Welfare Officer: Promises and Challenges

Chloe Maguire Sedgwick researches the upcoming welfare officer’s campaign promises, and the challenges he will face in implementing them.

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FOLLOWING the SU Election results earlier this month, Eoghan Mac Domhnaill is officially the incoming Welfare Officer. What has he promised the students for next year, and what is he going to come up against in trying to implement his ideas?

In terms of gender equality, he plans to lobby various political groups about the gender wage gap. He also hopes to work with UCD for Choice to make sure the SU does everything it can to campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Mac Domhnaill also wants to work with the residences to provide non-mandatory consent classes on campus during orientation week. He plans to speak to the heads of schools to develop an orientation week class for individual courses. However previous consent classes have had historically low attendance. Students who are knowledgeable about consent don’t think they need to attend, and students who don’t believe consent is an issue don’t think that there should be classes in the first place. The SU has also reported that promoting the consent classes more didn’t increase the attendance; it only led to higher levels of trolling.

In response to an increase in students using “study drugs”, he plans on revising the “What’s in the Pill” campaign around exam time. His goal is to make students consider the effects and possible consequences of taking study drugs. His aim here is to prevent people from starting taking study drugs rather than stop students who currently do.

Mac Domhnaill plans to have an active and Safe Talk-trained Welfare Crew who will help him throughout welfare campaigns. However, there has been low interest in previous years and it has been difficult to reach students who may be interested.

One of Mac Domhnaill’s initiatives is “Turas Tae”, which he plans to run at least twice a semester. This entails visiting each school in UCD, providing tea and coffee for students, and giving students the opportunity to chat with their sabbatical and college officers. While it might make the SU slightly more accessible, however, the vast majority of people are unlikely to avail of this opportunity. Typically, these kinds of events have a low turnout as students feel disconnected from the SU.

Mac Domhnaill has also proposed that the SU should advertise its services consistently throughout the year, instead of when it is too late such as what happened with the ‘Walk Safe’ service. One of Mac Domhnaill’s main plans for next year is to run the annual mental health week at the beginning of the first semester. This is to let people know what supports are in place early on, especially first years. He wants to get more prominent speakers in, with talks aimed at men, as young men have a high rate of suicide.

Finally, he hasn’t addressed how he’s going to assist the LGBTQ+ community in UCD in regards to issues, for example, such as gender-neutral bathrooms and the UCD for PrEP campaign. He also hasn’t addressed how he wants to handle the lack of senior residential officers. This was a question posed at Hustings where it was brought up that only 6 people are responsible for 3,500 students who may have physical and/or mental health problems, from 6 pm – 8 am each night. There is a need here for a counsellor or another qualified person to be available during these times.