peer-to-peer support. She has already spoken to Dr Jenna Carton who already organizes these sessions in order to try and “replicate to some extent what they do.”

These events including day trips and events will cost around half her UCDSU budget of 9000 euros. She increased the PhD conference fund from 20 to 35 places last year, and hopes to further increase the places from 35 to 40 as it is a “good resource” and “invaluable”. While Gummerson acknowledges that the increase of five places is small, events like the “Shut Up and Write Sessions”  will cost money. “I feel if I’m doing both, I can only increase it only a small bit with the aim then with someone else to increase it if that’s their choice to do so further down the line I feel that at least 30 is two-thirds registered.I don’t know if I could spend 6000 on the PhD conference, but I can justify the 4000.”