Welfare: Úna Carroll - Providing a holistic approach to student welfare

Current Disability Rights Campaign Coordinator Úna Carrol is running for the position of Welfare Officer on a three point platform of “improving the system”, “inclusion and representation”, and “Your health and Wellbeing.” Úna has also been a class representative, and for a short time was the secretary of the newly founded Disability Inclusion and Awareness Society (DIASOC). When asked about further experience, Carroll highlighted the large number of marches and conferences she’s participated in due to her role in the union, such as the Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Third-Level Education (ESHTE) confrence.

Carroll’s vision for the role is somewhat holistic, but not different from previous Welfare Officers. She has a clear grasp of what the role entails, including sitting on various boards within UCD, campaigning for policy changes in welfare related areas, and working on individual student casework. Her vision of the union itself is somewhat more unusual, as she describes it as a family, saying “it provides a sense of community, a sense of care...It’s a family module, I believe, inside the students’ life, and it’s a huge part of students’ life, be you involved in it or not.”

Politically, Carroll aligns herself with the “ideology of Labour, and the Green Party”, but says she’s “not really involved with a particular party.” Although she understands why UCDSU left the USI (Union of Students in Ireland), she supports rejoining, saying “I believe USI is a great organisation that has a lot of benefits...I see that we could be a great credit to USI and them to us as well.” Carroll also supports the proposed new constitution, citing the re-inclusion of an ENTS officer and the changes to the Campaign Coordinator roles. Carroll has not yet decided what way she’s voting on the Student Centre Levy extension and she doesn’t endorse any other candidates.

Her proposals to improve the Student Health Services (SHS), is to continue to lobby for greater funding for counsellors and space, but also to promote the group therapy, mutual aid fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and other cost effective services already offered by the SHS. When asked if group therapy could prove problematic for some people as their anonymity was far from guaranteed, Carroll replied “if you’re comfortable enough, that might be a friend made rather than a detriment to you...I don’t think you can stop people from forming friendships...a lot of students may benefit from fellowships without actually knowing it”.

Carroll promises on her manifesto to ensure disclosure training “for society executive members and all council representatives”. As not all council members are mandated to receive this training, however, Carroll explains that “I wouldn’t make a point of mandating certain people to do it, I’d make a point of making it available”. She also would like to bring in rapid HIV testing and reduce the cost of the STI checks currently offered by the health services. When asked how these were going to be paid for, Carroll said “I’d rather not go into pricing and logistics right now, but we’ve definitely discussed it...It’s definitely realistic.” She confirmed she was already in talks with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre about providing disclosure training.

During questioning on her experience as Disabilities Rights Coordinator, the work of her predecessor Amy Hassett was brought up. Hassett was receiving funding from Supporting Partnerships And Realising Change (SPARC) to produce a series of videos about disability access on campus. These were given to Carroll at the start of this year but as of yet have not been published. When asked why they haven’t been published, Carroll replied “because they haven’t been finished, first of all. And second of all, there was a lot of mix up with SPARC...the staff member who was working on them is no longer a staff member here...but having met with people in the career development office we have been able to get that started off and back on track.”

During her short tenure as secretary of DIASOC, Úna was involved in infighting which brought into question her ability to work as a member of a society and a union representative. As covered in the College Tribune earlier this year, Carroll had informed DIASOC committee that “anything deaf/ISL (Irish Sign Language) related has to go through her”, and claimed that the society would need permission from the SU to run events or contact people regarding ISL. When asked if she had instructed the society to leave ISL events to her, Carroll said, “there was no instruction...we kind of agreed that...we would split up tasks, some tasks would be managed by myself under SU’s remit, and some would be managed under the society remit”. However, according to text messages sent to DIASOC committee by Carroll, seen by the University Observer, she wanted to “tackle as much if not all deaf related stuff” and that “as an SU coordinator [Carroll] want[s] to be the person doing everything Deaf/ISL related.” This was not presented as a two way discussion with DIASOC, nor did DIASOC ever agree to let Carroll tackle all ISL events and campaigns herself. When asked about her relationship with the society now, Carroll said, “I don’t have a relationship with any societies really”.