Ruairí Power is one of three presidential candidates running in this year's Students’ Union elections. Currently serving as the SU’s welfare officer, the 21 year old psychology student wants to continue with the work he and other sabbats laid out this past academic year, as well as work on new plans from his manifesto.
County Clare native and Social Democrats member Ruairí Power believes that he is suitable for the role due to his experience in the Students’ Union as the Welfare officer: “I’ve worked quite closely with the current president (Conor Anderson) on a number of campaigns and initiatives.” He believes that his role as an auditor, his activism, and “the welfare of students having affordability at the heart of the decision making process” is his edge for the campaign. He believes the most important position of president is leadership: “that you’re representing students well… and bringing students in… making sure we’re engaging people and making sure every student in UCD feels represented by their union”.
The biggest issue, he sees, is affordability; the fees imposed on students, the resit fees, the student contribution charge and the cost of materials for each course. Power plans to scrap the charge through means of public funding. “It makes a lot more sense for the university and students to be in alignment, ours had been slow on that”. Power has said he’s been in contact with the relevant people in UCD to try and get the levy reduced, and over the fact that international students were led to believe that they would get more in-person class time. When questioned about the more radical moves the SU have taken, Power says he sometimes disagrees with the term. “I feel that what I am proposing, and what the sabbatical team has been proposing for the last few years is actually the bare minimum. We’re looking for proper public investment in the higher education sector”. Power says UCD should be pushing for a publicly funded model of higher education, and if higher management isn’t open to the idea, he believes the SU, with students, should stay true to what is in students best interests.
In terms of student supports, Power is focused on continually working to provide the same supports that other universities currently offer their students. Power cites the issue of academic supports as the SU’s greatest failure, as well as Anderson’s responsibility too. “So, I think we need to ensure that going into this semester we’ve a very clear line of what we’re looking for: the abolition of repeat and resit fees, uncapped grades for resits, and the automatic right to defer. That’s something I will be advocating for throughout the duration of the Covid crisis”.
When asked about student engagement with the union elections, and if students care, Power stated “the student union can be seen as irrelevant, as a bit of a white elephant that doesn’t achieve much, we’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes this year…”, but says he plans to aim to get the elected sabbats to be more transparent. He makes it known in his manifesto that transparency and town hall meetings are the way he intends to allow students to engage more with the union. He believes the town hall meetings are key to union properly representing students; “as it’s not just the sabbats talking at them, whereas it needs to be more open, there’s a democratic deficit”, and believes by being more transparent and having these town halls, students will see that the SU wants their input.
On the question of rejoining the USI, Power thinks rejoining is a very significant decision, and that students should decide. “The reason why I feel we should join is because we’re severely impeded in our lobbying efforts. We have quite good connections to the media at the moment, we can exploit those but I think our lobbying efforts were significantly disadvantaged”. Power also spoke of the advantages of joining. “USI have regular consultations with government officials, and they have significance, I suppose, the pool of resources…”.
One of the methods he intends to use to get the sabbats to be more accountable is monthly statistical reports. When asked about how viable this was after the number of late reports presented in the council meetings over the last year, Power commented; “It’s essentially a sheet that takes two minutes to fill out… basically you tick off how many students you saw in a certain day, what the queries were about...and it would be of great value to students”. He sees it as something very achievable for sabbats to complete, and commented that it was general “carelessness” more so than sabbats being unable to complete and submit their respective reports on time.
One of the main points in his manifesto is the Right to Disconnect policy. “So what it essentially means is that all employees, which I would hope include PhD students, would basically be entitled to basic working protections. There’s no implicit expectation that they’d have to work outside of their contract hours". This would have a major impact for PhD students.