The candidacy of Engineering student Cian Dowling for Welfare and Equality Officer is grounded in a passion for student welfare and his desire to make UCD a more welcoming place to its students. Whether that is by pushing for further welfare funding or “giving 25,000 hugs” to the UCD community, Dowling’s desire to help people is apparent.
The 21 year old current SU Engineering Convenor has been very involved in UCD life throughout his time in UCD including being a class representative in his inaugural year in UCD, EngSoc treasurer and Engineering PRO in second year, while pairing EngSoc auditor duties with his responsibilities as a Convenor this year.
It is the experience that he has garnered from the aforementioned roles that he feels warrants enough experience to make the next step up to a sabbatical position in the Students’ Union, while also acknowledging the understanding of the role he has acquired from dealings with former Welfare officers such as Scott Ahearn, Rachel Breslin and the current officer, Mícheál Gallagher.
Dowling believes that his experience as auditor is as applicable to the role, stating: “The auditor is more the entrepreneurial side of things. You need to be raising money, you need to be sourcing things, you need to be sourcing finances and funding. I think that is exactly what the Welfare Office needs right now. It is seriously short on funds. Mícheál has done an incredible job with what he has. I think that the more I can bring will really help out.”
From his extensive experience in the aforementioned roles he has undertook during his three years in UCD, Dowling believes that all of this exposure has contributed to his approachable nature. A characteristic of a Welfare and Equality Officer that Dowling believes is crucial. “I’m very approachable and go out of my way to get involved and chat with anyone I can. My favourite thing about the whole campaign so far is to get the message around that I’m going for a position… I’ve got two separate girls come up to me since and said I have made college a lot easier for them by just getting them involved in stuff. One was just a girl I had met in an elective I did. She said it was the one class she had she could go into without feeling like a loner. It was just really nice thing and whenever I hear something like that it is just a reminder of why I really want to do this.”
With regards to the role itself, Dowling is adamant that the principle focus of any Welfare and Equality Officer should be the personal cases and being available for students that need advice on a range of issues such as financial worries and mental health issues. Dowling is quick to state clearly that he sees the role as a first port of call for students who need advice and doesn’t feel the role encompasses being a therapist.
The role of a Welfare and Equality Officer also involves delicate concerns to navigate, one of which is a concerned student feeling the need to drop out of college. Dowling didn’t skulk around the topic and was clear in how he would approach such a matter, “I don’t believe it’s right to say, ‘Stay, stay, stay’. I think some people want to drop out and it is a lot better for some people to drop out. You have to analyse them as a personal case.”
With regards to his manifesto, Dowling covers a range of issues affecting UCD students without specifically suggesting concrete ways to counteract such problems. When questioned about his plans for the unexplained “visible campaigns” mentioned numerous times under different headings, he remains vague arguing that the Co-ordinators (such as the Gender Equality, LBGT Rights, Environmental Co-ordinators) will organise the details. “The people who run for these Co-ordinator positions are very passionate and dedicated… With every campaign, I know that there is going to be someone dedicated to run it and I’m going to be there to help them and use it.”
Dowling speaks confidently about the affordable bank loan scheme he is looking to make available for students and has already met with AIB to discuss the feasibility of such an initiative. Such a scheme, he hopes, would allow students who are reliant for their grant cheques to offset the delay by taking out a loan, with the bank having a guarantee of being reimbursed by the three instalments students receive during the academic year.
The suggestion of approaching outside counsellors to take on students from the student counsellor’s waiting list in UCD is also positive thinking. However, with Dowling admitting that he doesn’t know what sort of costs that would incur, it is merely a good suggestion, and perhaps a populist one, rather than a concrete solution to a crippling problem in UCD right now.
All candidates have their reasons for going for the role, however, seeing the difference previous Welfare Officers have made in the lives of students seems to have spurred Dowling to throw his name forward. While he is confident, and his enthusiasm and determination are more than evident, his knowledge of the Welfare Office beyond personal cases may be his downfall, with few concrete plans evident in his manifesto or his explanations.
To read the interview with the other candidate in the Welfare race, Ciara Johnson, click here
For the analysis of both candidates, click here