UCDSU Election 2021: Presidential Candidate Edward Leonard

Edward Leonard, a final year Law with Politics student, demonstrated a strong familiarity with the role of SU President during his interview, a quality which likely coincides with his lengthy involvement with the union, which goes back as far as 2017.

When asked about campaigning in general, Edward Leonard said that the more radical approach the SU had taken this year did not work, due to lack of student engagement with said campaigns. He admits that he never voiced these concerns as a member of Council, but believes that the motions brought by himself and others to council were not radical. He does not support a referendum to rejoin the USI, as he feels that UCDSU can stand on its own as the largest student union in Ireland. He is currently a member of the Fianna Fáil party, however, he would not consider himself an active member.

As his manifesto demonstrates, he is not lacking in relevant Student Union experience for the role, and he believes this, as well as his involvement with external groups such as SpunOut and CoderDojo, make him uniquely qualified for the role. As for the role itself, Leonard believes that the most important aspect of the role is how it functions as a position of leadership. “It is ensuring that all of the positions work in harmony, it is about getting the most out of the SU” ,however he also stressed the importance of making sure that the union remains a “focal point” for students, tying into his manifesto points on engagement. These ideas include the potential installation of an SU noticeboard on the concourse, and the introduction of specific social media accounts for the President, rather than all information running through the general SU account. He feels this would create a sense of more immediate connection to what the SU, and specifically the President, is doing.

Moving along from the perennial issue of engagement, Leonard's main issues all trace back to costs and accessibility. The specific issues he named are re-sit fees, rent costs, and accessibility to online course materials. His manifesto also touches on fighting for increased access to mental health supports, and ensuring that all of UCD is accessible by wheelchair. 

Regarding re-sit fees and rental costs, Leonard endorses active campaigning for reductions, citing the resit fee reduction achieved by the SU in April 2018 as an example of why he thinks this is feasible. As for rent reductions, he plans to lobby both on and off-campus for reduced rents, but is overall vague on what that means. Leonard is passionate about the issue in question, explaining how this particularly affects disable students who have no choice but to live on campus, however when questioned he did not mention any specifics of what this campaigning would look like, nor did he mention the termination of the SU housing officer.

Leonard also hopes to instate a rental bursary, targeted to help students on Erasmus or on placement, which would provide rent relief to struggling students. This bursary would be means-tested, however, he says that no one would be barred from accessing this assistance so long as there were funds available to be distributed.

A large portion of the interview was spent on the issue of online accessibility to course material, both during Covid-19 and beyond. Leonard is pushing for recorded versions of all class hours to be made available, including in-person lectures as campus reopens, as well as for all key course material to be made available to students either through the library online, or through Brightspace. 

When asked about the continuation of online learning after a return to in-person teaching, Leonard said that continued access to recorded lectures would remain important for students who cannot attend for a multitude of reasons, including sickness and transport issues. When the question of lecturers choosing whether or not to partake in this system arose, he said that he “would personally like to see the policy brought in that they cannot opt out.” However, this is in contravention to intellectual property laws, which state that lecture content cannot be recorded or distributed without the consent of the lecturer in question. When asked if he had spoken to any UCD employees about this specific plan, Leonard said that he had not.

A goal on his manifesto that he has very clearly planned is the introduction of electric scooters to UCD’s campus. He is in contact with Zipp Mobility, a UCD Nova company, who are currently pushing to have them introduced to the campus. However, while he appears to have a firm grasp on how to introduce the scooters themselves, the implementation is less clear. When questioned about whether or not there would be regulation on the use of scooters, as there is for skateboards in certain parts of campus, no clear answer was given.