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NUI Galway Students’ Union

Vote March 7


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL 2

STUDENTS’ UNION

Eibhlín SEOIGHTHE By Áine Kenny Eibhlín Seoighthe is a second year English, Sociology and Political Science student, and is currently the Students’ Union Vice President for Education. “I’m running because I think, with the same stance I took with education, I feel a need for more of a presence out there,” she says. “I would love to be a good spokesperson for the students. I want to be directed by the students, I want to hear from them, and I want to know what’s going on,” she says earnestly. “I don’t want to become a President that ends up sitting on too many committees, you don’t know what is going to happen with them, and things don’t seem to get done when you are sitting on so many committees… so I would like to keep the same level of engagement that I’ve had as SU Education Officer… or the engagement I’d like to think I have had,” she laughs. “I would just like to continue that through, and hopefully bring it to everybody else on the exec as well… that’s another part I would look forward to, working with a brand new team,” Eibhlín adds. With regards to her manifesto, Eibhlín says it is not set in stone yet but she has a few good ideas. “I have been working with John Cox very closely this year, pushing to get funding for the library, and I would like to continue on with that.” Eibhlín also wants to tackle the class rep system. “For class reps, I would love to work closely with the incoming Education Officer, to try and… not make it more formal, but to try and reinvigorate the class rep system.” “Not even to change it because I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with it, I just think it needs a bit of a boost, so a bit of a lift… I think they are the key things I am looking at for the minute.” Social spaces have been talked about by the Students’ Union for the last two years now, and the Education Officer wants to see progress on this front. “Social spaces are a big thing because we are moving towards an avenue of collaborative learning, shared spaces, group presentation.” “It is a very long process to try and book rooms through buildings, there is so much demand for rooms… so that is

another issue I would like to work on with the University as well.” “And then, with the incoming Dean of Students [the replacement for the Vice President for Student Experience], this is another avenue I can focus on… I have already met with them; we have had a very good chat about where we

“There is a lot of pressure on students to get their degree, and to get out into the work force. It seems like we’re turning into what Marx warned us about, the ‘production line churning out students’, but what are we really gaining from that?” “Is the student’s academic career suffering, we hear a lot about critical thinking and is that being lost, because we aren’t giving students enough time to enjoy the subject they are studying, and to enjoy the experience, and to develop those strategies to think, to learn patience, and to achieve their full potential?” “All of that isn’t just to do with academic work, it is to

students… so that would be counselling, disability services, the health unit… even the SU.” “We are the only SU in the country who don’t get money from their University,” Eibhlín says. “There are so many things they could be doing but I think they are starting to listen though… but it will take time, and it will take a good strong Union to put the pressure on them, and to relay back what the students are telling them, to ensure the college are hearing them and understanding it.” Eibhlín also says the lack of student engagement is a serious concern for the Union. “I don’t think it is necessarily anyone’s fault, but it’s the changing nature of the university. We are seeing a massive increase in student numbers, and with that it means we [the Union] can’t be out on the ground as much, which is an awful pity as we miss out on so much by being hidden away in our offices.” The Arts student also says there is a need for a “shake up” in the Students’ Union. “I would like to think if I did get the position, that during the summer I would start working very early with the Dean of Students to look into how we can improve Fresher’s Week from the get go, and make it for all students as well, and give ye a real welcome back.” “The President of the University is very amenable to doing things on campus too so there is good scope to work with all of these people.” Eibhlín also outlines how she would work with a potentially 20 person Executive Committee. “I was trying to think how could we best utilise all of these people. I am hoping to sit down at the start of the summer and plan out everyone’s campaigns for the year.” “Each of our part time officers would have one campaign per semester, and then the full time officers would focus on our usual campaigns… the biggest thing is that everyone needs to be working together.”

“Since 2008, student numbers have increased so much but would see things core funding hasn’t increased in going forward for students.” those [student wellbeing] services. “If anything, we are going to have Yet, the University is spending great opportunities to lead the SU into money on Vice Presidents and a better position to negotiate with the developing new areas and new University.” When asked about courses, but not providing the the biggest issue facing students today, Eibhlín services for the students says that there are a couple of issues tied together. “One who are actually of the biggest things I have seen is anxiety. But I do think that is tied here.” into the student experience... the student experience has changed so much in the last 12 years… I’ve been a student here since 2007, on and off,” she says sheepishly. “The experience has changed so much… years ago there would be rubber duck races on the river, there’d be people playing football on President’s lawn, people would actually be out and about relaxing… and there doesn’t seem to be any space provided for that anymore.” What is the reason for this change in the student experience? Is it that this cohort is taking academic work more seriously, or has the workload gotten harder? Eibhlín says it is a combination of things.

do with student life in general and how you relate to the campus.” Eibhlín also believes the University themselves should be doing more to promote student’s wellbeing. “Since 2008, our numbers have increased so much but our core funding hasn’t increased in those [student wellbeing] services.” “Yet, we are spending money on Vice Presidents and developing new areas and new courses, but we are not providing the services for the students who are actually here.” “I really do think the University could be doing more, and they should start investing the money back into the

“Obviously things would crop up over the year, there may be the odd protest… party in the Quad!” Eibhlín laughs. “As well as working with the USI, I would like to keep things local… for example seating or counselling. We were actually successful with counselling because we had a targeted campaign… we still aren’t seeing the extra seats but we are seeing movement in that regard.” “Even getting the old Print That space for the ISSE survey, students are coming up to us, even staff are coming up and asking is this an SU space now and isn’t it great.” Moving onto financial matters, Eibhlín wants to see the student levy reformed. “I would push for a referendum on this, with student support. I would like to see the €100 Kingfisher fee that is included in the levy gone.” “I would like us to sit down and see where the money is going at the moment and how to best repurpose the fund to ensure the services that we currently roll out don’t lose out on any more funding.” Éalú is a one-day festival that the Students’ Union are supposed to organise each year for the students. This was in exchange for the cancellation of RAG week back in 2011, and used to take the form of Christmas Day, which was cancelled this year. When asked if she would organise an Ealú, Eibhlín says she would like to do something on campus but it would not be an Ealú style event. “A festival on campus, by students for students, is my idea. We would tap into all of our societies and ask what they would like to provide, and use the entire campus from north to south, and host a student-led, student festival, so that it is owned by us.” “I’ve invigilated for different festivals around Galway before so I would be drawing on my past experience and bringing that all with me to the job, and again building those connections and reinforcing them, so that the students will benefit from it.” The Education Officer also wants to bring in an academic rest week. “A lot of the staff is on board with the idea. I brought it to a recent committee, to see could we do something about it. It looks like it is going to be taken seriously, and actually investigated. This needs cooperation between staff and students.” “The most important thing to me is making sure the student voice is heard. I don’t want to tell you what I am going to do for you, unless it is something that you [the students] want.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

PRESIDENT

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Clare AUSTICK By Áine Kenny Clare Austick studied undenominated Science and graduated in Chemistry last October. She is currently the Students’ Union’s Welfare and Equality officer, and previously held the part time role of Equality Officer before that. “I have been involved in the Union for the past number of years, I would have gotten involved early on in my studies, in second year and third year I was a class rep, which led me to run for part time Equality officer, and then Welfare and Equality officer last year.” “This year in particular I saw how the Union could help students on an individual basis, but also by sitting on University committees and always constantly fighting for students, and through implementing policies.” “So I guess I am running because I want to enhance the student experience for all, and I have learned so many skills this year, I saw how the Union can help students through so many different ways, whether it is through commercial services, the Students’ Union card, Leap Cards, then through the officers who meet with students on a regular basis and work on casework with them, through events… there is so much that the Union does that students might not be aware of, and it is just there in the background constantly fighting for student’s concerns and worries, and making sure that they [students] are always at the core of every decision that the University makes,” Clare says. Clare’s number one point on her manifesto is university standardisation. “As a science student, I would have seen what it is like to be in an overcrowded lecture. I think everyone pays the same fees; everyone should be entitled to quality education, to get the best out of it so they can reach their full potential.” “With the standardisation, I want to have a student staff liaison committee for every college, so the School of Arts currently has it, but I want to have this across the board, so students’ feedback is constantly brought to lecturers, and lecturers can run things by students, so they can work in partnership to ensure they get the best out of their education,” Clare explains.

“The second thing under standardisation would be to continue fighting for the module carry over system. That’s in the works, but you have to constantly fight for it and you don’t want to get that lost… even with the Vice Presidents and President roles, they are only a year-long period, so sometimes the things they fought for, the next person might not do that, so its making sure that it is continuous,” Clare adds. Timetables are another thing Clare wants to tackle. “So for example have personal timetables, so there is more structure and management and organisation. At the beginning you are still finding your feet, so you may miss lectures or you don’t know where you are going… and that can be quite stressful, particularly if you are in first year or second year.”

year to student accommodations, so resident runs, and ask students what they want from the Union. Then in semester two I can come back and say ‘this is what I’ve done for you’.” “I also want to do more lecture addresses… with social media we have a reach of around 2000 on Instagram and 3000 on Snapchat. But social media should be an add-on, face to face

Clare’s number one manifesto point is

one counsellor per 1000 students at minimum, but we need more staff, and longer opening hours. Same with the Disability Support Service.” “We have such a diverse student population, we have international students, the highest number of students from non-traditional backgrounds, from the Access course, DARE, HEAR… but needs aren’t met.” Clare says the biggest issue facing students today is higher education funding. “This Union exists because we are representing 19,000 students currently. But what about those who couldn’t come and be a student at NUI Galway because the fees were too high, or couldn’t afford accommodation?” “I want to continue lobbying the government for more funding into higher institutions. I was elected to and currently sit on the USI Campaigns subcommittee, and we have a new campaign coming up called Fund The Future. “It is calling for three things: investment into higher institutions, no fees and the restoration of SUSI grants. SUSI was cut by seven percent in 2011, and we have the second highest fees in Europe.” “We need to put more funding into the services that exist. So counselling, DSS, buildings… we need to expand them and we need to improve them.” “I want to fight for students who couldn’t access education, but also improve the standard and quality of the education for those who are already at NUI Galway,” Clare says. The Welfare and Equality Officer also says constantly asking for feedback from students is invaluable because the Union are working for the students. She also says making sure there is always student representation at University committees, and at smaller working groups is key, because this will give University staff an idea of what students are actually going through. When asked if there is anything she thinks the Union has failed on,

university standardisation. “As

a science student, I have seen what it is like to be in an overcrowded

lecture. I think everyone pays the same fees; everyone should be

entitled to quality education, to get the best out of it so they can reach their full potential.”

Clare also says she tried to improve engagement this year, and will continue to work on it if elected. “I had Mental Health Mondays, so each Monday we had a different topic around mental health, to make sure students are looking after themselves. So I would have been on Concourse, and also on the North Campus, so it gave me a reason to go out and engage, get people to see my face, ask me questions, I handed out free fruit... and just let them know the Union is out there working for them.” “And what I want to do, if elected, is to go around at the beginning of the

and lecture addresses are always so much more valuable for engagement.” Clare also promises to tackle social spaces. “We had a little win there that the old Print That area is going to be a social space, but this is only one space in the amount of buildings we have, so we need to fight for that. “There is a social space working group that I sat on, and again we need to push it and make sure this is always on the agenda, and anytime a building is constructed or renovated, that social spaces are always included in the new plan.” Clare also wants to look at student services. She says that this year she led the Invest In Us protest on World Mental Health day, which resulted in the University allocating another €5000 to the student counselling service. “It was great, but again still not enough. We are supposed to have

Clare says that is a tough question. “I think there is always room for improvement.” “Possibly the student levy. How it is broken down is there is an Aras na Mac Leinn fund, which students don’t really get to see the benefit of, so I would like to see that repurposed. So have core funding into specific areas such as clubs, societies, the Union possibly so we can run more campaigns, Flirt FM, and the Student Project Fund.” “To have it [the levy] lowered, and repurposed, so I think the student levy is something that the Union at the time didn’t address. €100 of that goes to paying back the Kingfisher and the five percent interest rate on it, so I would try to scrap that,” Clare says. Clare says a combination of protest and lobbying the University for more core funding for student services is the best approach. “We need to constantly bring these issues up. We must have it on the agenda, so it doesn’t get lost somewhere down the line.” “We did not have an on-campus protest in I don’t know how many years, but when we did we got €5000 more in funding in semester one. I don’t think that will work all the time, but I think standing up for what we believe and saying it isn’t good enough, and we want more funding into support services is needed.” When asked about Éalú, the oneday, University-endorsed festival that the Students’ Union are supposed to organise each year for the students, Clare says that we have a diverse student population, with people of all ages and backgrounds, and that should be celebrated. “A sense of community is very important which you can get through communal events. Something that worked really well this year was the Christmas tree lighting. The President was there, he welcomed everyone, students and staff were there, and a sense of belonging was created, everyone was proud to be part of NUI Galway.” “The President [of the University] seems pretty committed to that type of ideology, so have that every year, and then maybe have a summer barbeque that everyone could attend, and have that collaboration, collectiveness and connection with the community.” “Éalú is something I would love to work on as well. So, just build on what Megan and Lorcán would have done up until now. Again, so students can integrate, and get to know different communities, and also be part of NUI Galway as a whole.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

VP — WELFARE &

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Ciarán GUY By Áine Kenny Ciarán Guy is currently studying for a Masters in Key Enabling Technologies, which is a Physics course. He is running for Welfare and Equality Officer because he feels like he has gotten a lot from the college, and wants to give back. “I did my undergraduate here, and I am now doing my Masters here… and it has probably been the best four or five years of my life!” he laughs. “I would just really like to stay in this environment, to help out, and I feel like I have a lot to add [to the Students’ Union].” If elected, Ciarán wants to bring in cooking and nutritional classes. “Sort of following the style of the self-defence and occupational first aid classes, I would really like to see cooking classes brought in.” “There are so many people who can’t cook, its very bad, it is a basic life skill and you need to know how to take care of yourself.” “We already have kitchens on campus, in the Hub and in Aras na Mac Léinn. You could do this very cheaply, and have the classes on low-budget meals. If you had the raw ingredients you could pay €2 to €3 per meal, and each meal in a sense would be a lesson. So for €20 you could have ten lessons.” Social media is another area Ciarán would focus on. “I do feel like people are very attached to social media, and in the sense of when you’re getting likes, you’re getting messages, you are getting a hit of dopamine and it is actually very addictive.” “These sites are designed to keep you on. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat… you are the product. You are constantly connected to it, it is very distracting, and people’s attention spans are suffering.” “I think that people’s academic work may be suffering. I think they are finding it a lot harder to focus… how many people do you see in lecture halls on their phones?” When asked if he would try to block social media from the college wifi, Ciarán says no. “Ideally, the best thing would be metered use. I am not a fan of banning things, for example smoking, I don’t agree with smoking, but you should have a choice to smoke. The same for social media, you should be able to choose when you go on it.” Another point on Ciarán’s manifesto would be to introduce a finance-based course for students, to teach them how to budget. “So starting off with budgeting, and even going all the way up to building a retirement

account, because with aging populations, and with social welfare… you won’t be able to live off a government pension unless you own your house. So you need something to back yourself up, and the earlier you start thinking about it the better.” Ciarán points out that a lot of students have never had to manage their own money before college. “You don’t have to [budget] when you are at home. I was kind of fortunate that I did have to budget a little.” “It is okay to not k n ow t h e s e l i fe skills yet, as long as you are willing to learn. The problem is when they leave college and they still don’t know, that is where it becomes an issue.” The Physics student also wants to set up advice sessions for different disciplines. “To get postgrads talking to fourth years, or first years, and just giving them an idea what it is like to be working in that area of research, or in the field.” “I think it would be nice to have more interaction between the younger years, and older students and people in the industry, to get some actual feedback.” Ciarán believes the biggest welfare issue facing students today is potentially housing. “I feel like if you don’t have housing security, that is a welfare issue. But if you are paying a lot [in rent] that is also a financial issue, which becomes a welfare issue.” “I think the Students’ Union could be pushing the college more. I know that Nun’s Island is going to be renovated, and we could really push them to have some accommodation there. Even if the accommodation is for profit, the Students’ Union should be getting some of that money to put back into other things like courses.” Ciarán also says mental health is a big issue, but it is very diverse. “There are so many things that [poor mental health] can come from, it is not like we can just do one thing and mental health will be okay,” he says. “I think it is kind of okay here in the sense that we have a lot of support,

but it is trying to fix what is actually causing that… it is just the system we are living in… putting pressure on us, nowadays more than any other time, the world is changing more and more, and that kind of insecurity really plays on people.” When asked about the Financial Aid Fund, Ciarán says he doesn’t

don’t know… any area they are spending too much in, they could reallocate the money... the problem is that it [the college’s spending] is all contractual, so the main thing should be transparency. Budgets should be published.” Ciarán then turns to the Student Health Unit. He says he would seek to abolish the charge for the pill, which he was unaware of. “I don’t really think the charge is fair. The Union should have made this more of an issue.” “I was under the impression there already is a sort of appointment system, but maybe I am thinking of the STI clinic. Even if they don’t have enough staff, there is no excuse. It is 2019, we have automated systems.” When asked about student engagement with the Union, Ciarán says it is average. “I feel like if peo-

Ciarán believes the biggest welfare issue facing students today is potentially housing. “I feel like if you don’t have housing security, that is a welfare issue. But if you are paying a lot [in rent] that is also a financial issue, which becomes a welfare issue. I think the Students’ Union could be pushing the college more.” know how he would fix it. “I think it is too hard to say exact points about how I would fix it. The system could definitely be improved. I don’t know the intricacies of how the system works, so I would need to look into it a lot more before I decided anything.” “Even the process is not easy. All of the documentation, it is taking a lot of time out of college… it is not a nice thing to have to do, to apply because you don’t have enough money, it is never a good feeling.” “Making the process as pain-free as possible would be key,” Ciarán adds. When asked about student counselling, Ciarán says the college can always be convinced to allocate more funding, but it might be a matter of concessions. “I feel like the college does have enough money.” When asked if he would try to get funds taken away from another areas and redirected towards counselling, Ciarán thinks for a while. “Yeah, I

ple need things, they are happy to go to the Union. I think some of the services could be made more obvious, not just Union ones, but the Career Development Centre, the accommodation pages.” “I feel like a lot of students are apathetic about things. Even when they are interested in politics, it is more ideological.” The class rep system is something that Ciarán is thinking about also. “There is not really a push for class reps to go back to their classes, they

don’t convey some of the messages back, and they are just there representing them.” When asked about the two strands of the role, welfare and equality, Ciarán says he will support the part time equality officers (Gender and LGBT+, Disability Rights, Ethnic Minorities Officers) but that “we aren’t doing terribly [in terms of equality].” “Compared to other countries, we are doing quite well, and as a college, we are quite impressive, I feel.” Drug testing kits are something Ciarán wants to bring in. “I know the Students for Sensible Drug Policy society have been pushing for that, and they got one or two in, but that is not what should have happened.” “Drug use is becoming more and more common, if you want to take drugs that is your choice, but we should make it as safe as possible.” “You can buy the kits on Amazon, they are pretty cheap. You pay €15 or €20 and they are reusable, you just scrape a bit of the product into it.” “Ideally, you could have a centre in the Students’ Union where people could bring something in, test it, and then if it’s dangerous, the Union can put out a notice.” “The Students’ Union’s stance is decriminalisation, not legalisation. So they just haven’t gotten involved, but I feel like they should.” Ciarán also adds that there should be a limit to how much candidates are allowed to spend on their election campaigns for the Students’ Union. “You shouldn’t be allowed to spend more than €50, €100… I have heard of people spending over €200, and that is restricting a lot of students.” “I think the leaflets are wasteful. You see them being handed out, and they are all on top of lockers or students throw them in the bin. What is the purpose? Surely you should run on the merit of your ideas.” “Again, with social media, as bad as it can be, you have good outreach.” “I will be running a different sort of campaign where I am going to email and message as many class reps, societies and clubs as I can.” “I have booked a room for a few hours per day where people can come talk to me, that is the small acoustic room in Aras na Mac Leinn from 1:30pm to 3pm on Monday to Wednesday, and 11am to 1pm on Thursday, the week of the 4-7 March.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

EQUALITY OFFICER

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Brandon WALSH By Áine Kenny Brandon Walsh is a second year General Science student, and the current Societies Chairperson for the Students’ Union. He is running for the role of Vice President/Welfare and Equality Officer. “Welfare Officer is a really important role, and not every student will need to go see the Welfare Officer, but those who do are some of the most vulnerable students on campus.” “They really need someone who has the personal and professional experience of what they are going through, and someone who is there to support them and guide them in the right direction,” Brandon says. “I’ve been through a lot of the things that a Welfare Officer would have to deal with, like people wanting to defer exams, people wanting to drop out, repeating exams, financial aid fund issues.” “I have gone through all of that as a student myself, and I know how the system works and what people need to hear when they’re going through that.” “I think that is a really important aspect of being Welfare Officer, someone who is there to support and point people in the right direction… because it is not always something that you can do personally, but you will be able to point them to a service they can utilise,” Brandon explains. One of the first points on Brandon’s manifesto is around disability. “The Disability Society here in NUI Galway are really pushing for a disability open day, and I really want to help that happen and have it as a University recognised thing.” “Open days are really stressful, they are really loud, and accessibility is hard when you have a wheelchair. But if we had a disability open day, that would be great because all of those things would be taken care of.” “For people with autism or Asperger’s, open days can be very stressful, all of the lights, sounds and crowds.” Brandon also wants to push for a disability and accessibility audit. “I want to make sure all of the lifts are working, the stair lifts are working, the automatic doors, and try and revise the accessibility route around campus, to see if there is anything better we can do.” “Even just going over the blue dots because they are so not visible and people don’t know what they are!” he exclaims. Brandon also worked on social spaces a lot this year and he sat on a social space committee that was set up. “This was trying to stop the Uni-

versity taking vacant spaces like the old Print That space, and claiming them as commercial spaces. We want to replicate the Hub set up, which has basically been revolutionised in the last year.” “One thing we are working on is to stop the Hub being used for Graduation ceremonies. We arranged a walk through with Pól Ó Dochartaigh [the University’s Registrar] to show how much the Hub is used.” “The Hub is not just a social space for students, it is a support service, even with the kitchen… there are people down there cooking entire meals for everyone in the Hub, it is so multicultural, it is just fantastic.” “So, I really want to work on replicating that around campus.” Brandon also wants to focus on student services if he is elected. “Counselling in particular is something I want to focus on. It is ridiculous that students are expected to have mental health problems on a schedule, between 2pm and 4pm… like that is not a thing,” he says angrily. “And they are so stressed, and I would really try to push for more funding, with the eventual idea being we could extend the opening hours.” Brandon also highlights that not a lot of people know how to get to 5 Distillery Road, or know how to get an appointment or use the service. “I was thinking of doing a walkthrough about how to get there, from the courtyard outside Sult, use a Go Pro to record, and show me going up to the desk… I think it would get rid of a lot of the stress of ‘I don’t know where I am going’.” “All of the counsellors are so lovely, most of them don’t have full time contracts as well, which is something I really want to try and work on, getting more funding for full time staff there. This would make it easier to extend the open hours.” The Science student thinks that the biggest welfare issue facing students today is a mix between the accommodation crisis and financial support. “Those are the two main things com-

ing to a head this year. Like with the accommodation crisis, I think that it is tipping the scales and it might be the biggest one… we have been trying to get the government to introduce rent caps for purpose-built student accommodation.” “It is crazy, it is ridiculous… we need more appropriately priced accommodation for students,” he says. “I also want to work with people in digs. They have no tenancy rights whatsoever; whoever is in charge of running the digs decides that they can’t stay at weekends, and they can charge whatever they want as well.”

“There were so many students who thought they would have to drop out because they couldn’t continue their college career without the fund,” Brandon reveals.

“Counselling in particular is

something I want to focus

on. It is ridiculous that students

“There also needs to be more information given to students, a lot of the problems last semester c o u l d h ave been solved by sending out an email, or meeting up with people and trying to fix it, but there was just no communication from the University whatsoever, and I really want to change that.” When asked how he will get the University to allocate more core funding to the counselling service, Brandon points to the success of the protest in semester one. “If the University was able to get that €5000 in a day, after having a few students in the Quad, they definitely have this money and they need to allocate it to the counselling service.” “Also, counselling plays a huge part in student retention. I just don’t understand why the University isn’t allocating more money to it. There are skyrocketing mental health problems and they are just ignoring it essentially.” “There are not giving the students what they need. Something I have seen in many meetings…” Here, Brandon pauses for a moment.

are expected to have mental

health problems on a schedule,

between 2pm and 4pm… like that is not a thing,” he says angrily. “I would really try to push for

more funding, with the eventual idea being we could extend the opening hours.”

“I think accommodations is a major welfare issue. There are so many students living in hostels as well, something needs to be done about that.” Brandon says there also needs to be a “massive restructuring” of the Financial Aid Fund system in NUI Galway, which hit headlines last semester for the incorrect processing of applicants. “The way the means testing is done needs to be changed, that is where there was an issue this year. People were means tested wrong, then they were allocated the incorrect amount of money… and it was just really stressful.”

“I have heard members of staff refer to students as ‘streams of revenue’. That is when I decided to run for Welfare, this is ridiculous!” he exclaims. “Some of the staff are amazing and they really care about students, but some of them just don’t understand, they have lost the whole meaning… like they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the students, you’re here for us.” SIN also asked about the Student Health Unit, and whether Brandon would try to roll back the introduction of a fee to get a prescription for the pill, or introduce an appointment system. “Definitely it is something I would look into to. I didn’t know about that charge [for the pill] until now. It is really crazy that you can go in and get other prescriptions and you don’t have to pay, but you have to pay for the pill. It doesn’t really make sense, so I would definitely try and fix that.” “I could try to do a review of the Health Unit and see if an appointment system would help, it could work but we would have to talk to the staff in there about that. They are also underfunded as well.” Brandon also points out that part of the student levy goes towards our health unit, unlike most other colleges in Ireland. “Other universities fund their health unit, so why not ours?” The role of Welfare Officer was changed by referendum last year to encompass Equality. But is this necessary given that the Students’ Union also has a Gender and LGBT+ Rights Officer, an Ethnic Minorities Officer and a Disability Rights Officer? Brandon thinks so. “When we didn’t have Equality in the role, the Welfare Officer was still doing a lot of work on Equality. There is a duality to Welfare now which I really like.” “You have the Welfare side where you are helping vulnerable students on the ground, whereas with the Equality side it is more like activism, and event-orientated.” “Even though we have the parttime officers now, it is still important to have a full time role with equality in its title. Because sometimes a lot of the part-timers feel like they are not taken seriously on committees as much, or don’t have the time or reach.” “Whereas a full time officer does have those things, so I think Equality is important in this role.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

VP —

6

Cameron KEIGHRON By Áine Kenny Cameron Keighron holds a Masters in Regenerative Medicine (stem cell biology) and is the Students’ Union’s Postgraduate Taught Officer. He started studying in NUI Galway in 2012. Activism and advocacy have always been a huge element in Cameron’s life and this is something he hopes to bring to the role. “I fell into the Students’ Union in my first few years of college through my friend group… I helped out with campaigns, I was a class rep.” “I really enjoyed the positive influence I could have and how I can make life better for students who were experiencing the same problems I had,” Cameron says. Cameron says he developed an interest in academic affairs over the last number of years. “I have interest in helping out students who have an issue with their course, with their course coordinator… this year working as the postgraduate taught officer, I can see how much of a difference I could make by opening up a forum for students to talk about their problems, telling me what is going on, and advocate for them at a higher level.” One of Cameron’s key points is to ease the transition between undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. “When we encourage students to go to postgraduate level, we need to put supports in place for that. I am running to build on the work I have done this year.” The Postgraduate Taught Officer also points out that the University hasn’t changed in 40 years. “We have lecturers who will lecture in the same theatre, week in week out, every year and nothing changes… same slides and everything.” “We are at this stagnant point with the academic side of the University, we are so stuck in our ways that we don’t necessarily look at how to diversify education. We are seeing this come through in some of the problems students are facing.” Cameron says that as a Union, they have been “held to ransom” over the past number of years due to fees, course outlines and course coordinators, and that there a strict parameters set by the college over what an education actually entails. “We need to give the ownership back to students. They are the ones who are paying for it, they should have a say in what goes on in their course.”

Exam reform is an area Cameron promises to tackle if he is elected. “There is absolutely no reason why the University can’t commit to a day in semester one and two where all exam results come out. We are adding to a student’s stress with regards to work, applying to Masters, or whether they will continue their studies.” “We need to have exam timetables released well in advance. This is for the students who have to work, book flights home, commute or if they have caring responsibilities.” Cameron says that releasing more information about exams would also help students, such as seat numbers, and the general exam process. “First years just get here and then suddenly they are told they need to get out to Galway Bay in Salthill. It is very daunting.” He would also like to see a restructuring of the repeat fee for exams. “I want to see a fee per exam with a cap at €150. Also we need to highlight that if a student defers an exam, and if they then fail a subsequent exam, they do not pay the repeat fee. It is waived at

bad thing in this University that we have students being fearful of having a bad exam timetable.” “I am not sure how we will rectify it now, but more careful planning is needed around exams.” Cameron also says there is a need for more continuous assessment across the board. “I don’t think we capture a student’s ability in one 100 percent exam. Not every student examines well.” He also wants to ensure that when there are group projects in courses, the lecturers assign the groups randomly. “There is nothing worse than being left out and having to go up to your lec-

The Union has been

campus.” “A lot of this needs to be in written down policies. This empowers the Deans and Heads of Schools to actually implement the things we want them to.” Cameron also mentioned there are issues around students going on placements. “We have no standardised approach. I think it is ridiculous to expect a student to work 32 hours a week on placement, and then try to support themselves [if they aren’t being paid].” “We need to look at how to finance this. Do we need to lobby the University to put more funding in place for things like accommodation, food and travel costs? We also need to look at the timing of placement too… to ensure there is flexibility there.” One area Cameron is very passionate about is making learning more accessible and interactive. “Roleplays and case studies are interactive and visual and can benefit all types of learners. The model of reading slides doesn’t work for everyone.” This year, Cameron worked on an Inclusive Learning and Teaching Model in the College of Business, Public Policy and Law with two Deans and a woman from CELT. “We have been looking at seeing what best practice is, for students who have a minority identity. We are surveying students to find out how inclusive their learning experience was. Did they feel like they were empowered to speak up in class and complete their work? Did they feel like they belonged?” “We are hoping to get this learning model embedded into college policy, this is something I am really passionate about, we are not capturing every student by sticking with traditional teaching methods,” Cameron says. Fee reform is another issue Cameron wants to tackle. “We are pricing students out of education. It is an absolute injustice that students have to take a year out of education in order to fund it.”

“held to ransom” over the

past number of years due to

fees, course outlines and course coordinators. There are strict

parameters set by the college over

what an education actually entails. “We need to give the ownership

back to students. They are the ones who are paying for it, they should have a say.”

that point.” He also wants to see the abolition of two exams happening in one day, but Cameron is wary of having exams on a Saturday because some students have to work or care for others. “It is not fair to expect students to seamlessly transition from one exam to another, they are exhausted… it is a

turer and being like ‘sorry, no one wanted me’. We want to make people feel part of this University.” “We have international students coming to us, saying that they are lonely and no one will meet up with them, and it breaks my heart to think they are in that situation.” Cameron also wants to ensure course quality is upheld. “There are so many new courses popping up across the University. And for the first year, they say it’s a ‘pilot year’, and they will fix all the teething problems as they go along.” “Often the students in that year are the guinea pigs. If we are going to offer new courses we need to make sure all the problems have been worked out prior to a student ever stepping foot on

“The SUSI system’s means testing may not be accurate. Things like rent increases, personal medical bills, and caring responsibilities factor in, and SUSI does not encompass that. SUSI is a difficult process to go though. I will create a SUSI how-to guide, for undergraduates and postgraduates.” Cameron also wants to see more recognition for volunteering, and claims he will lobby for academic credits to be assigned for outstanding volunteer work with a society. “There is a great module in the College of Business where students go on placement, some of them volunteer in the Hub, and they get credits for this. So it is not something that hasn’t been done.” The biggest educational issue facing students is lack of accessibility, according to Cameron. This can take the form of raised fees, restructured SUSI criteria, rent increases, and a lack of secure accommodation. “It is crazy to think we have students living in hostels, with no secure space to live and study, living with different people each week,” he says angrily. Speaking on student engagement, Cameron says it has been an issue for a number of years, and the Union need to get outside Aras na Mac Leinn. “I want to see four buildings chosen, and for a few hours a week, the sabbatical officers will have ‘open office hours’ in these areas and this will be on a rolling basis. Walking into our offices can be daunting and we owe it to students to bring ourselves to them.” Cameron also mentions that a social media campaign profiling the Union, detailing their courses and fun facts, could also work. “We need to make ourselves real to the student population. The last thing I want is to be that person who people can’t connect with.” “Council... I think… needs to be reformed desperately. The lecture halls are not accessible or air-conditioned. Moving it somewhere like the Cube, the Bailey Allen, would make it a better experience. We have over 400 reps and we have never had them all in the room, and there’s a reason for that, there is something we are missing, somewhere we are going wrong.” The Education Officer candidate says he would get tea, coffee, juice and snacks throughout the Council meetings to incentivise people to come and to ensure they get a chance to eat when they are tired and hungry. “We need honest feedback at these councils. We don’t want to live in a liberal bubble with just all the people we know in the SU, we need a discourse that agrees or disagrees with what we are doing.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

EDUCATION OFFICER

7

Sabrina VAUGHAN By Áine Kenny Sabrina Vaughan is a final year Arts student, studying Geography and History. She is currently the Students’ Union Council Chairperson. Sabrina says she is running for the role of Education Officer because she has been involved with the Students’ Union since “day one” where she was a welfare crew volunteer and a class rep back in 2016. She was the Convenor of Arts when she was in second year. “I really enjoyed my time as the Convenor of Arts because it was a real boost up from class rep, because I was representing other students in the College of Arts, going to relevant meetings and meeting the Education Officer.” “I worked very closely with the education officer that year, because a lot of casework was coming through me… I was a part time officer, full time student… but with this role I could be the support for the part time officers.” “Many students have come to me with educational issues, academic issues, and I really just want to be a proper representation for them, and give time to dedicate to them.” A key area Sabrina wants to focus on is exams. “I have many friends in Arts and Engineering who are coming to me asking how they can defer exams, because they have eight exams in one sitting… this is something that needs to be lobbied against with faculties, to see can we get a minimum of six exams, or get at least 15 percent for continuous assessment. No exam should be worth 100 percent,” Sabrina says. “It would be amazing if there was something like a midterm week where people could break and refresh, and start again.” “It is very difficult when you have three exams in two days, it is just crazy that can happen to people.” Sabrina also says that seat numbers for exams should be sent out with exam timetables. “There should also be more funding and support for the Disability unit. I know so many students who have anxiety attacks before the exam, or they just leave it [the exam], rather than going and getting assessed properly and getting the supports.” Sabrina’s second idea is around transitioning students into Erasmus and placements. “I have a friend who is now studying in the Netherlands, and they have negative marking there, and their system is completely foreign to us here. There is nothing for her to prepare for that, it was such a shock.”

“I don’t want to seem blunt, but we have been sending our students out to these relevant universities for years… how come we don’t have a proper guide for them? Things like healthcare, better guidance… they should have the same supports out there that they do on this campus.” “Even if someone is just out on placement in Woodquay they should still know where to go.” Sabrina also wants to tackle mental health if elected, by training students in Assist and SafeTALK. “I have a passion for suicide intervention since I was very young, because I personally lost a friend of mine.” “Over the past two years, I have heard a lot of suicidal language a n d b e h av i o u r, especially around social media. It is something that not only students should be aware of, but also staff, for students who self harm or those who aren’t engaging… just recognising the behaviour is a huge thing.” “It affects your e d u c at i o n , m e nt a l health is not just for the Welfare and Equality Officer.” Sabrina also says that no two students’ educational issues are the same, despite some common issues arising. “You get people having problems with exam results, not being aware of supports, how to ask for appeals, for help.” “They should be able to get that information easily. It should be readily available.” Sabrina says a major issue this year was the semester one exam results coming out late. “There was no actual date, and no official time. How are you supposed to appeal when that window is closed, or consultation dates are in the middle of the second semester?” Sabrina also believes a no deal Brexit could have a detrimental impact on a student’s education. “There are a lot of students in the UK, or students who are going on placement in the UK… that is going to affect a lot of students, as well as lecturers, and their partnerships with other universities.”

“Will they be placed as an international student, will they have the fees of an international student, just for coming over the border essentially?” “A lot of things [educational issues] are creeping in, but the biggest issue could change come September or November.” Sabrina says she will try to improve student engagement. “We recently had a Council that didn’t have 50 class reps at it, which is required in order to run

haven’t really gotten that far with it. I would like to push for more continuous assessment also because not everyone can do well in exams.” Sabrina then leads on to the student levy. “The fact we pay the €224, and €100 of that goes to paying back the Kingfisher… a lot of students find that hard, I know I found it hard, to pay that in October… I think I would try to get that bit of a burden off people, even to get it paid in instalments.” SIN also asked about the BA Connect courses, which have been plagued with difficulties since their inception. “There should definitely be a review in the system, with current second years, final years, past students… sort of a focus group. We should be doing something about t h e fe e d b a c k, otherwise it is a waste of paper.” Sabrina also says that working with the academic staff and the Deans is an important part of the role, and that

A key area Sabrina wants to focus on is exams. “I have many friends in Arts and Engineering who are coming to me asking how they can defer exams, because they have eight exams in one sitting… It is very difficult when you have three exams in two days, it is just crazy that can happen to people.”

the council. I think better engagement between the Education Officer and class reps is a big thing.” “Having a visible education officer there, through emails and updates, social media… in a way I know we need to look professional but we are students as well… we need to be approachable.” “When I was Arts Convenor, we had ‘open hours’ in different parts of campus, where we would go to different buildings and sit down and if anyone had a questions they would come up.” “Lorcán did that and it was so good to have that type of engagement…. things like that, we could be doing so much more… just being visible and being out there.” Sabrina says that repeat fees have been on Education Officer’s campaign manifestos for years. “Right now we

the Education Officer needs to take ultimate responsibility for education issues. “Working with the College Convenors to find out what issues are out there is important, but you as Education Officer have to go to these meetings [in the Quad], you can’t ask the convenor to do that… you are there to find out why is this wrong, and how are we not being listened to.” “I have the experience as a college convenor so I have been to these meet-

ings. It is pretty daunting meeting the heads of schools, the Deans, and you’re just sitting there, only a second year.” “I have that energy and vision to go in there now, and to be like ‘we aren’t taking this anymore.” Sabrina also talks about the importance of communication. “The class reps should know the exact same thing as the students should, the exact same thing the Convenor does, it shouldn’t be a system of tiers. Everyone is a member of the Students’ Union and should know what is affecting them.” With regards to student placement, Sabrina says it has been an ongoing issue for many years. “I know a lot of the issues, especially with nursing placements, has come through our Medicine Convenor, and that is a lot on that person. They are doing their course or placement too.” “Then with Education Officer, you have people sitting in front of you with repeals, deferrals, wanting to chat… so it is hard being in two places at one time.” “I think a lot of that [placement issues] went to Megan this year. Menlo accommodation kind of went to her too. But I think it should be part of Education. During your degree, if you are going on placement that is part of your education.” “I know with some BA Connect students or Engineering students, not all of them on placement are being paid, or getting expenses. Is there not a better system?” “I am not sure with regards to the Career Development Centre, and other faculties themselves, like Commerce, do they set up meetings with KPMG for you, or…?” When asked if the Students’ Union should work with the college to demand a better system for placement, Sabrina says an information night could work. “There should be information out there on how to get from A to B. How to apply, how to write your personal statement… I know the Career’s Development Centre do that, but maybe better tailored to specific courses. More supports need to be put in place definitely.” Finally, Sabrina wants to help younger students decide on their modules more carefully. “Another thing I want to do is an information night... for students of first year, wanting to continue a subject or module, to talk to older students to see what way the course ends up.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL 8

VP – EDUCATION OFFICER

Steven SILKE By Áine Kenny Steven Silke is a second year Civil Law student (BCL) and is running for the role of Education Officer. He says the main reason why is running is because he thinks the role can “genuinely be improved.” “I think that I am the right person to do that [improve the role]. One of the main issues is the lack of student engagement with the Students’ Union, and especially there is a lack of communication.” “I know from speaking to people inside my course and outside my course, people genuinely don’t know what the Students’ Union are doing. And I don’t think it’s a question of are they doing something, because I know they are, but that has to be communicated.” “I think people have lost a certain amount of faith in the Union, because at the end of the day they are working for the students but they need to show it.” “I have been on the ground so I know what problems students are facing, but if I was elected, I would be able to communicate how I am dealing with those problems, the progress I am making or not making, and fight their corner.” One of the key issues for Steven is the lack of books in the library. “I’ve experienced it first hand, there is a lack of access to books. Lecturers tell you ‘you need to get this book to pass the course’. You go to the library and there is a max of four copies, and if you’re in a course with over 400 people, that is genuinely not enough books.” “I would like to survey students and lecturers, see which books are deemed essential, especially for courses which have a lot of reading, and lobby for more copies. Even the introduction of five more copies of a book, which would not cost a lot, would make such a huge difference to students.” “If you are a student who goes to the library and the book isn’t there, you either don’t get it at all, or I know myself I have been asked to get a book that was €250… which is just not feasible.” “Less students will panic and stress coming up to exams because there are no books available, and they won’t have to take money from their own pocket. I know some books are €40 but at the end of the day it is still a lot for students.” “I know repeat fees have been a campaign issue for many years, and there has been no movement in regards to them. I wouldn’t propose scrapping them, but I think the college aren’t deterring people enough. The fact it is the same price for one exam as it is for six is just wrong,” Steven says.

“I know people who sit one exam, answer one question out of three, they know they have failed and then they don’t even go to the rest of their exams. The know they have to pay €295 anyway.” “I propose for one exam it would be €80, for two repeat exams it would be €160, and three exams and over is €295. This way the university still can cover the cost of invigilators and exam papers.” “I think this would act as more of a deterrent for people failing exams, €80 and €300 are completely different sums of money.” Exam scheduling and exam results are another thing Steven says he will tackle. “I know there was big controversy surrounding the release of provisional exam results in semester one. The results were not out before fees were due. That is an extreme amount of money to be paying especially if you are uncertain whether you will continue.” “Even if the college just set a day. That day needs to be at least a week before fees are due. It gives people time to evaluate where they are going, and what they are going to do.” Exam scheduling is another issue that is important to Steven. “I know people have run before on this and the SU h ave c o nt i n ued to lobby on it, but students should not have two exams in one day. Especially in final year, it is so much intense pressure.” Steven says having exams on a Saturday, like many other colleges, could help alleviate some of this pressure. “I know people go home, but generally people would stay up for the exam period. In my opinion anyway, if people were given the choice to have two exams in one day or Saturday exams, they’d take the Saturday exams.” “The University can’t just turn around and say ‘oh this doesn’t matter’, because it can genuinely make a big difference to someone’s degree at the end of the day.” The law student believes that finance is the biggest issue facing stu-

dents today. “I know for a fact that I can barely afford to be here in the first place. My accommodation is an extortionate amount of money, it makes me sad every day, my bank account weeps!” Steven exclaims. “It is very hard to balance college and work. I started working last year in March because I had to, I found I was having less time to do assignments and study, which takes away from your education.” “I do think the financial element links into education so much, because at the end of the day, if you can’t afford it, you won’t get an education.” “There is talk about a fee increase, and I know I cannot afford that. Without the adequate amount of funding and support, people cannot access what they need.” “The financial aid fund needs to be advertised

Steven also says that more continuous assessment is needed, as all of his modules this year are 100 percent exams. “Some people aren’t exam-based. Some people can know everything, but in the exam environment, they just crumble. Their mark really doesn’t reflect the work they have put in.” “Slowly adding in continuous assessment and lobbying the University for it would be beneficial. Exams have

One of the key issues for Steven is the lack of books in the the potential to library. “I’ve experienced it damage mental health.” first hand. Lecturers tell you ‘you With regards to course qualneed to get this book to pass the ity, Steven says that student course’. You go to the library and surveys are important and there is a max of four copies, and if he would encourage people to take you’re in a course with over 400 part. “The class rep system is really people, that is genuinely important, but I would also encourage students to not enough books.”

more, the amount of people I have asked have they applied and they haven’t even heard of it.” “People need support with SUSI, some people are lucky that their parents can deal with SUSI, but certain people might be entitled to it, and are completely alone in applying for it.” “The University need to be made aware that the financial element is genuinely taking away people’s quality of education, and barring them from accessing it. It is unfair; it is basic morals in a way.”

come directly to the education officer.” “It is so important that people’s views on lecturers are heard, we saw it with the journalism course fiasco last year. A bad lecturer can change your entire outlook on your course; you can end up with a really bad grade, you are de-incentivised to work.” “[For modules] the lecturer needs to be different to the tutor, because if they aren’t working for you and they are both your lecturer and tutor, you’re not getting a different approach.” With regards to placement, Steven says he has friends in nursing and speech and language therapy who have been vocal about their frustration with placement.

“People are treated a certain way on placement, especially the nurses, it can be exhausting and take such a toll… but to have a financial burden on top of that, like travel and accommodation costs, to have concerns about whether you will be able to complete such a crucial part of your education is just wrong.” “They do need more support… a rent allowance and a transport allowance is necessary. People should not be taking money out of their pockets when they have already paid their fees and student levy.” Speaking on student engagement, Steven believes in the power of social media. “So many people only engage with the Union through Snapchat. That is why it is so important to update them with what is going on every day, even if it is just boring meetings, because people genuinely appreciate that. I know I would.” “Those steps to the SU office are intimidating. And it kind of does feel like another world in a sense… and even looking at the other people running, apart form me and one other guy, everyone else there currently holds and SU position.” “That is not a bad thing, they are stepping up the ranks. But that to me shows the lack of engagement from the students, that they actually feel separated from them, they are not willing to even get involved.” “Even for President, I was shocked that the only two people running are the Education and Welfare Officers,” Steven says. “I don’t think the SU are necessarily off-putting for students, but I think the lack of engagement has maybe given people the impression that it is a clique.” “Even last year’s elections had more candidates. I know it sounds stupid but the lack of being on that Snapchat and Instagram story… people aren’t even aware of the Students’ Union, it’s just not even on their mind.” “I personally think that it is damaging, because the SU provides so many services. By having that wall, it leads to less people accessing services, and a risk that people aren’t getting the supports they need.” With regards to campaign promises, Steven says they serve a purpose. “I know people can say I am promising too much, and that every year people talk about repeat fees and exams, but continuing to lobby the university means they will have to act on it eventually, they can’t ignore us.”


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 TOGHCHÁIN CML An rachaidh tú san iomaíocht?

 SU ELECTIONS Will you run?


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL 10 By Áine Kenny An NUI Galway final year Law, Sociology and Political Science student, Mike Taylor, is contesting in the Clare County Council local elections this May. Mike will be the youngest candidate in his constituency. SIN caught up with Mike to discuss politics, Students’ Unions and the role young people have on public policy. “I suppose I am running because I want to give back to my local community, Kilkee. We need a slice of the pie so to speak; a lot of tourist buses drive to the Cliffs of Moher and just leave again. Maybe I am biased, but the cliffs down by Kilkee are just as good,” he joked. Mike feels like his Arts degree will benefit him while he is running his campaign. “Law gives you a critical outlook on life. It was interesting because during the campaign to repeal the Eighth, I was studying constitutional law, and I wrote a paper on the Citizen’s Assembly. It was a great time to be studying the issues.” The NUI Galway student has been a member of Fine Gael since the 2011 General Election. “My local TD and family friend, Pat Breen, asked my mam would I help drop off leaflets for him. I kept one, read through it and was immediately interested.” “I suppose that Fine Gael, and myself, want a fair and just society for all.”

NUI Galway student Mike Taylor running for local elections this May Mike was also heavily involved in the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. “I became really involved in that campaign, and what occurred to me was that none of my local councillors put their necks on the line and came out in support of the referendum. A lot of the local councils just buried their heads in the sand.” When asked if he thinks his youth will disadvantage him, Mike says no. “I want to represent young people. Of course, some people may be wary of me, but I have already called to so many doors in my area. I am the local peace commissioner, so I have read over a lot of documents for people, been a witness… I don’t think people are intimidated by my youth. I still have experience.” How does Mike manage to run a local election campaign while studying for final year? He laughs when asked this question. “I suppose it’s down to good time management,” he says. “I am in college three days a week, and during those three days I

solely focus on college work. Then I put in my all for the campaign when I am home.” Mike was also involved in NUI Galway’s Students’ Union for a time. “I helped Eoghan Finn run a Presidential campaign when I was in first year, and I also worked on Megan Reilly’s campaign last year.” “Working with the Students’ Union is refreshing. Sometimes it is hard to wear the Fine Gael cross, but I believe you have to be able to stand up to your government too. There is no harm in challenging them, that is what Young Fine Gael was set up to do.” Speaking of Fine Gael, the bogeyman of the nurse’s strike was unavoidable. “I don’t think it is being handled effectively. Both sides need to be able to sit down and talk. I think a lot of the issues stem from the Fine Gael’s message ‘keep the recovery going’, but where is this recovery? That is why we got our a** handed to us in the last election,” admits Mike.

Mike also says he believes that a lot of politicians nowadays are scared of the court of public opinion. “Politicians always have to be ‘on’. Once you are a public figure, you’re now public property. I see a lot of cheap media attacks on people’s personal lives.” Going back to the upcoming Students’ Union elections, Mike says he has a lot of respect for the NUI Galway Students’ Union and the Union of Students in Ireland. “They have done a lot of good work like challenging the rent pressure zone regulations, credit is due there. Also with the marriage equality and repeal the Eighth campaigns.” “However, I will play devil’s advocate and say that sometimes, Students’ Unions can exist in a sort of bubble. They can’t see the wood for the trees. There is some feeling that you shouldn’t sit down with politicians and lobby, or that just protesting was sufficient.” “That is why there is a lot of credit due to Síona (President of the USI) and our own Megan Reilly. They recognised there is only so much protest can achieve. You have to have a seat at the table.” Mike believes that the two biggest issues facing students today are the housing crisis and mental health. “The housing crisis is a thundering disgrace, and I don’t say that lightly considering it brought down a president.”

“We need to change the mindset of Irish people. We need to stop this idea that we all need to own our own homes. Look to the European model. For older people, they need to be helped to downsize. Supports are already there in that regard.” With regards to mental health, Mike says that supports need to be fought for, especially in rural areas. “I am currently fighting for a Jigsaw in my local area. The Students’ Union did a great video a while ago about clearing the stigma surrounding mental health.” “We just need to get across that it is okay not to be okay. If you’re sick, you go to the doctor. Mental health needs to be treated in the same way.” “In this country we had 70 years of church oppression, where people were too afraid to speak up. People are still afraid to talk about things today, especially men.” “We have a Junior Minister for Mental Health, but that is not enough. We need more investment. There was €12 million ring fenced, and when that was in jeopardy, members of Young Fine Gael sat down with Ministers and gave personal stories about their own mental health, showing them why we need investment.” “This personal lobbying is effective, shown through the USI’s work also. We need a combination of protest and lobbying for things to change.”

Former NUIG student Sharon Nolan running for local election By Áine Kenny NUI Galway alumna and former GIG soc auditor Sharon Nolan is contesting in the Galway City Council elections in May, representing the Social Democrats in Galway City Central. Originally from Roscommon, Sharon moved to the city of the tribes back in 2010 to do Science in NUI Galway. After two years, she switched to Galway Technical Institute. However, her time in NUI Galway, as well as her experience with GIGs, set the foundation for her blossoming political career. SIN caught up with her to discuss the importance of Students’ Unions, the changes around campus and running for local elections. Sharon says she is running for election because she wants to change the way Galway City Council operates. “We need more representation. I was just waiting on some wonderful person to run so I could support them, then people started saying to me ‘why couldn’t you be that person’?” When Sharon was in college, she ran for the position of Students’ Union Equality officer, but was unsuccessful. She was also auditor of GIG soc, NUI Galway’s LGBTQA+ society. She says it was

a different time. “I was the first openly bi auditor, and in college back then, there wasn’t much trans representation.” “That was a really great year though. We won most improved society at the Societies Ball, and we really increased our membership.” Sharon said that a lot of the things her Students’ Union back in 2010 were fighting for, like marriage equality and abortion rights, have now been achieved. “I think that the Students’ Unions have achieved their goals, and students are even more politically engaged now.” Sharon decided to change her degree and leave NUI Galway after two years of doing science. “If I had of stayed in NUI Galway, maybe I would have made it onto the Students’ Union,” she joked. “The Students’ Union is so important to the student voice. If you’re not in touch with your students, that’s not any way to run a college.” “Internally and externally, Students’ Unions have value. They have been so important for campaigns and fighting for minorities’ rights. The have been key players in activist movements.” “The housing crisis is arguably the most pressing issue facing students today. Students have a unique perspective on it as well. They don’t get

as much sympathy from the general public, there’s a feeling they’re spending their last four cent on cans.” “When I was in college, I could work a part time job two days a week and that would pay my rent, food and I had a small amount left over. Now, students have to take on way more hours just to cover rent.” “Students are also being targeted, look at Cúirt na Coiribe which saw a massive rent hike last summer. They are pricing students out of the market. I believe the University themselves should be doing more, they need to ensure that students can afford to live in this city.” Sharon also says that finding work after college is something students struggle with. “A lot of graduates are going into precarious jobs, and not the

“The housing crisis is arguably the So what most pressing issue is next for Sharon? “It has been daunting facing students today. Students getting involved in local politics, and have a unique perspective on it even joining a political party. Local politics is as well. They don’t get as much very cliquey and family-based, and political sympathy from the general parties come with a lot of baggage. However, public, there’s a feeling the Social Democrats are a very new party, so hopethey’re spending their fully they don’t have the same baggage as others!” she laughs. last four cent on “There is a difference between issue politics like what Students’ cans.” careers they have studied in. The jobs market is unstable, and on top of that, many students are coming out of college with debt too.”

Unions engage in, and election politics. The engagement among students with their local politicians is low. But we won’t be able to change the political landscape unless we start locally, as parties often launch their TDs from local councils,” she concluded.


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL 11 Former NUIG student Alice Mary youngest candidate to contest Higgins talks in Galway local elections about Seanad reform and the power of student politics By Martha Brennan

Owen Hanley, a former NUI Galway student who is running for Galway’s local elections this year, spoke to SIN ahead of the upcoming Students’ Union elections about his candidacy, the power of the student voice and the importance of student involvement in politics. Owen, who completed an Undergraduate degree in English, Sociology and Politics, and a Masters degree in Human Rights Law, is running for a place on Galway’s City Council as the Social Democrats candidate in Galway City East. And he is doing it all at just 23 years old – the youngest candidate in the race. After just finishing up his Masters last August, he says that he “got a lot of fulfillment” from his time at NUI Galway. “One of the things I found about college was that the further along I got into my studies the more I got back from them,” Owen tells SIN. “I repeated second year which really gave me the chance to get organised and set out my priorities. The more effort and work I put into my studies the more enjoyable they were too.” Owen spent his time in university taking part in various student movement campaigns, which he says sparked his interest in politics and activism. “I used student activism as an introduction to activism more generally, and I think a lot of students at the time were brought into the Together for Yes campaign and the Yes Equality campaigns through the SU.” “Student movements are incredibly important because they give a voice to a new generation that goes ignored by a political establishment that tend to be two or three generations removed.” “The Repeal the Eighth campaign was noted throughout the country for the heavy involvement of students and young people. When students organise and realise the political and social inflection they hold they scare politicians, because the status quo they hold so dear could change in an instant.” The young politician wishes to highlight the importance of student involvement in politics and is urging people to vote in their local elections, as well as the upcoming Students’ Union elections. “Politics is extremely relevant to everyone’s life but students especially so, considering the many vulnerabilities that entail this part of your life.” “Students may or may not be aware of the power of their vote both as an individual and as a group.” “Turn out varies from elections but in 2014 we only saw a 40 percent turnout throughout the entire city, meaning students would have barely had a voice. However, politicians believe firmly without question that students do not vote and therefore they are simply not given much thought.” “From the highest point of politics to local community groups, students are not represented and often become punching bags for anti-social behavior.” “And then after college, students are so quickly hurried into a career that their engagement in politics can take a hit.”

“Often, you’ll end up working a lot for not a lot of money at the start and may even be moving, so it can be difficult to find a political outlet. That’s why I think getting involved with politics while in college can be so helpful, because you can test out different environments and see what suits you best.” Apart from his studies in Human Rights and Politics, SIN also wanted to know why Owen decided to pursue the route of politics. “I care about other people, and really that should be self-qualifying to run in-and-of itself. That’s why I think we undervalue character in politics, particularly local politics. You can outline every policy position under the sun but on the Council the majority of issues you’ll be dealing with are mostly A) representing people through a system that is resistant to that and B) dealing with issues that you couldn’t have predicted.” “There are the large tentpole topics that I want to tackle like housing, transport, and the environment but generally every candidate on the campaign trail will say they all want the same thing. But come June when the new Council take its seat a lot of Councillors will simply be apathetic to change.” “I want to see people in politics who genuinely care about others.” At just 23 years old, Owen is the youngest candidate in both his party and the election race. He told the Connacht Tribune upon his candidacy announcement that he felt like a “bit of a chancer” running so young. “But sure, that’s what Galway’s about and I don’t think the current council looks very much like the Galway I know. I’m sure for like 90 percent of my friends this all seems weird, but it really shouldn’t.” “I want to prove anybody can run for politics, especially those who would do a good job but face barriers from participation. I am a broke-a** 23-year-old. If I can do it so can you!” He says that being the youngest candidate does have its downsides however. “Some people immediately question your experience and there is this idea that my chances aren’t taken as seriously.” “One fellow candidate I met who is running told me dismissively ‘at least it will look good on my CV.’ I’m not running to enhance my CV or increase my chances five years from now. I’m running to help the Galway of today.” “But being young also instantly helps me connect with those who are looking for a fresh face with fresh ideas. Many in Galway recognise the broken nature of the City Council as it stands today and being young instantly communicates the changes the Social Democrats are trying to bring to the Council.” “I also hope that I can show other people from my generation that politics is only a process for getting the things we want done and that the obstacles that stop our inclusion and representation aren’t immovable.” The elections for Galway City Council are due to take place on 24 May. Anyone living in Galway can vote in the election as long as they are registered. Registration forms are available at Vote.ie.

By Áine Kenny Senator Alice Mary Higgins is an independent Senator who is pushing for Seanad reform. No stranger to politics, Senator Higgins’ father is the current President of Ireland. She was elected to Seanad Éireann in 2016, and was the first woman to be elected on the NUI panel in 35 years. She leads the Civil Engagement Group in Seanad Éireann, a group of independent Senators with backgrounds in the NGO sector and civil society. SIN spoke with the Senator about re fo r m s , S t u d e nt s’ Unions and the importance of democracy. Senator Higgins says that Seanad reform is a long time coming. “In 1979, the public decided via referendum that the franchise should be extended. So I say there is a double mandate for change now, because we also had a referendum on abolishing or retaining and reforming the Seanad in 2013. I campaigned for retain and reform.” “I think people value having a political space that is not geographical, but more thematic in approach.” The new legislation was agreed upon by the cross-party Seanad Reform Implementation Group, which was tasked with setting out legislation based on the Manning report. The Taoiseach created the group in early 2018. Key features of this new bill are that graduates of all Universities and Institutes of Higher Education will be entitled to vote in a single six-seater constituency. The 43 seats on the five vocational panels will also be opened up. A majority of 28 seats would now be elected directly by the public. Councillors and other political representatives will elect the remaining 15 seats indirectly. This is a reduction from the 33 seats previously allocated to them. Each person of eligible age will be entitled to choose which one of the vocational panels they want to cast their vote on. These panels are set by the Constitution, and are based on themes such as Agriculture, Culture and Education. Graduates will also have just one vote, not two as previous, and can choose whether to cast their vote on one of the vocational panels or on the expanded higher education panel. The Bill also extends the Seanad franchise to residents in Northern Ireland who are entitled to Irish citizenship and to certain Irish citizens overseas, subject to conditions. This bill has not yet passed in the Dáil, to Senator Higgins’ frustration. “There is no excuse now, in my opinion. In the Dáil, there is a bottleneck when it comes to passing reforms. This is partially due to the money message.” “Essentially, the government will set out a money message for legislation, which is a rough estimate of how much they think the new piece of legislation will cost. However, I don’t think money messages should be used as a political football. There is a clear mandate for Seanad reform, and we have to keep this momentum going.”

The Taoiseach recently spoke in the Seanad and seems hesitant about the Bill. “The comments made by the Taoiseach are worrying not only because they display a lack of commitment, but because they seemed to hint at rolling back from the idea of move to a public vote on most Seanad panels, a core principle of the Manning report which is in the Programme for Government. A failure to deliver reform would not only be disappointing, it would be disingenuous. I am calling on the public to make their voices heard and demand a say in the Seanad,” Senator Higgins says. Graduates of NUI Galway are entitled to vote in the Seanad, and the deadline to register is 26 February. The form can be found online. The Trinity alumna also spoke about the importance of democracy. “It is important to see democracy as precious. We need to continue to expand, nurture and evolve it. This is why universities are such important spaces. They promote ideas and debate.” Senator Higgins also believes that young people are acutely aware of the challenges facing the world. “Young people and students tend to get dismissed, but there is a brilliant generation coming up through the ranks. I think they are less individual, and understand the idea of collective responsibility.” “Universities are also important when it comes to publically-funded research. We need to invest in our educational institutions.” Ever the political activist, Senator Higgins marched for abortion rights back when she was 16 years old. She was also involved in the campaign for the right to divorce when she studied at University College Dublin. The Galway native studied for her Masters in Sociology at The New School in New York, and it was in the USA where she became involved in the Students’ Union. “I worked for the Union mainly on campaigns concerning migrant workers, many of whom worked on campus. I held a lot of creative street events and awareness campaigns during that time.” She also believes the role of students in political activism has been key. “The Union of Students in Ireland has played a huge role in driving campaigns, such as marriage equality and repealing the Eighth. They realise it doesn’t have to be either or, they have effectively combined protest on the streets with lobbying the Oireachtas. This shows the huge creativity of students.” “Student politics contains very strong voices, all working together to push for solutions. They don’t waste any energy. They really push forward a vision of the modern world and find opportunities for cooperation.” Senator Higgins also urges students to get involved in their Students’ Union elections. “People should be involved. Don’t be passive in the spaces you occupy. By being an active participant, you can shape your surroundings.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL 12

Students’ Union President says Print That space will become a social seating area on campus

By Anastasia Sytnyk

redesigned as like a social space for students, which is great since it’s right in the middle of the concourse.” “We have been trying to push the college to put more seating in wherever they can, so the Print That space was a start. Because of the presentation I did for the President at the start of the year, and other pressure that was coming from other places, there is now a dedicated committee to deal with social space, which is great. We’re kind of hoping long term as well that t h e U n i ve r s i t y will be using the HEA fund that has become available for capital expenditure, and putting it into investing in a new library and a new concourse area.” “With jobs and accommodation, we are working with the

SIN caught up with President Reilly at the end of her tenure to reflect back on the year. “Probably the most rewarding part [of being President] from the first semester was the decisionmaking and that you know what you’re saying on the committee or to a student carries a lot of weight. When you see that change come about, you know you’ve enacted it in some way, and that it will impact someone’s life.”

“We have been trying to push the college to put more seating in wherever they can, so the Print That space was a start. There is now a dedicated committee to deal with social space, which is great.

In Megan’s election manifesto, she said she wanted to create more social spaces with seating, create an online database of part-time jobs for students, create a forum for students about accommodation, expand the food options on campus to include more vegan food and gluten free options, and have more Irish events. How close is she to achieving these goals? “We did a lot of work on [creating social spaces] this year. You would have seen in the first semester our education officer Eibhlín would have taken the lead on the protest and petition. From my end, I was on different committees and we were trying to get through setting up different social spaces for students.” “The main win on that one which has not been made public yet, we got the Print That space along the concourse. It’s going to be

MENTAL HEALTH MONDAYS Luan na Meabhairshláinte Starting on 28th January • Runs until 8th April Look out for the Welfare Crew on campus every Monday 1-3pm! Bí ag faire amach don Chriú Leasa gach Luan ó 1in go 3in! (Smokey’s Café and Engineering Building)

Knowing your Mental Health Disability & Mental Health Sexuality & Mental Health Body & Soul Gender & Mental Health Teil/Tel: Ríomhphost/Email:

Career Development Centre which post a lot of opportunities. We are also on different committees; I myself was trying to push the university to employ a rule where there would be more student jobs on campus. For example, for our commercial

Drugs & Alcohol Building a Support Network Sleep & Routine Celebration of Students!

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services we always try to hire students in the cloak room and stuff like that, but it’s about getting the university to do that in other services so that it creates more on-campus jobs so that it’s better for people in terms of flexibility.” “Accommodation, for the first three months of my term, was the dominating issue. I have created a lot of media around it and we presented to the City Council on it, myself and the GMIT Students’ Union President. We were doing a camp out and a lot of protesting, and making sure we brought it up on every avenue so that the University knew that they needed to invest in accommodation.” “Most people have probably heard by now that accommodation will be the University’s next main project in terms of where they will be focusing the funding.” “There was also focus on landlords and when things go wrong, so we have been trying to advertise Threshold to people. We do a rent and accommodation guide at the start of the semester, but we have been looking at if people bring these issues to our attention around landlords, can we take another case with the Residential Tenancy Board, and see can we get some kind of justice for them that way. But we have to have people come forward for it if things have gone array.” “The big issue is that you’re not going to have a lot of accommodation built within a year, but you can make sure that existing structures become fairer. We’ve also talked about making sure that the accommodation crisis is adequately advertised to international students, so they don’t just think that there is an abundance of housing available. It’s not about scaring people, but you need to be painting a realistic picture. We’ve been talking to the accommodation office about it.” But what about the vegan menu options? “This is still something I’m working on, and I am working on it first throughout our own commercial services, trying to expand on it a little more there. They have become slightly better but not all of that was down to me.” Megan also alluded to the one-day college

event that the Union are allowed to organise instead of the cancelled Christmas day. “I don’t want to say too much on it since it’s still in the planning stages, but we’ve been working on it consistently to try and get something set up, and to get the University to agree. The plan is still to have a big event at the end of the semester which people will hopefully hear about soon through SIN.” “Another part of my manifesto was about working more Irish into the Union, so we have been trying to do that through the themed weeks. We are trying to make sure we have an Irish event within the themed weeks, and Oifig na Gaeilge has been great in that respect, particularly relating to mental and sexual health but having an Irish spin on it.” Reflecting back on her time as President, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Megan. She says the most frustrating part of the job was the slow pace the University tends to change at, especially when you only have a year. “Sometimes you find that you’re putting in so much ground work for something, and you’re only making some progress and feeling like you don’t have a lot of time left to push it over the line. So there are things now that I want to start that were never on my manifesto, in terms of bringing changes to the Students’ Union itself and also how the University works with us, and how it works with students.” “I am hoping that I’ll have things in place that somebody else will be able to carry on, but it can be quite frustrating how some of the people that you can be dealing with on the committee in the University have been here for 20 years, so they’re going at a slower pace. While we’re more like ‘let’s get things done now’. It’s not always possible to get all the things you want done in that department.” “Looking at the average student as well, their lifetime at the university is only three to four years, they have to be seeing the change while they’re here. I’ve said this to staff time and time again that bringing in a policy next year won’t do much for a student who’s being affected by this now, and that’s very annoying.” Megan also has some advice for those who are thinking of running for the role of Students’ Union President. “I think I would say that it’s good to take time to figure out all the things you want to do, and planning is very important. I would say the team is very important. You are ultimately responsible for the Union, so the things that the team does during the year are probably going to come back to you, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.” “I would say definitely never underestimate your team and never undervalue them, and that its okay to sit down for a while and get everything in place before you start going forward. Also tell people not to lose hope with getting things done. You might be juggling 100 balls at a time, but then when you get that victory for the students it gives you that fight to keep going.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

Outgoing SU Welfare and Equality officer says she is proud of her work with consent By Julia Tereno Working closely with students and helping them are the highlights of being Welfare and Equality Officer for the Students’ Union, said Clare Austick. She also said she is happy with her achievements, such as the Consent Workshops, which took place in September 2018 at Corrib and Goldcrest Villages and over 400 students attended. The Students’ Union helped execute the workshops and Clare pointed out that raising awareness on consent is really important. Clare spoke to SIN about her achievements and overall experience as the Students’ Union Welfare and Equality Officer. When asked what has been the most rewarding part of being Welfare and Equality Officer, Clare says its hard to choose. “That’s hard because there’s been so many highlights. I think definitely working with students on a daily basis and actually being able to help them and support them when they’re in the most needy situations.” The role hasn’t come without its frustrations. “Again, if a student comes to you and you want to help them but there’s nothing you can actually do, and they know that you don’t necessarily have the answer.” “In that case, all you can do is support them and be there for them. I think it is

hard when someone comes to you and there’s nothing you can actually do. But then again, it’s important to support them and just let them know that you’re there and be able to listen. Being there for them is important.” Clare said she is happy with what she has achieved over her term. “There’s a few things, at the very beginning of the year we had the Consent Workshops, and so it’s the first time that the Students’ Union kind of executed them.” “We went to over 400 students over in Corrib and the Goldcrest [Villages] and that’s something I’m quite happy about, it’s really important to me to raise awareness around consent and allowing students to acknowledge and reach their own boundaries as well as respecting those of others.” “The Mental Health Mondays was really good, we talk about different aspects of mental health each week and hand out free fruit and water bottles across campus.” “Something that I’m currently working on is the clothes bank and the food bank initiative, so if I can bring them in and make that kind of an annual event, I’d be very happy with that.” “Also, the University is sponsoring an initiative and making NUI Galway more aware and inclusive for refugees.” In her manifesto, Clare said she wanted to create a clothes bank and a food bank for students who are facing

financial trouble, make learning tools more accessible, create a handbook with all the relevant details about college, and have more relaxing waiting areas and seating on campus. SIN questioned Clare about how close she was to achieving these goals. “Yeah, the food bank and clothes bank are actually pretty close to becoming an annual thing.” “As for the social spaces, we’ve actually gotten confirmation that the old Print That area [beside S m o k e y ’s ] will be turned into a social space for students. There’s a social space working group being convened, so hopefully we can push for more funding and also social spaces across campus.” As for the handbook, has that been done? “Each support service on campus has their own section on the NUI Galway website. The Union website has a lot of information and there are also leaflets on

different things like accommodation, and so I actually didn’t need to do that.”

13 whose first language isn’t English, mature students and for students who are parents. “The Universal Design for Learning is kind of a project, we’re still working on it. It’s about making learning materials more accessible and to move away from the ‘all sizes fits all’ model. So, it’s kind of encouraging lecturers to think about their material, to make it more inclusive for everyone because not everyone learns the same way. There are students who are parents, who have children and can’t sit in the lectures, and students with learning disabilities as well.” Clare also has some advice for the incoming Welfare and Equality Officer. “I think be confident and enjoy every moment of it because it really is awesome, you’ll have a lot of fun. Find your theme and choose the things that you want to do. Do whatever you want to do, for the person coming after me, they don’t need to follow my footsteps, but just do the things that they wish to do and achieve.”

“We went to over 400 students over in Corrib and the Goldcrest Villages. It’s really important to me to raise awareness around consent and allowing students to acknowledge and reach their own boundaries as well as respecting those of others.” SIN also asked about making accessible learning tools for students who have a disability, a mental health condition, students

Education officer slams registration system: “We are paying more for an automated registration system which doesn’t work.” By Áine Kenny NUI Galway’s Students’ Union Education officer has had a whirlwind year. After taking up the position later in the year due to Louis Courtney’s resignation, Eibhlín’s main priority was ensuring continuity of care and making the student voice heard. Has she achieved this? “One of the most rewarding things about this job is seeing students around campus and being able to say hello, and just interacting with them. It is fulfilling to know you are making a difference,” she says. “Getting the opportunity to bring up student concerns at meetings with University management, and making the President of NUI Gawlay aware that there are issues is also rewarding.” “Collaborating with staff has also been great. For our chair protest, we got over 20 chairs from the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). So I suppose student and staff collaboration has been the most fun.” However, it hasn’t been all fun and games for the second year English, Sociology and Political Science student. “The most frustrating part has been not being able to give everyone what they want, I wish I had a magic wand I could wave to solve everything, but I don’t,” Eibhlín says candidly.

“Sometimes students face barriers they can’t overcome. SUSI is a big issue nationally, and it has to be looked at. I think more could be done to ease the students’ burden. More information could be provided by the college, with regards to things like repealing exam results.” The Education Officer also highlights that changes can’t happen overnight. “Maybe this is an age thing, but change is slow and incremental.

especially true for things like a new library and more seating.”

spaces for learning on campus in order to improve student’s educational experience. “Collaborative spaces are needed for group projects. Often, students are kicked out of rooms for meetings. They have nowhere to go, and the room booking system is too centralised. A department-based approach could work better.” Eibhlín’s main campaign promises were to improve wifi and the registration process, as well as introduce an anonymous feedback system for students in the Health Sciences, and look at class rep engagement. “Wifi improvement won’t happen overnight… same for registration. The issue with registration is that the computer system needs to be updated. There are issues with transferring files and GDPR. It is rumoured it will take something like three years to fix the system.” “Registration issues happen every year. Sometimes students register for semester two modules, only to find out it clashes with core modules in other subjects. There’s no joined-up thinking between departments.” “Basically our systems cannot cope with the increased amount of students. What is frustrating is that registration used to be

“Registration issues happen every year. Sometimes students register for semester two modules, only to find out it clashes with core modules in other subjects. There’s no joined-up thinking between departments.”

We need to build on the foundations of what we have done this year going forward. The groundwork has been laid; we need to keep the momentum going. This is

The biggest issues that students are facing, according to Eibhlín, is anxiety. “It is linked to everything.” Eibhlín also says she wants to see more

done manually by people, yet our fees have gone up. I know the volume of students has increased, but still, we are paying more for an automated registration system which doesn’t work.” As for class rep engagement, Eibhlín says she has her concerns but that better forms of communication will be in place soon. “Last year’s Education Officer (Andrew Forde) started the process of getting class reps onto the Your Space system, so they can send out texts, emails and updates to their class quickly and easily. This should be up and running by next year.” “I suppose with regards to engagement, we need to get on the ground. If I had started this job back in June, maybe I would have had more time to focus on the class reps.” “However, we defintely have a more diverse set of class reps with a wider reach. We have reps from Adult Learning and from part-time courses. It is great to see non-traditional students being represented. So its not all doom and gloom!” Eibhlín also mentioned how so many of the University staff she has encountered really have the students’ best interests at heart. “There has been great support from key members of staff… even when you look at the library, we have the library staff and students working together. We were told there was loads of agitation around this issue, which can only be a good thing!” she laughs.


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Rían McKeagney says he is making progress on BA Connect issues By Graham Gillespie Rían McKeagney, Convenor for the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies, is a second year Arts student. Reflecting back on the year, he says he thinks the most rewarding part of the role for him is “doing work that’s worth doing for people you care about.” “Also the relationships you build from it, because you meet a lot of like-minded people and kind people who you share a lot with. It’s just really rewarding to have those relationships.” “Some of the bureaucracy that goes with dealing with the university is frustrating. You have to go through so many phases to bring something that students want and need, and that takes so much approval. Once it gets to a certain stage, you don’t have too much more influence as a part-time officer.” “I don’t know would I have done anything differently, but knowing the nature of the role because it’s only one year, it takes you a while to learn your role and to learn what you can do. I think I would have done it better if I had the experience I have now when I was going into it. I would have hit the ground running as I would have been able to more proactively do the things that I have been doing and I want to do.” Rían says getting the advice of your predecessors is key when running for a Convenor role. “First of all, I would say talk to as many previous Arts Convenors as you can to know the role and talk to education officers. Then, I think organisation is key for any role and if you know what you’re going into and you’re organised, you can really make an immediate impact.” When asked if he has fulfilled all of his campaign promises, Rían says no. “I haven’t yet, but I am working on further points of my manifesto. There are things in the works about fulfilling those points. I have a few months left to do it and I intend to get them done.” When asked for a comment about the BA Connect courses which have caused a number of problems for students, Rían is hopeful that changes will be made. “I’m really happy to say that we have been making a lot of progress on it. We’ve had a consultation with Kathy Reilly last week, who is the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, and we’re having a further consultation in the coming weeks.” “The ball is finally rolling on it and I’m confident that change is going to come from it, and that it is something that the Dean wants to examine and to change and improve. So, there’s a lot of positivity and potential for change, and I’m really happy that has been started.”

Law Convenor says we need more charging stations on campus By Graham Gillespie Clodagh McGivern is a second year Corporate Law student, and the Convenor of the College of Business, Public Policy and Law. She says the most rewarding part of being part of the Students’ Union was getting to meet loads of different people and helping each other. “When I first got on to the Students’ Union, I didn’t actually know any of the other members, so getting to know all the people on the team and working with them has been really enjoyable. I’ve also got to meet plenty of other students whether they’re class reps from the College of Business, Law and Public Policy, or students who had a query and just wanted some advice or someone to talk to. From meeting all these people, getting to know them and doing little things to help them has been really rewarding and fulfilling.” “It’s hard to think about something frustrating about the role because it has genuinely been an enjoyable experience. However, if I had to pick one it would probably be that everyday I’m learning and sometimes I feel like I don’t actually know what to do in certain situations and I feel almost clueless, which is pretty frustrating.” “Sometimes I mightn’t know who exactly to contact about a certain issue or what to say to someone who is having difficulties. However, the

Students’ Union is a team and with the help and advice from the other members this is quickly taken care of.” Clodagh says there is only one thing she’d do differently. “If I had more time on my hands, I would’ve loved to get more involved in SU related things like Mental Health Mondays because it really is an

doing something differently, if I could, I would have loved to been more involved in that aspect of the Union’s work as its really fulfilling.” Clodagh also says if you’re a new to the Union, don’t be nervous. “Before I began my position as convenor, I was so nervous as I didn’t exactly know what was in store for me. It was my first year being involved with the Union as I was never even a class rep before I decided to run for convenor. I’d tell my successor not to be worried and everyday you’ll learn something new.” The Law student admits that she unfortunately didn’t manage to fulfil all of her campaign promises. “Sadly, I didn’t fulfil all of my campaign promises. The Students’ Union are pushing for more seating around campus, we even protested outside the quad with Chairlie the Chair. These things, however, take time. I am still a firm believer that there should be more charging facilities around the college, even if we introduced one of the charging stations in a few buildings around the college.” Business, Public Policy and Law are all very different subject areas, but Clodagh doesn’t think it impacted her role. “Luckily for me, my course has a mix of both law and business modules, but even at this there still is a huge difference between the schools of Business and Law. Even as a Corporate Law student who does some Commerce subjects, the courses in the business area of the college were so different to me. However, I do believe that being a mix of the two was extremely helpful as I had a flavour and some understanding of both.”

“Sometimes I mightn’t know who exactly to contact about a certain issue or what to say to someone who is having difficulties. However, the Students’ Union is a team and with the help and advice from the other members this is quickly taken care of.” amazing idea, and the voter registrations because it is so important to practice your right to vote. So in regard to

Convenor of Science says University staff needs to become more aware of the part-time SU Officer roles By Martha Brennan “The best part of being in the Students’ Union is, and always will be, helping students. Being able to comfort students, provide them with solutions or even just being there to talk with them makes every challenge worth it. It’s always a reminder of why I got into the role initially,” says Scott Green, the Convenor of the College of Science. “The thing I’ve found most frustrating is that the majority of staff in the University are unfamiliar with many of the part time roles on the Executive, which means a lot of the time you start off meetings with an explanation of what your role is and why it is that you’re in the meeting.” Scott says that he plans on building a greater partnership between the Colleges of Science and Engineering. “This semester myself and Roshan (the Convenor of the College of Engineering and

Informatics) plan to run a coffee morning for students of the two colleges before the upcoming merger. I think if I were to do this year over again, I would arrange more of these mornings and do it earlier on to really have a solid foundation between the students of the two colleges.” When SIN asked Scott if he has any advice for his successor, he says he does. “I would tell them not to be scared of the full timers. It seems that many people come in and there’s an aura of some sort around the full-time officers, but once you’re in the role and working with them you soon find that you’re all treated as equals and it’ll free you up to express your ideas.” Scott also adds that he has made strides in fulfilling his campaign promises. “I have made significant progress on many of them, bringing many of them straight to the Dean of Science and having assurances made that he would look into and act on concerns.”

“I am still working on a handful, for example I promised surveys for the students in the College of Science to see what improvements they wanted, and I plan to square this away and have a substantial amount of information to present to my successor.” SIN also asked the Convenor about the alleged issues surrounding Final Year Science theses. “While no one has come to me directly I have heard of students struggling with poor supervisor communication and timing, with students not receiving documentation or corrections when they were in need of them.” “The lab times don’t fluctuate too wildly week on week, however there is always an awkward time period at the beginning of a semester while the times settle down, but afterwards you do know the max amount of time you could be in a lab for.” “The main issue I’ve heard from my working friends is about the time some of the labs are run (generally 2-6pm), which can affect their ability to work for afternoon and evening shifts depending on how long a lab takes.” “The other issues that arise with labs is that it can often be a pain for commuters, however most of the lab organisers will allow a time or day change if the student is in genuine need of it.”


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Medicine Convenor says students from her college can be stressed while on placement By Martha Brennan Liezel Ravenscroft is a third year Medicine student and the Students’ Union’s Covenor of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. “The aspect of my role that I enjoyed most was getting to work with the academic side of the University. This year the convenors, as well as the postgraduate officer, got to be a part of the Academic Council. I really enjoyed having a say in how our University is being run, and the plans for its future.” “The most frustrating part of this role was more to do with the course I’m studying. Due to being on placement in Sligo, I have found it harder than I thought it would be to participate in Union activities. This is frustrating as I thought I would be able to attend more meetings than I currently am, however this is out of my control and I’ll just have to make the most of the time I do get to help out!” “If I was to go back, I would make sure to start working on anything I wanted to do much sooner! Even now in February, the year is nearly done, and it will be hard to make the changes that I wanted to.” “To my successor, I would say to keep it simple. We all want to change the world, but when making goals be reasonable and take into consideration the resources available. Don’t set goals that you won’t be able to fulfil.” “As well as that, have fun! Being a part of the Students’ Union Executive Committee is such a

great way to meet people outside of your course and area of study. I have made some amazing friends this year, who I wouldn’t have met without being a part of the Union.” “Unfortunately, I did not get to fulfil all of my campaign promises. Some of the issues have since been resolved through the college itself, and others I have since realised are just not feasible. However, I am still hopeful that I will be able to set out the groundwork for them that my successor will be able to finish it off,” Liezel admits. Most medicine, nursing and health science students are expected to complete some sort of work placement in order to graduate and qualify in their chosen field. However, this varies from course to course, and the Medicine convenor recognises this presents some challenges. “For placement, there is a big difference between medical students and other healthcare students. Due to how the course is structured, medical students are on placement for two full semesters away (either at Ballinasloe Medical Academy, Sligo Medical Academy, Mayo Medical Academy and Donegal Medical Academy).” “Students are able to rate the academies in order of preference, and the college does their best to accommodate this. Due to this system, the majority of medical students are very happy with how placements are organised. Also, as they are there for two full semesters, they only have to pay rent

in one location.” “On the other side, for nursing, midwifery, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy students, it’s not as well organised. For placement, students can be expected to spend as little as one week in hospitals further away, such as Roscommon University Hospital, which is a two-hour bus journey away.” “In this situation, students are often left to pay for a B&B, as the hospital is too far to commute to everyday. At the same time, this student will be paying for accommodation in Galway. This is problem that is often referred to when students talk about placement,” Liezel reveals. “Placement is often the time that students really get a sense of what their future career will be like. When first starting placement, everything is exciting and new, and at first, staff take it easy on you so you can get used to how the hospital works.” “However, after a while it can fade away. Once you are on placement, much more is expected from you, as now you are working on real people and that can be terrifying. The fear of doing something wrong to a patient, as well as staff being rude can often cause significant stress to students on placement. As mentioned previously, having to pay for accommodation in two places can also cause students to be stressed, as they might not be able to afford it.” “For the next convenor, in order to understand other students’ problems, learn about placement in each of the different courses as there will be different problems associated with each,” she advises.

Daniel Brennan, SU International Officer says international students’ accommodation woes need to be tackled By Olivia Hanna Daniel McFadden, a third year Computer Science student, hailing from Philadelphia, USA spoke to SIN about the trials and tribulations of the role. “The most rewarding part of my role is meeting other international students and seeing their time abroad positively impact them. It’s always wonderful to see students achieve travel dreams, or connect with somebody from outside their home country.” “The most frustrating thing would have to be when helping a student with accommodation issues. It’s a very hard place to be in and also a hard position to help from, as I can’t find them the house or do the tour for them. So far all have ended on a happy note though!” When asked if there is anything he would have done differently, Daniel says he would have loved to collaborate more with some societies and committees across the campus. “Also, I would advise my successor to get fully involved, work with the international office (they’re such a lovely bunch), and form a team of some

sorts to help them carry events out. No matter who it is, they’re going to be amazing! Best of luck in elections future officers!” “I have not fulfilled all of my campaign promises, but I am continuing to work towards that goal. And in some respects even, they have shifted to other priorities.” One thing that surprised Daniel about his role was how often he dealt with Irish students as well as international students. “To be honest, I’ve had nearly as many questions from Irish students as questions from International Students. Topics were from visas, immigration, moving abroad, Erasmus experiences. I did not expect that many Irish students would reach out to this position.” How does Daniel think NUI Galway treats international students compared to Irish students? “I think they treat them no differently. I remember

first few days of my first year, I announced to my lecturer that I was an international student (expecting to be on some other list or something for whatever reason) and he honestly didn’t know what to do. It’s a seamless integration and it’s great that NUI Galway values its international population just as much.” “I think as a whole accommodation is a major issue, but especially for international students. With expensive student accommodation (not to mention sometimes unforgiving, excessive and unexpected rising costs), and recent tuition increases for international students at other Irish universities, it really discourages the international student population here. I think the university management can and should do more than just bring in more international students each year without fixing fundamental issues.”

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Convenor of Engineering Roshan George says increasing social events was an important part of his tenure By Martha Brennan “I loved my role, because everyone shared the same vision and there is a real collaborative environment in place within the Students’ Union. One of the most rewarding parts was being able to help other students with their issues and concerns,” said Roshan, second year electronic and computer engineering student who is the Convenor of his college. “One of the most frustrating parts of my role was probably trying to balance the work load with my course and finding the time to fully devote myself to the role.” “The thing that I would’ve done differently would also be to try and raise a better awareness of the Students’ Union roles within the academic staff of the University.” “I would advise my successor to involve themselves as much as they can with the SU. This opens up so much more opportunities,” he added. “Sadly, I was not able to fulfil all my campaign promises, however I did try my best to fulfill most of them. I helped with the updating of room timetables during study periods, which helped let students know which rooms were free for study, and this acted as a substitution for designated study spaces.” “I also promoted class rep parties which increased the number of social events amongst students and promoted events within the college and Students’ Union supports. I also represented the students of the college of Engineering and Informatics in several meetings and councils.”


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What is the political impact of Students’ Unions?

By Conor Brummell Ahead of the Students’ Union Elections in NUI Galway, SIN contacted Su-Ming Khoo and Allyn Fives, two Sociology and Political Science lecturers in the University to ask them about the importance of students being involved in politics. Here’s what they had to say about the value of the elections, unions in general and about students being involved in political campaigns around campus and further afield.

What’s the value in having Students’ Unions in colleges? Su-Ming Khoo: The college represents a lot of different constituencies where students are very much part of the rationale of why the college exists in the first place. Having a mechanism within the college where opinions can be heard, and students can get involved is extremely valuable to third level institutions.

How successful do you think the Students’ Union have been with their national political campaigns, such as lobbying against rent increases, campaigning for marriage equality and for abortion rights? Su-Ming Khoo: It is important that students can make their efforts and opinions known about the unaffordability of rising rent prices. It is worthwhile that student engage in campaigns, say surrounding rent, as they hugely impact their

success in the University and their ability to stay in University and study as a result. With things like the abortion and the marriage equality referendums, and channelling student participation in matters of social and legal reform affecting society, I think the Students’ Union has been effective in mobilising different bodies of student opinion to participate in the wider political and social landscape. It’s about students being more active within society and educating themselves on what the vote is, and what sort of country they want to live in. Just to take part, shape the conversation and be part of the conversation.

one person’s, or force’s, loss of power is another force’s gain of power. It is not about losing power, eroding power, but about the power changing. I think Union power in general is changing in society. It isn’t just simply about representing constituency’s voices, but it has become much more permeated by other types of management, entrepreneurial education, culture and values of business and entrepreneurism, that is different than it was in the past.

Do you think for this reason it is important for students to be involved in the Students’ Union and be politically involved, more so?

What should student representatives represent? Should they represent the interests of other students or should they be looking outward at the world and, for example, striving to remedy injustice?

Su-Ming Khoo: Not every part of being involved in the Students’ Union is about being politically well versed. I think the Students’ Union does have a very big impact on how the student gains their political education, their experience and their knowledge. They also provide a learning experience in how to participate in politics and how to run politics. So yes, there is that. The Students’ Union is also more broadly important for other social and cultural activities that are just about making student life richer and more interesting around campus.

Do you think the power of Unions in general are being eroded? Su-Ming Khoo: Power isn’t just something that disappears by accident. Power is a field of play where

Allyn Fives answered a separate set of questions that focused on student ideals and what they should represent.

Allyn Fives: It’s possible for elected representatives to serve the interests of their electors while going against their wishes (for example, because voters do not know what is in their best interests). Representatives may also have responsibilities to people other than their electors. The word ‘representative’ suggests a very narrow role: to act in ways that are authorized by voters and to help bring about what voters want. The problem is that this may lead to difficult decisions, even moral dilemmas. For example, was Angela Merkel right to do what she did to help desperate refugees, even if doing so may require German citizens (her electors!) to make sacrifices themselves?

Should we expect students to be idealistic and politically radical? Allyn Fives: The idea that students are or should be politically active, and even radical, goes back further in time than the 1960s. Student protests across Europe and North America at this time seemed to, for some people, make sense of the idea that students as well as academics have a special opportunity and responsibility to disclose the truth that those in power would rather remain hidden. This idea that students have a responsibility to expose lies, in particular the lies of the powerful, brings us some distance from the idea that representatives are there simply to promote the interests of their electors. We must also acknowledge that not everyone accepts that truth is there, waiting to be discovered. Trump, and other populists, would have us doubt this.

If students (and student representatives) are expected to be idealistic, how ought they respond to those who do not share those ideals? Allyn Fives: It is arguable that when we are faced with a difficult moral choice, what makes it difficult is that there is more than one right answer, and that we will have to choose between them. If students are campaigning to bring about changes in government policy, this will involve taking a stand on such a moral dilemma. There will be others who take a different stand, and each can believe they have morality on their side. This raises many questions, and just one of them is whether we are required to listen to those who have made a different moral decision to us. If there will always be some who disagree with us, we should strive to engage them in discussion, and be open to changing our own mind.

“We need more student movements, not less!” Explore the history of Students’ Unions and Student Movements with NUIG’s Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley By Aaron Deering

Students’ Union Shop Wins National Award Congratulations to all the team in the Students’ Union Shop, winners of the ‘Best Impulse Offering’at the Shelflife C-Store Awards 2018

With NUI Galway’s Students’ Union elections coming up, I decided to investigate the history of our Students’ Union. I interviewed Dr SarahAnne Buckley from the History Department on the history of social movements, and why she thinks students’ unions and student movements are still important today. NUI Galway Students’ Union was originally established in 1911 as the Students’ Representative Council. It wasn’t until the 1960s when the council was developed into the University’s Students’ Union, which was previously known as Comhairle Teachta na Mac Léinn. It’s no surprise that past presidents of the Students’ Union, which include President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, former TD and Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte, former TD and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Senator Ronan Mullen have gone on to achieve greater political aspirations. In recent years the Students’ Union has been vocal on important student issues such as fees and the rising cost of student accommodation across Galway. Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley spoke to SIN about her specialisation studying social movements in Britain, and her interest in Irish social movements. “I teach a course on the history of social movements in Britain from 1945 to the present, and I am very interested in the history of social movements in the Irish context in my own research.” “From 1945, Britain’s political and cultural landscape was changed by social movements

campaigning on issues of gender, race, disability, sexuality, the environment, peace and anti-fascism.” “In class we look at the more moderate campaigns in the 1950s, for example the Homosexual Law Reform Society, to more radical campaigning in the 1970s by those in the women’s liberation movement, the gay liberation front and the environmental movement.” “I think students are very interested in the radicalism of individual movements, but also how fragmented they can become, often as a result of internal politics and the extent to which they affected the political agenda.” Although she was never involved in her own Students’ Union in college, Dr Buckley highlighted her involvement in the campaign to repeal the Eight Amendment and the influential impact Students’ Unions have on campaigns. “I do think they can be very influential in campaigns, for example the campaign to decriminalise homosexual acts in Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s. I was involved in the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment as a student in University College Cork in the early 2000s and I have always had an interest in left-wing politics, especially feminist politics.” Finally, when asked if student movements and Students’ Unions were still important today, and if there are any differences from past student movements, Dr Buckley called for more student movements and highlighted their enduring value. “They are hugely important I think. Students have always brought energy and vision to movements and their participation is critical. We need more student movements, not less!”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

Alex Coughlan, Gender and LGBT+ Rights Officer, says casework has been very rewarding By Rachel Garvey Alex Coughlan is a third year BA with Human Rights student, and the Students’ Union’s first Gender and LGBT+ Rights Officer. “I have really enjoyed what I’ve been able to do as an officer. The Athena Swan gender equality process is being started across a number of schools across the University. It has been great to see the receptiveness of various staff in ensuring students are a part of this process,” Alex says. “It’s incredibly important that students have a voice and input across all levels of activity within the University, and being able to be a part of ensuring that has been rewarding.” “On another level, the casework that is part of every Officer’s role is very rewarding in a different way. Being able to help students on the ground in their day-to-day really makes clear how important it is to most people to simply have an understand-

ing face to talk through their options with them,” they explain. “A lot of processes within the University can feel very clinical and disembodied, whereas having someone to talk to and ask questions of, even if they can’t answer everything, can be a huge comfort for someone.” “Honestly, I would have to say the most frustarting part of my role is lack of time! Part time officers are frequently managing their role, their degree, part time work, and fitting a personal life in there somewhere. It is incredibly hectic at times, and often feels like the second you sit down to breathe, something else that you’d love to work on pops up,” Alex explains. “I would love to have had the knowledge of the University procedures and staff structures I do now. Tracking down the right person to talk to about a particular issue sometimes took longer than I realised it would initially. Being the first Gender and LGBT+ Rights Officer gave me a lot of scope to really

engage in the role the way I wanted, but really involved a steep learning curve.” What advice would Alex give to their successor? “Try and bring what you love to the role. In my experience not only in the Union, but in Societies, people do amazing work when they are doing what they enjoy, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.” “To a large degree, I have fulflled my campaign promises. We still have a few months of work left, and I intend to keep going until the end.” “When looking into the clubs funding policies, I found out that it isn’t gendered so much as based on success, which I find a really interesting way to manage funding. Our class rep gender ratios tend to be quite balanced, even when going back a few years, which is great to see.”

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“I’ve worked with GiGSoc throughout the year, as we are figuring out how the relationship between the Union and the society can work now and into the future.” “The University is launching their LGBT Ally program in the coming weeks, and I have been working with them on how to ensure students know of the program. Myself and the other equality officers are currently in the planning stages of an Equality Week.” When asked about the disadvantages LGBTQ people face in college, and what the Students’ Union has done to alleviate them, Alex mentions the University’s Gender Identity and Expression policy. “The SU has organised consultations with trans students in the development of the University’s Gender Identity and Expression Policy, which is currently live, and providing supports for transitioning students on a very practical basis.”

Victoria Chihumura’s main priority is raising awareness of Direct Provision By Vannessa Marovatsanga Victoria Chihumura is the Students’ Union first ethnic minorities officer. Victoria is in Arts and studying Economics, Sociology and Political Science. SIN caught up with her ahead of the elections to see what she’s been up to since she was elected in September. “The most rewarding part of the role is seeing students happy and benefiting from the things we do, like Mental Health week, SHAG week, things like sex toy bingo… all of that,” she says. “There’s nothing frustrating about the role itself, but sometimes, I feel I’m not doing enough, even though I’m doing everything I possibly can.” Victoria said she feels absolutely supported

by the Students’ Union. “From the part time officers to the full time officers and other members of staff [at the SU], there’s always someone to give a hand if we need anything or are unsure about anything.” Was there was anything she would have done differently? “No, I just feel I could have done more. I was voted in September when everyone else was voted in March. But it wasn’t their fault.” SIN also asked whether going from campaigning for the formation of the role to getting the opportunity to serve in it was scary or satisfying.

Muireann O’Sullivan, Disability Rights Officer says she enjoyed her new role By Marie Coady Muireann O’Sullivan, a final year Arts with Human Rights student, is the Students’ Union’s first Disability Rights Officer. SIN caught up with them to see what they’d done throughout the year. “Being able to help individual disabled students or students with an ongoing health condition thrive in university has been the most rewarding for me. The fact that students come to me looking for information on supports on campus is a testament to the importance of the new role,” says Muireann. “The general bureaucratic nature of the university structures is the worst part of the role. On the plus side, it’s a pretty great exercise in patience.” When asked if there was anything they would have done differently, Muireann says “asked for help sooner when I got stuck on certain issues I needed to solve.” “I work with the Disbailty Support Service in

the University’s disability working group, and I have also met with the disability officer of the university separately to discuss how our roles can complement each other and how we could collaborate in the future.” The Disabilty Officer says they have a few plans still in the works. “[I] have been working with the EDI Disability Working Group on improving accessibility on campus. I have some more plans and hopefully, I can figure out a way to bring these plans into fruition.” “I think I’ve fulfilled a significant portion of my campaign promises. It’s only the start of February so I have a few months left to achieve some other goals.” To their sucessor, Muireann has some advice. “You have an entire team of officers to support you as DRO. They want to help and are there for you to bounce ideas off no matter how out of the box they may be. Reach out to other unions and disability rights advocacy organisations too.”

“More like exciting, it was a new role and I feel knowing whatever I’ve done has certainly paved the way for a successor, whether after me or five years from now. That’s what I focus on,” Victoria says. Speaking of successors, Victoria says she would tell hers to have fun. “You’ll probably always feel you’re not doing enough but trust me, you’ll get more done than you think.” “I feel that we are [as a Students’ Union] doing enough to combat Direct Provision, even though students might not see a lot.”

“This semester a few of us have attended various talks and lectures across Ireland, including in other colleges. I attended a Direct Provision Strategy meeting in the University of Limerick, Megan and Clare attended one in Dublin.” “Last semester we had an information meeting for people who didn’t know what Direct Provision was, and ways in which they could get involved.  We’ve also got more Direct Provision centred activities coming up this semester. I’ve been doing Direct Provision activism since secondary school, so yeah it’s generally less marches and more an awful lot of background work.” Campaign promises: does Victoria feel like she has fulfilled all of them? “So far yes. But the year’s not done yet.”

Mature Students’ Officer calls for more IT and technology support for mature students By Áine Kenny Chuka Paul Oguekwe is the Students’ Union’s Mature Students’ Officer. He is also a Law CÉIM Leader. He says his passion is to see mature students enjoy college social life, as well as excel in their academic pursuits. “The most rewarding part of my role as the mature students’ officer is the opportunity to serve and share in the burdens of fellow matures,” Paul says. When asked what the most frustrating part of his role is, Paul finds it hard to say. “I can’t remember anything that stands out; there are different faces to the role, so it depends on how one decides to look at them. Challenge does not necessarily lead to or mean frustration.” “Everything that I have done to date, could be done better,” he adds candidly. Paul also has some simple advice for his successor: “Be yourself and serve.”

“I did as much as was required and possible, but I did not achieve all I would have loved to accomplish.” Paul mentioned that areas where the college could be doing more to support mature students are financial support, childcare, and technology. “These are very important areas where the college would have to look into and do much more. I know a few mature students who dropped out because of financial difficulties. There should be continuous IT for mature students, because so many are still finding it difficult to use technology. I think that should be the first project for the next academic year.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL 18

Ceisteanna agus freagraí le Adhna Nic Dhonnchadha Tá Oifigeach na Gaeilge freagrach as cur I bhfeidhm pholasaí dhá theangachas Chomhaltas na Mac Léinn, agus I gcur chun cinn an chultúir Ghaelaigh san Ollscoil. Cuireann Adhna áiseanna tacaíochta ar fail do Choiste Gnóthaí Chomhaltas na Mac Léinn chun seo a bhaint amach.

Cad é an chuid is tairbhí de obair an Oifigigh Ghaeilge? A bheith in ann an Ghaeilge a spreagadh agus a bheith ag obair le daoine atá ag iarraidh é seo a dhéanamh chomh maith. Go pearsanta, thug sé muinín dom ó thaobh óráidíochta poiblí. Chomh maith leis sin, tá sé go hálainn a bheith ag obair leis an gCumann.

Cad é an chuid is goilliúnaí de obair an Oifigigh Ghaeilge? Ba bhreá liom dá mbeadh níos mó ama agam. Bíonn mé ag taisteal chuile lá le freastal ar an Ollscoil agus bíonn sé deacair am a dhéanamh le haghaidh chuile rud.

Cad é an t-imeacht is tairbhí a shocraigh tú? Is breá liom ‘Focal an Lae’. Déanann mé iarracht focal amháin nó téarma amháin a chur amach ar na meáin shóisialta chuile lá ach bíonn sé deacair leis an gclár ama atá agam. Tá mé ag iarraidh níos mó Ghaeilge ar na meáin shóisialta!

Cad é an t-imeacht is mó a bhfuil bród ort as? Bhí an oiread bróid orm tar éis Gaeilge24. Bhí an Cumann Gaelach agus cúpla duine ó Chomhaltas na Mac Léinn páirteach. Bhí bord le cístí, tae, agus caife socraithe ag an gCumann Gaelach. Bhí siad seo saor in aisce don té a labhair Gaeilge linn. Ba lá iontach a bhí ann le comhluadar iontach! Chomh maith leis sin, bhí mé fíor-bhródúil labhairt ar son an Chomhaltais ag seoladh an Scéim Teanga nua atá ag OÉ Gaillimh.

An bhfuil aon rud ann a ndéanfá ar bhealach eile é dá bhféadfá tosú as an nua? A bheith ar an gcampas níos minice agus plean níos fearr a bheith agam le haghaidh ‘Focal an Lae’. Tá mise i mo chónaí sa mbaile agus tá mo chlár ama uafásach, mar sin sílím go mbeadh sé níos éasca dá mbeadh liosta téarmaí déanta agam. Leis an liosta téarmaí, bheadh daoine eile in ann ‘Focal an Lae’ a rith nuair nach mbeadh mise in ann é a dhéanamh.

Cad é an grád nó an marc a thabharfá duit féin mar Oifigeach Gaeilge? 5/10

SU Postgraduate Research Officer says research postgraduate’s main issue is lack of funding By Áine Kenny Jibran Abbasi is the Students’ Union Postgraduate Research Officer, and is studying for a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, in the research area of driver monitoring for semi-autonomous vehicles. He is also one of the founders and the Auditor of Pakistani society in NUI Galway. “The best part of my role, which I enjoy most, is representing a large group of fellow students and helping them out with their problems. It is the best feeling to be able to help your fellow students. I am trying to be a bridge between concerned people and postgraduate researchers.” Jibran says the new role has also presented some issues. “Obviously, this responsibility requires time and effort, but the frustrating part of this role is when you try to reach out to concerned people, but you are not heard properly and then you feel that you are not doing well in the role you are in. Also, when people expect more than you have power over.”

By Martha Brennan “The most rewarding part of my role is getting to work with some great clubs. It has been rewarding to help clubs develop and facilitate them in any issues to ensure that sport in the University can be enjoyed in a fun and stress-free environment. Making a difference, even a small one, is important.” According to Ryan, the most frustrating part of his role was not having enough time to do everything he wanted. “I had restricted

Tá go leor daoine ann atá sásta cúnamh a thabhairt dhuit. Beidh mé thart má bhíonn cúnamh uait. Is ról iontach é agus tá cairde iontacha déanta agam mar gheall ar an ról seo.

Cameron Keighron, a graduated Regenerative Medicine Masters student in NUI Galway, is the Students’ Union first Postgraduate Taught Officer. He says he has enjoyed being able to “give a voice to an underrepresented group.” “As far as I know, this is the first dedicated role to PG taught students. I have also enjoyed getting to know some of the wonderful reps who are passionate about representing their classes and building a better future for students to come.” “I have also been able to join a project about developing more inclusive learning and teaching in the College of

Cad eile a d’fhéadfaí a dhéanamh chun úsáid na Gaeilge a spreagadh ar an gcampas? Níos mó imeachtaí a rith trí Ghaeilge. Dá mbeadh muid in ann Pop Up a rith go míosúil agus níos mó béime a chur ar na himeachtaí atá ar siúl nó na ranganna Gaeilge a bhíodh ag an gComhaltas a thabhairt ar ais.

time due to the role only being voluntary. This means it can be difficult to always have the time for it. So, my only frustration would be not being able to help more.” Ryan admits he wouldn’t do anything differently. “Honestly no, I’ve enjoyed the role and helped to the best of my ability. I would’ve liked more time but I unfortunately I can’t make that.” The Clubs’ Captain also has some advice for his successor. “Enjoy it, be approachable and be willing to help. It’s a fabulous experience and one that you should enjoy as you will meet some great clubs, athletes and people that will have a major impact on your college life on campus!” When SIN asked if he fulfilled all of his cam-

paign promises, Ryan says he believes so. “I feel I have, I always set out to be approachable by email or in person and I think I did that. I always wanted to put the clubs and their members first, having them at the forefront of everything I did and having their best interests at heart.” Were there any issues regarding the use of Kingfisher facilities, such as renting rooms and equipment for clubs? “The Kingfisher have always been very approachable and been understanding any time any issue may have arisen, and always helped to resolve it as soon as possible. My best advice would be if an issue arises just talk, approach the sports unit or the Kingfisher and talk it out. With a little communication the most difficult problems can be solved!”

Cameron Keighron working on making Postgraduate Taught students feel more connected to college By Marie Coady

Le cúnamh Dé, beidh Pop Up Gaeltacht againn go luath. Beidh deis againn an Ghaeilge a spreagadh níos mó le linn Sheachtain na Gaeilge. Is breá liom a bheith ag obair leis an gCumann Gaelach agus tugann na hócáidí seo an deis dom é seo a dhéanamh!!

Galway, but scholarship stipends have been the same for the last number of years. There is no process to revise stipend system for researchers according to economic scenario.” When asked if he has lobbied for increased funding for postgraduate researchers, Jibran says he is in the process. “I am in talks with governing bodies about the increase in funding for postgraduate students. It should include research funding as well as stipend and travel funds.” “There are a lot of things postgraduate students do apart from their research activities. It depends how much one could indulge in research. Most of the researchers and their supervisors encourage work a life balance. There is great support for student’s mental health, which also promotes good healthy lifestyles, both physically and emotionally.”

Clubs’ Captain Ryan Guilfoyle says making a difference was highlight of his job

Cén saghas comhairle a thabharfá don chéad Oifigeach Gaeilge eile?

Cad é an rud is mó a rinne tú chun úsáid na Gaeilge a spreagadh ar an gcampas?

“Learning is gradual process and you learn many things only when you are in the system. I have learned a great deal from previous officers. [Looking back] I would have pushed for more researcher benefits policies,” Jibran says. What advice would Jibran give to his successor? “I would like to see them more active in different committees so that they can know what’s is going on and how can they contribute effectively.” “I tried my best to fulfill my commitments, most of them are either met or in process. Some got stuck in bureaucracy where I am trying to use my role to move things along more.” Postgraduate research students often face specific issues. “The main issue researchers are currently facing is the funding. The rents and l­ iving expenses have gone up in

Business, Public Policy and Law and I have really enjoyed being able to influence this positive change.” Cameron admits it is hard to represent postgraduate taught students, as there isn’t a lot of support for them at University management level. “University management is very difficult to navigate when no one is really responsible for the cohort of students that you cater for. Oftentimes, you come across casework that has never happened before and there’s not a lot of advice out there to help you figure out the best course of action.” “I think we are getting there definitely and have commitment from some colleges and

schools about developing their Postgraduate Taught supports and visibility. We still struggle to make some PGT students feel a part of this University, but I hope that the work we are doing [is] at least letting them know that we hear them and want to support them.” “I think as officers, we always have regrets about not doing more. Since this is a new role, it has been a lot of teething out my remit and I am happy with what I have achieved so far.” “I have or am working to complete most of my campaign promises. My biggest thing was to survey students to gain a better understanding of their experiences. This should be going live in the next two weeks.” What advice would Cameron give to his successor? “Don’t be afraid to use your voice and fight for what you believe in. Get involved in as much as you can and never underestimate yourself.”


STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

SU Council Chairperson claims class reps are showing up and engaging By Tarryn McGuire SIN caught up with Sabrina Vaughan, the Students’ Union Council Chairperson, who chairs the Council meetings, ahead of the upcoming Students’ Union elections. “I think the most rewarding part of my role is meeting students from different walks of life that you might not have had the opportunity to meet, apart from at council or SU events,” Sabrina says. “I honestly love working as part of the executive, of 19 officers I might add. They’re a great bunch, and love messing with each other, but while also supporting each other.” “I think the most frustrating part of my role is when you’re trying to get through a council run-through and you’ve a lot of people talking at one time, that you’re in your head like ‘I need to make sure this is okay’.” “I think as Council Chairperson, you have your main role of chairing council, however there is also a lot of work that has gone into the planning beforehand. Be it meeting people about speakers, finalising the agenda, emailing class reps, making the slides. What students see during council is only the end product.” “We have three councils left now (one in February and the two in March), so I’d like to think things are running okay. I would’ve liked to switch things up a bit here and there, but I always like consulting the executive beforehand. I suppose I’m always learning, and asking for feedback.” “I like criticism, and I like to think we’re constantly learning and improving. I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I’m pretty content in what I have achieved so far.” “Well, as my predecessor was told ‘once you know

what A.O.B (any other business) is, you’ll be grand’. Honestly, I would just tell my sucessor to enjoy it. You can give all the information you can in the handover, but you will only learn from yourself and what you make of it.” “The first council always feels like the worst because your voice is shaky and you’re not 100 percent sure if you’ve prepped everything, but you’re not alone. No one is there to judge you. You’re the chairperson, and you’ve got this,” Sabrina adds. “I would like to think that I fulfilled all of my campaign promises. I think one of my main points was to make sure each student was having their voice heard. Emily McNamara (last year’s Council Chairperson), did an amazing job at this. She was very timely and made sure everyone who wanted to speak, had their say. I always look back and see how she dealt with situations, and try to put that into what I’m doing now.” “I also wanted to try and make things more accessible to all students. I think the fact that SU Council agendas and minutes of previous councils were only being communicated through class reps and emails wasn’t fair to everyone that we represent.” “I am very proud that I have helped to make a system for taking minutes at our executive meetings and made them public on the SU Website so anyone could look at them. Previous to this, they weren’t updated since 2015.” “Along with this, SU Council minutes are also made public once they have been seconded at council. I think it is very important for students who cannot attend council, to know what issues we discuss and vote on. I think it’s also important for those students who are not ‘elected class reps’ to still get the same information, be it agendas or officer reports.”

Societies Chairperson says societies aren’t receiving enough money from University By Tarryn McGuire Brandon Walsh is the NUI Galway Students’ Union Societies Chairperson, and he represents societies on the SU Executive Committee and the University’s Societies Committee. SIN caught up with Brandon to see what he’s been up to this year. “The most rewarding part of my role, as I’m sure it was for many other officers, is interacting with students, being there for them and helping them with any problems or difficulties that they have. It was also very rewarding to see a decrease in conflicts and other problems that societies are prone to. I feel this is largely due to the emphasis we put on making sure that committee members are aware that the Socs Box and myself are here to help them with any issues or mistakes that arise.” “The most frustrating part of my role was the pace at which things are done in the University. There is so much internal politics going on in the University and everything must be passed along to multiple people, which can often hinder things being done,” Brandon explains.

“The only thing that I would have done differently would have been to try and run more events and collaborations, however, with the societies officer, Riona Hughes, being out sick for the first semester it was very busy and casework intensive.” “The main advice I would give to my successor would be to learn how to be a good mediator and ensure that you get all side of every story and have a good knowledge of societies’ infrastructures and procedures,” advises Brandon. “I have set the wheels in motion for most of my campaign promises but as I’ve said, most things in the University take a while to get done. Many of my promises were also quite long-term issues, such as storage, which I hope my successor will be able to continue to work on.” “I believe that societies are not allocated enough money for the amount of work that they do. I believe that societies are one of the most important social supports available to students and the contribution that they bring to the campus and the city are wholly invaluable. The societies receive just under €17 from the student levy and a certain amount of money from the university also,” he concludes.

“I think everyone should know who their representation is, and what they’re doing for them.” “But as important as making a ‘campaign promise’ or manifesto is, it is also important to be realistic, as sometimes things just don’t line up, for example you might not get the time to do that thing you’ve promised.. maybe it happened already? Maybe it’s just not that feasible. However, it is also important to recognise that you can 100 percent do things that you didn’t originally set out to do at the beginning.” In relation to handling the crowd at Council meetings, Sabrina says it presents some challenges. “It’s always difficult to ask students to give up two hours on a Monday evening to sit through council, three times a semester. But I’m very happy that students and class reps are showing up, and not only at that, they’re engaging and adding to the conversation.” “Class reps are working at the ground level and they know better than anybody what the issues are in their classes or faculties. If they can’t come to us, and bring to light what is going on, we will never know, and it might be too late.” “I don’t think there has ever been a ‘crowd’ to say... there has definitely been times that I’ve asked the exec-

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utive to use their inside voices when getting in order for officer reports. But as we do have a secretary at council, shout out to Dara Rickard, who takes amazing minutes at council, we ask that if students wish to raise something that they raise their hand and wait to be called on, to allow one speaker at a time.” “We also ask that people state their name and faculty for example Sabrina Vaughan 3BA History, so others can either know who they are or the relevant officer knows who to follow up with at the end of council.” “I also ask the executives to state their names and positions when they speak at council, so students might be able to recognise who they are. As I am the chairperson, the questions get asked through me and then I aim it at the relevant officer. This helps to prevent a lot of the back and forth questions that turn into conversations. So this allows more issues to be raised at council.” “I have been happy with my timing of council. I try and plan to the second on how long we will be on each topic, and when we need to move on. As soon as we get to the end of AOB and no one has anything more to add, we implore students to get in contact with us if they wish. Even just for a chat, we don’t bite, and sure, the majority of us are students too.”

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STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

HAVE YOUR SAY: what would you like to see the Students’ Union do differently?

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James Kavanagh, second year Science:

By Conor Brummell

Anna McLaughlin, second year Arts with Human Rights: “I think the Students’ Union should get coffee cups, reusable ones, and make them free. If every student got one free keep cup over the space of three or four months, we could phase out all single use coffee cups. Then students could have the choice of buying a new one or using the one they have, and we can start eliminating waste from campus.”

Stephen McKermitt, second year Science: “I’d like the Students’ Union to invest in cleaner bathrooms around campus. It would be nice if they could create funding to get all bathrooms fully functioning constantly, rather than being out of order or being really disgusting at times. The amount of times as well that there isn’t toilet paper in some bathrooms is pretty ridiculous, so I’d like to see better bathrooms around campus.”

CIANVÓTÁLA Mura mbeidh tú ar an gcampas Déardaoin an 7 Márta agus más mian leat vótáil i dtoghcháin oifigí lánaimseartha Chomhaltas na Mac Léinn, beidh tú in ann an Córas Cianvótála a úsáid le do vóta a chaitheamh ar líne.

Próiseas simplí dhá chéim atá ann:

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Cláraigh Logáil isteach ar láithreán gréasáin Chomhaltas na Mac Léinn roimh an meán oíche, Dé Luain an 6 Márta agus cláraigh le haghaidh an Chórais Cianvótála. Vótái Lógáil isteach ar láithreán gréasáin Chomhaltas na Mac Léinn le linn na n-uaireanta vótála Déardaoin an 7 Márta (10:00 r.n. – 8:00 i.n.). Má chláraigh tú, beidh tú in ann an Córas Cianvótála a úsáid. Lean na treoracha le do vóta a chaitheamh.

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“The Students’ Union should subsidise food around campus more. Sult had it advertised a couple of weeks ago that they had the ‘Irish Mammy’s Dinner’ on and it was bacon and cabbage. When I went in to get it, the price of the bacon and cabbage was €7.50, which is expensive for students. Either that or put on more entertainment activities around campus more regularly.”

“If the Students’ Union could be a bit more vocal and transparent, I’d like that. Last year I used their Snapchat to keep up-to-date on what was going on around campus but this year they seem to be a lot quieter.”

AN CÓRAS

Tá an Córas Cianvótála éasca le húsáid www.su.nuigalway.ie facebook.com/NUIGalwayStudentsUnion twitter.com/NUIGSU agus go hiomlán faoi rún.

Kenny Cooke, third year Science:

Órlaith Murray, second year Arts:

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“I’d like the Students’ Union to get more seating around campus. It’d be nice to have somewhere, if you have a break between classrooms, to just sit down and chill out with your friends rather than having to go to like the Bialann, the Hub or Sult.”

TOGHCHÁIN CML An rachaidh tú san iomaíocht?

Suzanne Conneely, second year Commerce: “I think the Students’ Union should get subsidised memberships in the Kingfisher for students so that we no longer have to pay full price.”

Oisin Cusack, second year Arts: “I think college should open a bit later than it does. If you need an assignment done and you have to leave at 2am it can be a bit annoying, so maybe longer opening hours in the library and reading room would be nice.”

Róisín O’Sullivan, Jill Lundy, Aoife Dempsey, third Year Speech and Language Therapy: Jill Lundy: “We’d like a microwave in Aras Moyola. If we bring in our food, we’re told to get rid of it. We’d also like funding put in place for placement, as we have to pay for it all by ourselves and that’s really hard when we are sent to places like Donegal and still have to pay for rent in Galway.” Aoife Dempsey: “Yeah, or if we have to go to Dublin and pay up to €600 on top of transport to get to the hospitals, as God knows Dublin is a big place. Right now, I’m on placement in Galway and still have to pay about €400 on transport costs and get nothing back.” Róisín O’Sullivan: “Some other courses get some of their expenses paid for. I think nurses and doctors get around €80 euro a week expenses which would go a long way.”

Isabel Dwyer, second year Arts with Creative Writing: “I think the Students’ Union is great! Mental Health Mondays are such an amazing idea and Clare’s idea for the Clothes Swap they did a while back was so good!”


#NUIGSU19

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If you will not be on campus on Thursday 7th March and wish to vote in the students’ union full-time officer elections you can use Remote Vote to cast your vote online.

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Register Log on to the students’ union website before midnight on Wednesday 6th of March and register for Remote Vote.

Vote Log on to the students’ union website between 10am-8pm Thursday 7th of March

Remote Vote is easy to use and is www.su.nuigalway.ie facebook.com/NUIGalwayStudentsUnion completely confi dential. www.su.nuigalway.ie

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STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION SPECIAL

OPINION: the Students’ This Time I’m Voting Union is failing to represent students

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During the first class reps meeting of the 2018/2019 college year, it was acknowledged by the executive that student engagement has been poor. It was agreed that something must be done.

1976’, ‘Social Security Directive 1979’, ‘Pregnant Workers Directive 1992’ and the ‘Equal Treatment in Employment Directive 2002’. This brought Ireland from a country in the 1970s where women who got married had to resign from their public sector jobs, to a country who protects and promotes women’s rights in the workplace. Ireland gets a lot of benefits from being in the EU, which is something that is forgotten from time to time. For students, as an Irish graduate, your qualification can be fully recognised in 28 other countries. You can travel to, study in or move to any EU country freely and pay no roaming charges. God forbid if you get sick abroad, but if you have a European Health Insurance Card, the healthcare, depending on the state, might be free or at least at a reduced rate. At this moment in time Europe is facing many challenges such as climate change, youth unemployment, data privacy and migration. And the single easiest way to have your say and help shape the future of the EU is by making an informed decision on 24 May. You can sign up for this EU voting awareness campaign at thistimeimvoting.eu and follow the campaign on social media @thistimeimvoting, #thistimeimvoting.

NA

Student engagement with their Union is awful. During the Students’ Union elections in March 2018, only five percent of the student body turned up to cast their vote. Engagement from students is vital. Without it, the Union has no effective mandate to address student issues. But why are students turning their backs on their elected representatives? The current executive committee are at a loss. During the first class reps meeting of the 2018/2019 college year, it was acknowledged by the executive that student engagement has been poor. It was agreed that something must be done. Four months later and we are still waiting. Since coming into office in June 2018, the executive committee have repeatedly failed to take a pro-active and hands on approach to interacting with the student body. Back in 2008, things on campus were a bit different. The (notably smaller) executive committee were a visible feature of campus life. When asking a former classmate if they knew their Students’ Union President, Muireann O’Dwyer, the response I received was, “Sure, she’s always about with the bright t-shirts and bullhorn.” Now, unless it’s to hand out free lollipops or complete surveys, the executive committee have mostly confined themselves to Aras na Mac Léinn. Poor of student engagement runs deeper than lacking a visible presence though. This Students’ Union has been incredibly lax about honouring their commitments to the student body. In the first class reps meeting of 2018/19, the executive committee were reminded of their obligation under the Students’ Union constitution, a document that, at its heart, seeks to ensure quality representation for students, to hold weekly executive meetings and to publish minutes. As of the writing of this article, there have been no published minutes since November 2018, and no evidence of weekly meetings. When this was put to the Students’ Union President, Megan Reilly, she admitted that the failure to upload minutes was “an oversight on my part and I apologise for that.” Ms Reilly was silent on the matter of weekly meetings. The Union have continued this laid-back approach to commitments with their handling of Ealú, a oneday on-campus festival. A daylong festival was first promised back in 2011. The class reps of the day voted to end their support of RAG week on the condition that it would be replaced with an on-campus event, similar in style to the Trinity Ball. In her manifesto for election, Ms Reilly promised to make it happen. With the first half of semester two gone, information is still scant. “The reason we haven’t

been so vocal about the event is because we want to keep hype around it until we build up to selling tickets,” said Ms Reilly. While a venue and date have been decided (but not released), funding is still unconfirmed. It is unclear why the Students’ Union has waited until the last minute to sort out the finances of this endeavour. As of late, the Union have even failed to engage their own class reps. The Class Reps Councils due to take place on 21 January and 11 February failed to attract the required numbers of class reps. Despite this, the executive committee pressed on with a meeting with the concession to refrain from voting on motions. Ms Reilly maintains “for the sake of the reps present and the matters we wished to discuss, we stayed in the room afterwards and allowed discussions to continue.” But it should not come as surprise to the Union that class reps are eschewing council meetings. Many suggestions made by class reps are ignored. At council in November, a suggestion was brought by the Students’ Union to engage in a letter writing campaign, asking that families displaced by the closure of a direct provision centre were rehomed within the local area. Class reps made multiple suggestions; make a template for students to fill in; print letters and ask class reps to distribute them. The SU President herself suggested a letter-writing workshop. In the end none of these things happened. A decision was made, behind closed doors, that one letter would be sent with multiple signatures, the bizarre reasoning being one letter was more effective than several. Ms Reilly has since revealed that the letter writing campaign “was stalled” as the decision to close the provision centre in question was not confirmed. However, this vital development in a Unionendorsed campaign was never brought to the attention of class reps. The Students’ Union may bemoan the lack of student engagement, but the fault for this lies directly in the laps of the Union themselves. The executive committee have repeatedly failed to follow the rules of operation that have been laid out for them in the Students’ Union Constitution. They have ignored class rep suggestions and have failed to keep them in the loop about happenings on campus. They have failed to get out and about and make themselves relevant to every day student life. Increasing student engagement is no easy task. It requires the Union to physically put themselves in front of students on a daily basis. It requires the Union to make multiple and repeated announcements about their campaigns over a variety of platforms. It requires the Union to put boots on the ground and listen to what the student body is telling them. Until they improve student engagement, the Students’ Union cannot claim to represent the student body.

SULT’S

By Eimear Spain

On the evening of the 12 February, NUI Galway student and This Time I’m Voting volunteer Sinead Bolger organised a ‘What Europe Means to You’ event. Guest panellists included European Union Law Lecturer Rosemary Keogan, Professor Niamh Reilly, author of “Human Rights: Seeking Gender Justice in a Globalizing Age”, and This Time I’m Voting Volunteer Saul Ballesteros. The event kicked off at 7pm and a good crowd had turned out (even during RAG week) to learn about the EU, and to give their opinions on it. EU election hopeful Maria Walsh was even in the crowd. The panellists covered a wide variety of topics, including how the European Union started, why the EU is so important, what being part of the EU means to them and the current EU challenges. Saul, who is originally from Spain and moved to Ireland only three months ago, says being an EU citizen made his move a lot easier. “The EU was the place I was born and the place where I want to live.” The most interesting thing I learned and was not aware of was that the EU had a role in ending gender discrimination in the workplace in Ireland. The EU brought in directives like ‘The Equal Pay Directive 1975’, ‘The Equal Treatment Directive

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