UCDSU Election Special 2022: Education Candidate Darragh Kane O'Toole

Image Credit: Heather Reynolds

Current Disability Campaigns Coordinator Darragh Kane O’Toole plans to diversify careers fairs and reform resit and repeat fees if successful in securing the role of Education Officer.

Final year Economics and Sociology student Darragh Kane O’Toole is in the running for Education Officer for the upcoming year. O’Toole, as the current Auditor for UCD’s Philosophy Society as well as being the Disability Campaigns Coordinator for UCDSU, has some previous experience with the Students’ Union. 

O’Toole has been volunteering at education institutions since the age of 15, and ran leadership programmes for Citywise Education. O’Toole spoke with passion about his love for teaching and learning and is familiar with policy education. O’Toole’s passion for learning, education, and outreach seem to be the biggest factors in his motivation for candidacy. As Disability Campaigns Officer, O’Toole sits on two equality, diversity, and inclusion committees, the experience from which he feels qualifies him to become Education Officer. 

It’s a good bit of duct tape on the dam, but we’re still all struggling”

To him, the single most important part of the role of Education Officer is the ‘generalised advancement of student interests’. As Education Officer, O’Toole proposes to pay a particular amount of attention to employability, a concern that, to him, the majority of students are worried about. O’Toole spoke a lot about the recent success of headshot campaigns run by the SU, as well as speaking about increasing availability for soft-skills workshops, something outlined in his manifesto. O’Toole claims in his manifesto that ‘the careers services in UCD offer many great supports and I want to add to them by trying to diversify career fairs and offer an alternative careers fair to the restrictive ones that dominate life’. When asked about what he plans to do to diversify career fairs, O’Toole spoke again about bringing in speakers to talk to students on a variety of soft-skills, however did not define exactly what kinds of talks and workshops he would plan to hold, and how these could benefit students looking for work outside of jobs that ‘dominate life’. However, he maintains that employability is a major student concern, and seeks to get students engaged with a variety of workshops and fairs, whether or not is is an immediate concern, ‘employability is something that everyone engages with’, and therefore as Education Officer O’Toole would seek to provide supports. 

When asked why students should vote for him over other candidates, the answer O’Toole gave was that, as PhilSoc Auditor, ‘our engagement is up, our membership is up, our attendances is higher’, and to him, ‘being able to engage students in whatever way you seek to is an important thing and I’ve been able to do that at least in PhilSoc’s capacity’.

Amongst diversifying careers fairs, O’Toole has other plans for campaigns during his term. An issue he identified for students is the difficulty of gaining basic information about their courses from UCD. ‘The difficulty of finding out basic information in UCD is immensely stressful for no reason’, and O’Toole plans to make a booklet outlining information about things such as structured electives, procedures for when you fail a module amongst other basic information. Speaking on the quality of information available to students, O’Toole said, ‘if you can find it, the quality is good’. 

Employability is a major student concern

O’Toole also takes a particular interest in resit, repeat fees, and is set on proposing a campaign that would mean students have a set amount of times they can fail or change modules without incurring extra expenses - ‘[I plan to] propose students have a set amount of times they can fail or change modules without incurring any extra expenses’. O’Toole would also like to lobby against fees but admitted that this is an ongoing problem in Higher Level education outside of UCD. Speaking on SUSI, O’Toole acknowledged that any kind of financial support is beneficial, but that SUSI leaves many students lacking, saying that ‘It’s a good bit of duct tape on the dam, but we’re still all struggling’. O’Toole admitted that UCD is ‘a little bit of an elitist institution’ and as a university is not doing enough outreach to get students into higher education, mostly due to financial reasons. He maintains that a disproportionate amount of students come from the immediate area of D4 as compared to other parts of Dublin, though he didn’t provide any solutions to this problem aside from attempting to lobby for the reduction of fees and increase student engagement. 

Discussing the main concerns students in UCD are worried about, O’Toole named a lack of basic information, concerns about employability, and concerns over resit fees as the major three concerns but failed to mention issues surrounding things such as mental health support services, the rising cost of student living, or acknowledge the importance of supporting student welfare as Education Officer.