Final year Social Policy and Sociology student Robyn O'Keeffe is running for a second time for the role of C&E Officer for UCDSU. O’Keeffe has a firm grasp on all she hopes to achieve during her time in office, with most of her focus being on improving overall student engagement with the Union.
O’Keeffe, who ran uncontested in the original executive election is now facing the race in a by-election with an opponent. On running in what is now a contested race, O’Keeffe said “like I said throughout the first campaign, I said I’d like to have been contested, because I think I’m the best person for the job. I have the experience, I have the skills, I have the competence to actually do well in this job. I’m re-running because I owe it to myself and to students to see this through and to put my best efforts into getting the role and then to do my very best hopefully in the role.”
In stage one of her degree, O’Keeffe was elected class rep and the following year became the College Officer for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Each year, O’Keeffe has thrown herself into new and bigger roles at UCD, including last year when she became the Auditor for FoodSoc when, in spite of the online platform, she was able to increase the society’s membership and engagement by almost thirty percent. O’Keeffe currently holds the position of Environmental Campaign Coordinator, organising events such as UCD Green Week and continuing initiatives such as the Great Donate project which has had its most successful collection yet. This year she also sits on the committees for Green Campus, Healthy UCD, and the Orientation Advisory Committee.
While these roles have prepared O’Keeffe Feels that the reason she should be the 2022/23 Campaigns and Engagement Officer is because she understands the struggles of student life as well as anyone. One of O’Keeffe’s top priorities is continuing to campaign against the rising costs of student housing. O’Keeffe spoke of her own experience of temporary homelessness during her time at UCD and says that it is experiences like that which drive her to advocate for students both individually and collectively. She wants to bring students together through more campaigns which “create a more collaborative community here”.
As Campaigns and Engagement Officer, O’Keeffe would be responsible for organising, coordinating, and implementing SU campaigns. In her manifesto, O’Keeffe noted her top three campaigns include Equality for All, focusing specifically on anti-racism and gender equality; Sustainability, continuing to work closely with Estates and UCD Green Campus; and Accommodation, representing students in national housing rights groups and more. O’Keeffe believes in “transparency and communication”, especially with UCDSU, and she plans to work more closely with the SU Social Media Manager in order to “more effectively promote SU events” by sending out a weekly email which includes all campus activities and regularly update the SU website. She also wants to “tighten social media engagement” between SU and students by bringing back things like live Twitter updates and encouraging online discussions.
When asked about what she would do to increase student engagement, O’Keeffe mentioned that she wants to get more students involved in campaigns by working with SU to create a “collaborative community on campus”. In order to enrich student life, she wants to take time to work with all areas of student life including Green Campus, clubs, societies, and Res Life.
More than her campaigns and plans for a future as the Campaigns and Engagement Officer, O’Keeffe is determined to be a voice for everyone, willing to speak up when there is a mandate she may not agree with, answering every email she receives from students with campaign ideas and concerns, and begin lobbying for students and their rights on a national level. O’Keeffe was also involved in the recent successful Valentine’s Day campaign “it’s not me, it’s UCD” and was happy with the amount of non-council member students who got involved by handing out leaflets, and even those sharing information about the protest over social media. O’Keeffe hopes to hold more protests and campaigns like this one upon her successful candidacy for the Campaigns and Engagement Officer position. She wants to make sure the SU can fulfil its role in attempting to increase student engagement across the board.
When asked how she would go about this, O’Keeffe was emphatic about listening to what students want, and being more present on campus outside of the SU offices and hopes to encourage her fellow SU sabbatical officers and class reps to do the same. While she won’t know her exact budget until she’s elected, O’Keeffe plans on bringing in more guest speakers that appeal to students across the board, in every stage and course, and running events relative to the current SU campaigns. Guest speakers not only benefit students but can also be insightful for those finishing their degree and looking for advice or just general knowledge about working life after graduation. O’Keeffe wants to “provide professional voices that will empower students”.
As next year’s Campaigns and Engagement Officer, Robyn O’Keeffe says she would be dedicated to providing a wider variety of experiences for students in all areas. She doesn’t just want to increase student engagement, she wants to make sure that every individual student is heard by “establishing working groups relevant to campaigns, subcommittees and advisory groups where any student can join and voice their concerns while further promoting clear communication between students and the Student’s Union not only in a professional capacity but a personal capacity as well”.
As a campaigns and engagement officer candidate, the lack of engagement and clear breakdown in connection between the Union and its members is something that O’Keeffe is acutely aware of and has concrete plans on how to address these issues from the beginning of the year if elected: “In terms of addressing the issue, I am going to start quite early with elections, talking about the elections in semester one, not just about the elections themselves, but even the whole conversation surrounding the referendum to rejoin USI, it all happened a bit too late in my opinion. If we want to start implementing these changes, we need to start early, not necessarily planting seeds in their heads, but letting them know that this is coming next semester. That Christmas break is a prime time for people to be thinking about it.”
O’Keeffe did not shy away from the issues raised in the RON campaign from the election, and argued for the role it played in a democratic voting system “I believe that the campaign to re-open nominations began due to the lack of contested races, which absolutely is an issue and a fair criticism of the Union. Perhaps not of the candidates, because it’s not their fault. The student body had their say, they didn’t want to see uncontested races, and so in re-opening the nominations, it gave the opportunity for students to put themselves forward if they so wished. It sparked a bit of conversation and got people talking.”