With the new academic year beginning, Michael Tuohy takes a look at the UCDSU and how they’ve dealt with issues affecting students this summer, how this bodes for the coming year, and what needs to be done going forward.
The build-up to the new academic year has been a mess. With the world in its current state, UCD has not been able to start the year off as it normally would. A clear lack of planning, coupled with a lot of poor communication by UCD management, has made incoming and current students more stressed and annoyed than usual. The focus of the new SU has been a bit weird this summer. A new - fairly shoddily put together - logo was put out on all the Students’ Union social media pages. The fact that this logo looks like it was put together on MS Paint in five minutes really doesn’t give the aura of a professional crew that’s there to help fight for the rights of the biggest student populace in the country. It was a poor move, as the previous logo looked more than perfect and the garish colour scheme just does not look well at all.
Outside of small complaints about the new logo and colour scheme of the SU, there’s been a myriad of issues surrounding registration, check-in dates for UCD Residences, and Orientation Week for First Year students, and the UCDSU - one that many expected to be extremely outspoken and active in campaigning for fair treatment of students this year – has been largely quiet and ineffective so far. There have been plenty of nicely worded statements from UCDSU President Conor Anderson about these issues, generally with him just stating his disappointment over what’s happening, stating something to the tune of “this isn’t on lads, something needs to be done here”. There’s been no threat of any protests over ridiculous fees that students are expected to pay this year, despite them being barely on campus. The SU social media pages have been largely silent on these issues themselves, choosing to instead air “worries” through the campus newspapers rather than directly. These statements have been at best, ineffective, and at worst, completely ignorable.
So are the SU going to continue to be this ineffective throughout this year? What should be their aims for this year, and can they actually effectively represent the student populace?
UCD Management have gotten away with so many anti-student measures over the years with barely any pushback from our elected representatives
Students are barely going to be on campus this academic year. Some won’t be on campus at all. Now more than ever the SU must get their message out in a major way. UCD management has gotten away with so many anti-student measures over the years with barely any pushback from our elected representatives and this SU has promised to bring them to task, and rightly so. To do that though, the SU is going to need a lot of student support behind them. That’s why it was so disappointing to see them say they wouldn’t be taking part in Orientation Week this year and would continue to work at home instead. This is the year the SU needs to build up student confidence in their representatives, and it already seems like they’re blowing it. With no presence on campus to draw new students in, get them interested in student politics, and get them out fighting for student causes, where is the push for change going to come from?
UCD needs to see more of an outcry from their students. UCD management has been the definition of greedy for years now, and that sadly doesn’t look like it’ll change in the short-term. Students need to do something more radical to get their attention. In Trinity, they camped out in front of the entrance to the Book of Kells. DCU students had a large, very active protest on school grounds, online, and in the media. UCD students deserve better, and the only way President Andrew Deeks is going to pay attention to us is via more radical means than the SU sending out strongly-worded statements. We need to have large, active protests about the years of cuts to mental healthcare funding on campus, or the major amounts of money students are expected to pay this year for an educational experience we could all get off of a Wikipedia page, or so many of the other disdainful decisions that have been made by UCD management over the past ten-plus years.
The SU needs to be active, and grab some sort of media spotlight, and they need to plant the groundwork for it now.
They need to be actively engaging with people that will be on campus, while also taking care to have a strong, professional online presence so that those that have to sit and learn at home can feel encouraged to get involved in whatever way they can. This is the year that students in this university can take back an inkling of control from UCD management, and if it’s not done now we risk even more horrible treatment in the future.