UCDSU Executive Elections: Presidential Candidate Marc Matouc

Twice-elected Graduate Officer Marc Matouc is campaigning for the role of President of UCD Students’ Union and for a third term as a sabbatical officer. His campaign is largely focused on a bygone ideal of community and reveals little on what his presidency would entail.

This year’s UCDSU Executive Elections sees two current Sabbatical Officers running in the presidential race. Twice-elected Graduate Officer Marc Matouc is looking at a potential third mandate within the Executive as President of the union. 

Matouc’s tenure within the Students’ Union has made his knowledge of its inner workings sound and assured. However, his timeliness on sharing his campaign material would not suggest that Matouc is at his third election. 

Matouc’s manifesto is visually disjointed and therefore difficult to read. However, the extent of vision in his manifesto matches the ambition of his presidential campaign. When asked why he is fit for the role; he cites the holistic experience he gained during his tenure as Graduate Officer as a definite strength: “My opponent has only had experience as a campaigns officer, which does not deal with academia. I sit on over twenty-five academic boards across various different programmes.” Whilst emphasising personal strengths is important, discrediting an opponent is hardly a sustainable campaign practice.

Whilst emphasising personal strengths is admirable, discrediting an opponent is hardly a sustainable campaign practice.

Matouc displays his growth confidence and discusses the “imposter syndrome” he experienced at the beginning of his tenure as a Sabbatical Officer: “the first year I joined as a governing authority member, I had imposter syndrome. But I think I overcame that. And now you can't get me to shut up!” Another example of Matouc’s newfound confidence is the number of candidates on other sabbatical races with whom he had a close working relationship during his time as Graduate Officer. When the candidate was asked whether these individuals’ decision to run was a product of his ‘mentorship’, he stated that the idea of being a mentor to his friends is “[his] ego’s gone through the roof.”

When Asked whether these people’s decision to run was related to his "mentorship", he stated that the idea of being a mentor to his friends is symptomatic of “[his] ego’s gone through the roof.”

The outgoing Graduate Officer did not hesitate to list “the accommodation crisis... and a combination of mental health, social life and overall community” as the main issues UCD students are currently most concerned about.  Of these elements, community is the area Matouc’s campaign focuses on the most – to the point where other important areas are sacrificed. Perhaps the most striking part of his manifesto was the inclusion of points from UCD’s Rising to the Future 2020-2024 Strategy. Matouc justifies the inclusion of the strategy because of the considerable lack of attention given to community within it: “only 10% of that document mentioned the word community. And if you look at the institutional language versus the community-based language... there's a rise of purely institutional talk versus the nitty gritty organic student life talk.” 

Matouc’s emphasis on community led to questioning of why he thought a sense of commonality was lost in UCD. Following threats to write a thesis on the topic, he credits this issue to a societal shift in the past few years that have negatively impacted community spirit on University campuses. He notably blames the COVID-19 pandemic for these long-lasting effects on student life. 

Matouc’s emphasis on community led to questioning of why he thought a sense of commonality was lost in UCD. Following threats to write a thesis on the topic, he credits this issue to a societal shift in the past few years that have negatively impacted community spirit on University campuses.

Matouc further elaborated on this point by reminiscing fondly on how social life used to be like in UCD: “The Clubhouse closed at half eleven; but it wouldn't stop there. It would continue. And there'd be an after party out into the park.” 

Matouc’s dive into the past to revamp the future of UCD’s community involves plans to repurpose Building 71 into a social space – thus, a return to the former use of the space. On this, Matouc stated, “scalability-wise, I've been preparing this for about four months... I've talked to previous sabbatical officers who are now in their 60s, [...] Because if we can't learn from our past, how can we move forward?”

Building 71 currently hosts students from the School of Architecture; which begs the question of  where they will be relocated should the space be reconverted, to which Matouc replied: “my feedback with them personally was they were happy with that – the people I spoke to anyway. [...] But also, it doesn't mean that they're leaving. Perhaps there could be a section dedicated to them, [...] they will have their own input into Building 71... if it does become a social space. [...] I'd want those architecture students, if the building were to be renovated, to literally build the art.”

Alongside these ambitious and long-term objectives, the SU plays an integral role in Matouc’s plans to increase a sense of community in UCD. One way he would achieve this is through making council more “fun” – for instance, organising themed council meetings to “give a little break to [class reps and college officers] and to students, [...] I think that kind of creates a bit more of a bonding atmosphere.” Another way Matouc aims to allow college officers and class reps to create stronger bonds is through “having incremental events that aren't just solely focused on the council” and “creating social opportunities, because there aren't many.”

Using the SU to further foster a community spirit goes hand in hand with increasing engagement. Although he acknowledges that this past year has been better, “I think we need to do a much better job.” One way he plans to do this is by incentivising people to participate in SU elections with the promise of receiving a ‘consolation prize’ – “things like participation awards, incentives and then finding common ground with people who've done really well” – if unsuccessful. 

The last point in Matouc’s extensive focus on increasing community relates to residences. Matouc admits to wanting to overturn UCD’s “Nanny University mentality (sic)” – acknowledging the “controversial” nature of the term – by providing students with a better nightlife experience. Once again, Matouc takes inspiration from the past – specifically, his own, when students would get reprimanded for congregating after 11pm: “of course, you have to respect people. But at the same time... I would consider that ‘nanny university’ behaviour because you're tutting people who are paying you money to stay there.” Matouc adds that the SU would also contribute to using residences as an opportunity for congregation, mentioning activities such as “roadshows”, “themed weeks”, “Vox Pops”, or even “bring(ing) a stand, stick it in the middle of one of the accommodation areas and just have people come over.” 

Although concerns about increasing community are relevant, Matouc’s focus on residences seems to leave the accommodation crisis as an afterthought. Furthermore, other plans to alleviate the cost of living crisis for UCD students are not placed on the same level of importance given as community throughout Matouc’s manifesto. Matouc acknowledged this when speaking to The University Observer: “a lot of my campaign is focused heavily around community building; it's obviously important to balance that out with the realities that people face.” Although, the current cost of living is “a big mountain to tackle”, the vastness of the issue does not justify its underwhelming presence within his presidential campaign manifesto. Matouc defended his plans to alleviate the cost of living crisis by saying: “it takes so long to put these things together because you're trying to find something... palpable.”

Matouc’s focus on residences seems to leave the accommodation crisis as an afterthought. Furthermore, other plans to alleviate the cost of living crisis for UCD students are not given the same importance as community in Matouc’s manifesto.

In matters related to housing, Matouc express his willingness to continue to fight for the regulation of digs, and admits being recommended to “work with revenue to give tax relief to people who are students.” Another proposal in this respect relates to increasing the emergency fund to help students in need. When quizzed about how he would source funding for this, Matouc mentions the necessity to collaborate with the bursar, UCD’s governing authority and the relevant boards, before stating that “it's about pushing, pushing, pushing. It's not just about resources.”

Inclusivity is also a lateral project in Matouc’s manifesto. Nevertheless, he expressed his willingness to collaborate with the relevant stakeholders to “hear what they think is pressing them” and to work closely with the rest of the sabbatical team to deliver on his promises. 

If elected to the role of President of the UCD Students’ Union, Marc Matouc hopes to “be the voice for people who are voiceless.” However, Matouc’s campaigns unfortunately falls short of explaining how he would empower students’ voices. 

Up until now, Matouc’s campaigning unfortunately is missing a detailed plan on how he would empower students’ voices.

During his two terms as Graduate Officer, Matouc has gained a reputation for mostly focusing on the Smurfit campus. This time around, there is little to no mention of Smurfit in his Presidential manifesto. This radical shift called for a higher level of scrutiny to which he replied: “I don't think it was strategic as much as it is a part of my job.” He then continued, “my record, although it might be louder in certain areas, is consistent to everybody. And anything that you do for any part of the campus comes back to [Belfield] as well.”

With a prioritising of fostering community over ongoing student problems, Marc Matouc’s presidential campaign has perhaps attempted to allure students with the promise of a return to a bygone era of UCD. Furthermore, his campaigning approach places significant emphasis on   listening to suggestions rather than taking direct action. Indeed, he argued that “a real, effective leader is somebody who represents the people and listens to them, no matter who they are, and takes it on board. It doesn't mean you have to say yes to everything. It just means you listen to everyone.”