As part of our coverage of the upcoming Students’ Union Sabbatical elections, each candidate has been given an opportunity to outline why UCD students should vote for them on March 6th and 7th

My name is Ciara Johnson. I am a final year Law student from Ballymote, Co. Sligo and I want to be your Welfare and Equality Officer next year.
Three years ago I made what has since become one of the best decisions I ever made in college: I decided to join the Welfare Crew. Since then I have served as Welfare Crew Secretary and this year as Gender Equality Co-ordinator on Union Council, as well being a peer mentor and a member of the Please Talk Committee. I also sit on the See Change Youth Panel which challenges the stigma surrounding mental health and the Bodywhys Youth Panel which promotes body positivity. All this experience has not only given me many opportunities to campaign on issues I am passionate about but also has given me the skills and knowledge to take these and many other campaigns to the next level.
I will address some of my key ideas and policies in this article and will explain how they will make a difference for students in UCD.

With the recession having hit students hard, coupled with the seemingly exponential rise in fees, finance is a key issue in my campaign. I will launch a Budgeting App, which can be used online and on your smart phone which will have all the Clever Cuisine and SU shop prices integrated, making it quick and easy for students to carefully manage their money. I will also introduce certified ‘Life Skills’ courses (sign language, first aid etc.) which will allow students to develop new skills before facing the job market.

About 25% of students deal with mental health issues in college. It is vital that we have the best possible frameworks in place to ensure these students get the support they deserve. I want to make UCD the safest campus in Ireland in relation to mental health by ensuring that 1 in every 100 students is SafeTALK (Suicide Alertness for Everyone) trained. Among these will be peer mentors, Residential Assistants and other student leaders. This will train them as Welfare ambassadors, and also crucially, help them know when they need to refer someone on to the Welfare Office. I will also ensure that the €1.6 million secured from the HEA is used to help restructure the counselling service within the University and organise a reimbursable external service for when the internal service is backed up, so no student will ever have to wait for this vital service.

The role of the Welfare Officer has been expanded this year to include the area of Equality. I fully understand the importance and complexity of this of this area having served as Gender Equality Co-ordinator on the Campaigns Forum this year. There are a number of campaigns I am passionate about seeing brought to UCD and which I feel are vital in the fight for equality within the University.

I will run a ‘Donation not Discrimination’ campaign against the MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) blood ban and will work to end this practice. I will also lobby for gender neutral bathrooms to be provided on campus. I will also work with the Disabilities Co-ordinator to bring campaigns in relation to invisible disabilities to the University and host a “One World Fiesta” where international students can showcase the vibrancy of their home country’s culture.

I think it’s time to move on from the standard sexual health campaign. I want to ensure that the campaigns are more informative and educational and also ensure that no student ever feels pressurised into having sex. I also want to make free condoms more accessible by launching a uCard Condom Machine which will distribute condoms with just a swipe of your card.

The Welfare Crew is one of UCD’s most rewarding experiences. I met an amazing group of people and was given the chance to run campaigns on issues I was really passionate about. I want to make sure everyone can get involved in the SU and have their say in what campaigns are run. If elected, I will publish a Campaigns Toolkit online which will help any student put together a campaign on any issue they are passionate about and get the help they need to run it successfully.

This is just a small sampling of my plans for next year, if I’m elected. Be sure and check out my manifesto in the coming week to see the whole range and I hope you’ll consider voting Ciara Johnson #1 for Welfare and Equality.

To read the personal statement of the other candidate in the Welfare race, Cian Dowling, click here