UCDSU Executive Elections: Sabbatical Officers’ Hustings

Image Credit: MOLA Architecture

Day 4 of Hustings saw the sabbatical officers candidates address constituents, union members, and the college papers in the Old Student Centre Atrium

The fourth and final day of Hustings saw all the candidates for sabbatical officer positions address and questioned by constituents, members of the union and the college newspapers. 

Exactly one week away from polls closing, this final hustings debate, held in the Old Student Centre Atrium from 6 pm to 9 pm notably addressed the two constitutional referenda on which students will be voting alongside candidates for the Students’ Union executive. 

Referenda 

A discussion on the referenda opened the debate. Speakers opposing the amendments were not present, UCDSU President Martha Ní Riada addressed the students and urged them to vote “Yes” on both referenda. As already reported by The University Observer, the first referenda involve lowering the quota for Constitutional referenda to pass from 12.5% to 10%, whilst the second would see class rep reflections be held in the final four weeks of term, rather than in September. 

President Ní Riada argued that both referenda represent short-term solutions to counter the ongoing engagement problem faced by the SU. Specifically with regards to class reps elections, Ní Riada suggested that the amendment would allow the SU to start their proceedings earlier once the Autumn term begins. 

Campaigns and Engagement

Saskia McCormack-Eiffe, the sole candidate for the role of Campaigns & Engagement officer, opened the Sabbatical hustings. She opened the address by expressing her willingness to “make a lasting impact” for UCD students. She cites her experience within the SU and her extensive political engagement as points in her favour.  

McCormack-Eiffe’s manifesto focuses heavily on measures to counter the cost of living crisis; although she is aware of the long-term nature of her goals on the matter, she argues that “the process needs to begin now” - and that she is the right person to do so. 

Quizzed by The University Observer on her refusal to use the word “radical” in her manifesto in favour of “proactive”, McCormack-Eiffe argues that having a radical approach can often become “too detrimental” as some students might not agree with such actions.

The candidate has also reiterated her commitment to lobby for an overhaul of the SUSI scheme to alleviate financial barriers to education and suggested that increasing SU advertisement through college officers and class reps might be a solution to counter the union’s engagement issues. McCormack-Eiffe then closed the address by stating that she is “not afraid to stand up to management” to ensure students’ voices are heard. 

Events and Entertainments

The next debate saw Daniel Devey and Neo O’Herlihy vying for the position of Entertainment Officer. O’Herlihy has cited his previous experience with the union as the reason for his fitness for the role and he expresses his commitment to “put the students’ voice back into the Students’ Union.” Conversely, Devey emphasises his personal experience as a student who “was isolated”; specifically, Devey argues that UCD “forces” students to only focus on their academic commitments, sacrificing opportunities to “let loose”. 

Quizzed on what they would change to the current role, Devey suggests that the Ents officer should sit on more boards, whilst O’Herlihy argues that the Ents officer should be integral to the Student Experience Group. Both candidates also expressed their willingness to collaborate with societies; however, this depends on whether societies themselves, as well as students, see this collaboration as beneficial. 

For his summation statement, Devey reiterates his intention to ensure events are inclusive to all students, and his willingness to have better planning and advertising for all events. On his part, O’Herlihy stresses his intention to strengthen students’ voices and “empower students to entertain themselves”; notably, he aims to showcase student talent at events. 

Graduate

Graduate was the next hustings debate. Shortly before the start of the debate, it was announced that Simon Van Beek withdrew from the race, leaving Kylie McCardle as the sole remaining candidate for the role. McCardle’s manifesto focuses heavily on ensuring Graduate students feel part of a community in UCD, as well as proposing measures to alleviate the cost of living crisis. 

McCardle aims to achieve the latter point, for instance, by collaborating with the Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation (PWO) to ensure PhD researchers obtain a living wage. As for her ambitious plan for a fee freeze, McCardle proposes lobbying the university through direct action if required. 

McCardle also expressed her commitment to split her time between Belfield and Smurfit. On this topic, she was quizzed on whether the two should be split into two different constituencies - similar to what happened with Architecture and Engineering. Acknowledging the differences between Smurfit and Belfield, McCardle suggested she is in favour of this proposal. The candidate concluded the address by reiterating her main manifesto points, as well as the importance of political campaigning - particularly on Gaza. 

Education

Tia Cullen and Naomhàn Mhaonaigh addressed the crowd for the role of Education Officer. Mhaonaigh opened the address by talking through their manifesto points on “access, equity, and inclusion”, and detailed their knowledge of government proceedings, which equip them to push for changes whilst simultaneously being realistic. On her part, Cullen discussed her extensive experience within the Students’ Union as a point in her favour. 

Asked about their priorities, both candidates emphasised the need to tackle financial barriers to education. Notably, Cullen expressed her willingness to lobby for an overhaul of the SUSI scheme - echoing Campaigns & Engagement candidate Saskia McCormack-Eiffe. 

Cullen was also questioned on the perceived lack of attention given to neurodivergent students in her manifesto, to which the candidate promptly replied by suggesting her openness to work alongside the next Welfare officer to include services catered to neurodivergent students. 

Conversely, Mhaonaigh was questioned on the perceived welfare-leaning approach in their manifesto; the candidate argued that whilst mandated to focus on education, they acknowledge the overlap between the two remits, stating, “If you are not okay [mentally], how are you going to be okay in your education?”

Both candidates then argued for the awareness that the role requires striking a balance between policy and casework. On the topic of international students’ fees, both candidates expressed their openness to learn more to make sure that their points on financial barriers would include international students as well. 

During summation, Cullen emphasised her readiness to “go toe to toe” against academics if needed; Mhaonaigh, too, reiterated their plans for advocating for all students on the academic boards the Education Officer sits. 

Welfare

The three candidates for the Welfare race took the stage next. Ciara Donohue is the first to address the crowd, reiterating the focus of her manifesto on housing, campaigns, ensuring equity of experience for students on internships, placements, and Erasmus, and her intention to increase the number of counsellors on campus.  

Jacob Miller follows, explaining his radical manifesto - especially on the topic of housing with the proposal of enacting rent strikes to hit the university “where it hurts the most - [their] wallets.” Lastly, Shauna Young cites her extensive experience working with the SU, as well as her commitment to ensuring the inclusion of students with invisible disabilities. 

All three candidates were quizzed over the overlap of their manifestos with the Campaigns & Engagement remit, to which they all agreed on the need to foster collaboration amongst the sabbatical team to achieve change. 

Donohue was quizzed over the sourcing of funds to hire more counsellors; she argued for the need to lobby the university to achieve this goal. 

Miller was questioned about the feasibility of a rent strike; he cited the success of the measure in the UK - most notably, University College London (UCL) - and the ethical responsibility of the Welfare officer to ensure that the university does not “charge extortionate fees” for student accommodation. 

Young, too, was quizzed on the topic of housing - specifically, her goal to update students on why the construction of more on-campus accommodation in the Village area was stopped, and argued that students need to know the reason behind the lack of new and affordable housing. Young also elaborated that she has been in contact with the relevant departments to set up regular sensory rooms for neurodivergent students. 

Before giving their closing statements, all candidates expressed their openness to collaborate with Access and Lifelong Learning to further ensure accessibility. Donohue then concluded by emphasising how her experience as a student nurse has equipped her with the skills necessary for the position, whilst Miller upholds his radical stance by arguing that he will bring about “real change”. Young echoes Miller in her closing statement, expressing her awareness of what goals are achievable. 

Presidential

The fourth day of hustings closed with Marc Matouc and Miranda Bauer pleading their cases for the presidential post. Matouc started the address by energetically reiterating his focus on community building through the repurposing of social spaces and giving more incentives to be involved within the union. On her part, Bauer cited her commitment to structurally reforming the union, as well as continuing fighting to ensure students’ needs are met.

Both presidential candidates were inquired on their stance on rejoining USI; whilst Bauer is personally in favour, she argues that proposing another referendum on the matter needs to come from the students’ necessities. Matouc, too, argues that he would act on what the students want. 

During a heated moment in the debate, Matouc was questioned about his alleged privileging of Smurfit - which he promptly countered by citing his “successes” on the Belfield campus. Matouc was also asked to clarify his position on Palestine; whilst he expressed his support for direct action, he also suggested the need to find a “peaceful resolution.”

Bauer was instead quizzed on how she would reconcile her activism with the needs and mandates of the SU: she expressed her commitment to prioritising the campaigns mandated by the SU’s Policy Book. 

Both candidates were then asked how they would ensure that the Sabbatical officers work as a team, rather than as individuals; Matouc expressed his willingness to counter the “cliquey” image of the union by being a leader who respects everyone’s opinion, whilst Bauer suggested the need to create opportunities for the team to bond socially. 

After giving their closing statements, both presidential candidates gave each other a friendly handshake and posed for a picture. 

Elections for college and sabbatical officers, as well as the two referenda, will open from Tuesday, 2nd April until Thursday, 4th April. With hustings debates done, in-person campaigning will continue until polls close. Election results will be announced on Friday, 5th April.