SU Elections: President

Harry O’Brien from the Trinity Ability Co_op interviews the candidates for the TCDSU elections. (Read the transcript below!)

Ability Co_op interviews. TCDSU President Candidates.


Harry O’Brien  0:00 

The ability Co Op is one of the largest student activism groups in the country, promoting awareness and advocating for policy changes to make Trinity campus an inclusive environment for students with disabilities. Despite only being established in the summer of 2020, we’ve already secured 1000s in funding support our projects, which include a short film, we’re producing this very podcast, you’re listening to, a training program we’ll be introducing across the country and potentially internationally and so much more. We’re always looking for people to help out wherever they can, whether it be graphic design, social media management, videography, writing and so much more. So if you’re interested in getting involved, reach out to us. You’ll find links to all our socials in the show notes below. Or you can find us by simply searching for the ability core. Hello, and welcome to this very special episode of the Trinity ability Co Op podcast. I’m your host, Harry O’Brien. In this episode, I’ll be sitting down with the three candidates in the Student Union presidential campaign. Ben Cummins is a final year bess student in class rep and is involved with the Cumann Gaelach, and was JCR president two years ago. Leah Keogh graduated social work last year and is currently welfare officer with previous experience and a number of students positions. Luke McQuillan is a third year PPS student. I asked them all about why they’re running, question their Manifesto, and asked why they’re best suited to be president. So sit back and enjoy.

So you’re in final year, so if you get elected, all your buddies from your will be gone. Why are you hanging back? Why do you want to be president?

Ben  1:40 

Good question. Um, you know, it’s something that I kind of thought that I toyed with for a few months before I decided to run. One of the main things that led me to the decision to do it was that I knew within me that I didn’t want to just stick around for the sake of sticking around for the sake of not wanting to move on from college from just, you know, dragging the bollocks out of another year. This College has been everything to me for the past four years, you know, I’ve I’ve hugely benefited from kind of the involvements that I’ve had from from from halls through to second year and the JCR through all the way up for being on scheme, stuff like that. It’s allowed me to grow everyone in this college, who I’ve met, I’ve gained something from in terms of who I am as a person in terms of what I’ve learned here. community, for me is a huge thing as well. And I just want to make sure that things are allowed to reemerge, and that everybody can get that experience. Similar to what I had when I was coming up through the years, you know, yeah, only mates are gone. That’s true. Not true as well. I mean, like I did spend a year in halls and JCR in second year where I was engaging with younger years. That was the whole part of the job. And I’ll be a part of the job again, just for a love of this place, and for what it’s giving me. And that’s kind of the kind of cheesy kind of cliched answer, but that’s what I’m doing.

Harry O’Brien  3:10 

And you’re very into startups, you’re involved with the Trinity entrepreneurship society. And so startups and social enterprises, I mentioned a bit in your Manifesto. Where does that interest come from?

Ben  3:25 

So the interest actually comes from a happy accident. And in second year, I went to the AGM for the training entrepreneurs fighting double for amaze. And there was a position that was uncontested at the time, a couple of people around for it on the day, I ran for it on the day it was for a startup weekend manager. And I ended up getting it. And it ended up being one of the absolute best things I ever did in college. So we ran a startup weekend, which can be entrepreneurial society, kind of like a hackathon, where people get together on the very first day, they pitch really rough ideas that they have for startup businesses that they haven’t created yet. And people vote on the best ideas, they form teams and stuff like that on an over the course of the 54 hours the whole weekend. People work together, they build a business up off the ground. And it’s a bunch of kind of creatives, all you know, engineers and industry heads and graphic design people and stuff all coming together and solving problems and making something and it was an absolutely brilliant event. We had over 100 participants with speakers from PwC from Accenture and a bunch of different sponsors. We judges we prizes we hosts. And so I was one of the four student volunteers who organized that whole thing along with Karla McDonald, who is the current president. So it was an absolutely amazing event. And it kind of it yeah, it it gets And insight into into something I’ve never been involved in before. And it also was something that was really tangible. And, and you could see kind of people working together, it was that kind of event where, you know, people were meeting and people skills were blending, and people were kind of pursuing things that they were passionate about. And it’s something that really inspired me. And so you see that in the manifesto, and you know, I want the SU to play a role in like, actively supporting stuff like that, you know, the development of students extracurricular pursuits on the SU, to help people and getting their own projects off the ground, whether it’s, you know, startups or, you know, making a band, or artistic projects didn’t mean to organize whatever students are passionate about themselves. BSU could be a brilliant outlet for you know, helping an artist to release an EP, and he’s a photoshoot done with a budding photographer, Jeremy, and somebody who has a startup business, but doesn’t necessarily have the tools to do so to meet your graphic designer who wants to build their portfolio. I think that things like that providing those opportunities, giving students the tools to kind of empower them and follow their own projects would be such a brilliant way to to build community and build connections among students. As we move forward. Brittany, we

Harry O’Brien  6:17 

already have launch boxes, we have, we have mentorship programs, we have societies to help people all this way you should as soon as you get involved with this.

Ben  6:28 

That’s true. And 100%, these kind of things I don’t intend for them to take away from societies. I intend, I think that societies in the SU can coexist. For example, the Startup Weekend that I ran, as I said, tests were on their own in that. And so what we ended up having to do is open it up to all the other colleges in Dublin because we only had so much reach inside of Trinity. So it ended up being a Dublin uni Startup Weekend with UCD. And with the EU, and we actually ended up having some students come over from Manchester University, which was crazy. But I think the less you could first of all promote with those kind of initiatives itself, but also partner with your your dead, right, like partner with those societies that are already out there, like tests like TAF Trinity Arts Festival, like players that already give those kinds of supports the students and an outlet for students to express themselves. And I think that forming closer partnerships with them, have, you know, imagine like a blanket event, imagine a hackathon or a startup weekend at Trinity Su, Trinity Startup Weekend with you know, tests in there with with dupa you know, the photography a society, I think that there’s there’s there’s a huge potential, I think that the student body is bursting with creativity, activism, and stuff like that. And attorney pcds, you should should really be at the core of that and driving it all. And that’s my album.

Harry O’Brien  8:00 

So see, I see the incentive the students willing to get involved with these things. Do you have any specific policy proposals that would for the student union to do those services?

Ben  8:14 

Yeah. So for example, let’s take sit downs and industry professionals. It’s something that a tie Williams actually helped me kind of come up with this kind of policy point. Sit downs and industry professionals Take for example, students who might be songwriters who haven’t fucking faintest idea of how to break into the music industry didn’t mean bringing in people who’ve done that, bringing in even students even spotlighting students who are already doing it. In order to inspire people bringing in students who are successful artists on campus who are having successful startup businesses. logotype Williams, aka Oscar blue is sharing a lot with me, you can hear me focus on all these words. Look at you know, Trinity startups look at efficacy, you know, the guys that are running that two brilliant startup, I think that spotlighting those students. Also letting people know, especially in the younger years, these are the kind of things that we can achieve as students, gentlemen come to this talk, you might learn something from it. I also think that if there is the scope there, possibly some funding, maybe a grand scheme for, for for student creatives to have like a photoshoot done to something like that to expand their business or their or their or their brand, something like that. I think that if there is scope for that, obviously, I’ll have to delve deeper into the Students Union finances once I’m in the job was definitely something I’d be interested in pursuing. Is this something

Harry O’Brien  9:36 

Leo had a lot of institutional knowledge, she knows she’s more effective. If it’s something that’s on her Manifesto, so very engaging and engaging with them. Thank you said industry professionals helping students achieve their dreams and their goals, whatever.

Ben  9:54 

It’s I know she has a similar aim. She calls it her goal. Come back, where she talks about, you know, engaging with the student body, and kind of building back community a lot kind of over the course of the next year, it’s not as much of a focus of her campaign as it is a mind in terms of other ways in which she engages with students. Nothing popped out to me in our Manifesto, in which I read it at a glance.

Harry O’Brien  10:27 

Okay, you mentioned a package, you’re going to make available to class reps to organize events and stuff. Can you explain that a bit more to me?

Ben  10:36 

Yeah, so I want to talk about what I’m talking about when I when I say that, first of all, the thinking behind it is, we’ve missed out on a hugely formative year in terms of the people that you meet in terms of the support networks that you form in college. And I think that a good place to start, there will be at the class level, Jeremy, meeting your classmates, forming those kind of friendships first, I think that a good way to ensure that is to support class reps and engaging with their classes in organizing events. So it doesn’t have to just be nights out. But it can be as well, if they go back, please go out touchwood. But it can be nights out. It can be, you know, coffee mornings, speakers or careers events, it can be up to the Class Rep to meet if they have ideas that they want to come to us with. For for events. That’s brilliant in terms of what we will provide to them. What I’m talking about is lists of venues that are suitable and accessible, that you know, that they can they can make use of when looking for somewhere to host their event.

Harry O’Brien  11:45 

You know,

Ben  11:47 

linking them to estates and facilities are two essential societies committee if they’re trying to book out rooms on campus. There’s not a lot of people know how to do that. But it’s very easy to either send an email to the CSE to make use of rooms in the atrium, or LSU. If you want to use kind of other spaces more broadly on campus, you get in touch directly with estates and facilities, making sure the class reps know how to contact details from where they want to go, if they want to host venues if they want to host events and venues on campus. Also funds. Again, small little packages for like, catering for our coffee morning are a speaker’s event, to me a couple of 100 quid that Class Rep can use to, to organize one of these events further, further, further course, in terms of where that money is gonna come from. I think that we also need to redirect spending away from areas that don’t necessarily directly enhance the student experience. I think that a blaringly obvious example is class retrograde. A lot of money goes on it is spent on it each year. And it’s you know, a big one or two nice expenditures and all. All the classrooms go to a hotel, they get all these trainings, which are valuable and productive. And also this huge kind of hullabaloo involved around it. And it’s a big expense. And it doesn’t need to be spent on laptops. I think classroom training was online this year, it worked I attended. I think that that’s something that can be continued.

Harry O’Brien  13:18 

You mentioned in your Manifesto, that you would like to include mental health support as a university ranking. So like in these joint international ranking systems like us and plains education, mental health through these gives it gives a long term incentive, you argue, colleges to increase their mental health support. Is there any precedent at all for an SU president, students union president or any student activist to successfully lobby the ad? at a what you call it, whatever? Would you call it? An area of consideration?

Ben  13:57 

Okay. Oh, so like it’s an index? an index? Yeah.

Harry O’Brien  14:01 

on you. You want to add an area of consideration? Yeah,

Ben  14:05 

exactly. So they have about seven or eight indexes that these ranking criteria is used to choose colleges on? Well, we’re talking about is adding an extra one. In terms of Is there any precedent for us to be able to engage with these international institutions? You’re right. Maybe there isn’t what I will say that this campaign is already something that has huge momentum. There is a it’s already off the ground in the UK. And it’s already got, I don’t have the figures in front of me about about about about what the petition is, or how many signatures as what it’s been signed by multiple universities in the UK, it’s already something that has made it into the hands of elected officials on the other side of the IRC. I think that bringing it over to Ireland, getting it off the ground here would be hugely, hugely important. Also, it’s not going to be done by Joseph. What I am talking about banding together with USI. And with all the other colleges, in Ireland and all the other tcts us to get this campaign off the ground and to start getting a petition to get a petition made, start getting signatures to get a unified approach, because, as you said, and as is in my Manifesto, it gives long term institutional incentives for students, or sorry for university boards to pursue expanding mental health services.

Harry O’Brien  15:30 

That’s interesting. So this is an ongoing campaign, and you’d be trying to unite not just Trinity College, but other colleges in the country to support the campaign. 100%. Yeah. Okay. Okay. You mentioned you want to help students upskill by providing Crash Course workshops. These are skills that you meant, you mentioned Photoshop, you mentioned cocktail making. I know, I learned Photoshop, just by getting involved ladies and watching YouTube videos, free. People can take this after making work workshops for pretty cheap. So why should the union be spending its limited resources, teaching students the skills that they can learn elsewhere?

Ben  16:15 

That’s true. What I say to you first going off is a lot of those cocktail training courses aren’t pretty cheap. There are hundreds and hundreds of Euro in many cases, the cocktail and the barista one is one that I have probably the best insight into. I myself worked in the buyer trade for a very long time. for about three years, it was a part time job of mine in college. And I have a lot of contacts. And I’ve been in contact with reps for the different companies for Jamison and Coca Cola and stuff like that, who do a lot of these trainings for buyer stuff. And we’re also always looking to expand their presence on university campuses. So in terms of the costing of that proposal, I think there’s a lot of scope to have these things sponsored. Yeah, no, you’re dead, right? In some cases, there might have to be a, you know, a subsidised cost involved for students. In terms of Photoshop, Photoshop can be learned, but it can also be taught in a crash course. You know, you’ve had groups on campus such as coderdojo, who’ve been active in the past. I think that there’s there’s definitely scope for the SU to parent or publicizing those kinds of those kinds of services and and making initiatives where where students can upskill their needs student employment.

Harry O’Brien  17:34 

Three interesting, you mentioned people sponsoring the things I’ve never considered that. Yeah, could you name specifically what companies and what they may sponsor,

Ben  17:45 

Jemison and Coca Cola are two big brand reps in Dublin, who I know I’ve been I’ve received multiple trainings for them when I was a buyer stuff. And, you know, they give you the barista training to give you the cocktail training, stuff like that. I’ve done cocktail training myself in college, but it was kind of a fun kind of informal event I did at Trinity Arts Festival last year. I’m not saying that I’m qualified to do it. With our brand reps. As I said, a huge part of their focus is always on engaging with students expanding their presence on universities, you know, you see often you know, gentlemen, for example, always have stands in the block and any other year. Those guys are always looking to get involved students, and I think just reaching out, you’ll be surprised as to as to what will be made available to you.

Harry O’Brien  18:38 

Again, I haven’t heard any other candidate mentioned that. That’s for two the other two, and you say Coca Cola with a sponsor cocktail mix.

Ben  18:47 

Yeah. Coca Cola is, is is is the overarching umbrella brand, for a bunch of different spirits companies, such as disaronno. They own all the glandular chains. They own like amaretto. They they stock a lot of bears with you know, it’s not just the drink Coca Cola. They also have they’re also an umbrella brand, for a lot of different drinks brands, as is James.

Harry O’Brien  19:15 

Okay, that’s really interesting. You have a pretty big Manifesto. And if you can only achieve one thing off of all the

Ben  19:24 

support and student endeavors, the the support networks for for people to empower people to pursue their own projects, creating that kind of vibrant community on campus, I think is in my head, not the most important one, but probably the one that I feel most romantically about if that makes any sense. Gentlemen, it’s a one that’s kind of closest to my heart in terms of my own personal experience in college. I am fully aware of that, however, the article experience in colleges is massively different for for all students. And so my kind of my, my heart jumps to that one straightaway. Because you know, I love to see people getting involved in college people kind of bringing their own kind of passions and skills to the table and people working together and creating kind of these these movements and stuff. And it’s something that I’ve benefited from hugely. I’m also aware, though, that people have different experiences in college. And I think that the inclusivity side as well, is is something that definitely needs focus.

Harry O’Brien  20:37 

What Why? You mentioned a lot of good ideas for student engagement. Why do none of these exist in the students already to an area?

Ben  20:48 

I think that engagement has been looked at from a very narrow perspective from the Students Union. Because they can only observe it in so many ways. They can only observe it in how many people are showing up to council? How many people are following the Instagram? Do you know what I mean? How many people are voting in su elections. And so when people talk about an engagement problem, I don’t think that they’re really framing and kind of capturing the entire issue for themselves. Everybody has a different idea of what they want the student to do for them. One of the hardest parts of the job, one of the hardest parts of the job. Some people are happy for their class reps to just be somebody who emails lectures, just be somebody who organizes courts nights out. Other people on the other side of the spectrum are also very politically engaged, want to see their Students Union, fighting for social issues, generally mean, representing kind of the voice of the student body and making it hard? And I think that it’s it’s, the engagement issue is something that gets talked about every year. But there are really endless possibilities to engage with student community. And I think that the ones that I have identified in my manifesto are ones that are quite unique and quite haven’t been tried before.

Harry O’Brien  22:19 

Definitely unique, unique. Do you think you’re free to pick anything here? But you think that your, your focus on helping students, and is what sets you apart from the other candidates?

Ben  22:35 

I think that what sets me apart from the other candidates is that I am very much a product of the Trinity community. I’ve been involved in a lot of different areas, as I’ve outlined, you know, I mean, as I’ve said, and so on, so many interviews now, and so many postings, but I don’t want to just be listing off my college CV for everybody. I mean, what I’m trying to get across is that I’m somebody who feels hugely grateful to have been involved in the college experience in the college community here to the extent that I have been, and I think that it gives me a unique perspective on how the union could better work for everybody. How it could involve people more, I think that that’s what sets me apart from from other candidates. It’s that I’m just a product of this whole college and this whole student community gentlemen, the other candidates, they have vast institutional experience, and they have kind of, you know, maybe Leah has vast student technical knowledge of the job.

Unknown Speaker  23:56 


Ben  23:56 

I think is also a valuable perspective. He’s very much an outsider in a lot of ways. And I think that I really like kind of a lot of a lot of what he brings to the table in terms of in terms of the race. But I think I I kind of, I blend nicely those two sides of you know, being involved in a lot of different areas of the college community and also not being that deep into Students Union politics, I’ve never been a minimize away for us. You know, I’ve sat on union forum and stuff like that, but I’ve never kind of been in such a specific role is to for that to be my only focus.

Harry O’Brien  24:40 

And your engagement with the college has been obviously studying involved with tests. Your president the JCR you’ve lived on campus in your in halls for two years and there you’re on campus, and your Class Rep missing anything there.

Ben  24:58 


I was also on this game. I was also on the game Vega for two years in college. And the only other thing you, you’ve done your research. The only other thing that I would say is that when I was on JCR, I sat on the union forum, which is the college’s official decision making body. It’s where all the sub parts of the ptos sit. I sat there as an ex officio member as JCR president. And so I got a look in there into kind of your decision making better one of the highest levels. So, you know, I’m not an experienced, you know, Leah likes to say, you know, we need to, we can spend, you know, three to six months for somebody new learning the role. You know, that’s all well and good. I’m not saying I’m trying to match her for union experience, you know, she’s been, she’s had pretty much every job in the SU that somebody can have. But I am somebody who has a vast amount of experience, as he was originally built up together.

Harry O’Brien  26:06 

Okay, thanks.

Ben  26:09 

That was excellent.

Harry O’Brien  26:12 

Okay, Leah, thanks for sitting up. Stay with us today. And you study social policy, what made you want to study social policy? Yeah, so

Leah  26:21 

I studied social work, but social policy is definitely part of that. And, and yeah, good question. I suppose I wanted to work with people, first of all, and in a carrying capacity wasn’t into science wasn’t really gravitating towards nursing or not even pure psychology and social work was more hands on on the ground. And, and yet, it just made sense for me and the Trinity course, and meant that I could graduate in four years rather than having to do a master’s and make a five. And so I went for those lab placement tools was quite practical, and which I enjoyed.

Harry O’Brien  26:58 

So much work for the practical work and working with people. Where do you think that comes from? Would you like that?

Leah  27:06 

Probably a one to help. I’ve always gravitated towards like, and I’ve always been, like the care and friend or, you know, the mommy of the group and all that. And so yeah, I’ve always wanted to, I suppose help, though. And also, advocacy is a huge part of social work. And, you know, and working with the people are working for the people you’re working with, and an advocate for them, those who might not be able to advocate for themselves, and might need a little help along the way. So I really enjoy that. So when the likes of and probation was one of my placements, and it was our job to kind of work with your clients and kind of keep them out of prison where possible.

Harry O’Brien  27:49 

Contrast. And I’d like to talk about your Manifesto, because it’s a big part of what you’re going to be doing next year. If you’re elected. You had rapid HIV testing, is that right? Yeah. Yeah. That was on Oh, and Hans manifesto last year, and it didn’t get implemented. Why would it be any different for you?

Leah  28:09 

So there was actually a really cool initiative launched this year with HIV Ireland, under the home testing kits for rapid HIV testing. So what happened this year, it was COVID, interrupted Annie onside testing. And and as a responsive measure, HIV, Ireland introduced us home testing kits. And so my plan is to use a portion of the HTA funding that the union has available to it, and to source a lot of these kits, and, you know, send them as they need as promote positive sexual well being among students.

Harry O’Brien  28:42 

Okay, I was this postal. Is this a newly available thing? Or has this not been available this year?

Leah  28:48 

No. So now within the union, and we’re in conversations now HIV RM to see how we can actually source and the kids ourselves. When HIV Ireland launched there, and service it sells it within the first day, you know, it was to do them for a few weeks. And so we’re inquiring as to how we can get our hands on them, and then how we can safely distribute them to students.

Harry O’Brien  29:13 

Okay, um, you mentioned your FAFSA as well as subsidized housing for disabled students. And how would that work?

Leah  29:23 

That was excellent trainer. So he’s air ability service, or you know, the head. It’s just it’s very unfair that students with disabilities who have no other option, and both to live on campus and say, for physical limitations or other reasons, and that they would have to, you know, pay extra. And often it’s not a choice for them, they have to live here. And because it’s not practical for them to be able to access College in and out every day, once or twice a day. And so I just thought there needs to be more, don’t ask And so it’s it’s conversations we’re having now and something that I would love to see implemented and further down the line.

Harry O’Brien  30:08 

Okay, and this would be on an as needed basis, you’d apply for special consideration.

Leah  30:16 

Exactly, yeah. So at the moment, you can apply for special consideration and board, it’s not subsidized. And so they’re not taking into account that this is a need another one. And like other shoes,

Harry O’Brien  30:30 

so all students who get accommodation on campus through special consideration, they will get it subsidized.

Leah  30:40 

And all that’s the plan. That’s the pitch that I want to make to the accommodation service, because at the moment, and their students are painful work for a decision that and they haven’t had much say.

Harry O’Brien  30:54 

Okay, interesting. Your welfare officer for the past year and no su officer, as long as I’ve been here that I know of has successfully run for another su officer role. Do you fear that you could be setting a precedent where people who want to become president president will go or run for one of the smaller positions, I could even run uncontested. And now you could be like introducing more politics into the SU, which is the last thing it needs?

Leah   31:25 

Oh, that’s actually a really good question. And something I haven’t given much tattoo. And because as you said, it’s not done and hasn’t been done in a very long time, the last time someone did welfare to President was 2003. And he got linked, and before that 1990 of antibiotic so and I suppose they didn’t set a precedent. So if that’s something to go off of, and now that I’m in the role, I can see why people don’t rerun. It’s an all consuming year, you know, people who pay or the praise that they get, and you have to run on a platform of passion, if you’re going to rerun, that has to be what drives you. And because it’s the only thing that will get you through. And so, and I don’t think it would necessarily spark that kind of turnout or you know, people to run for the wrong reasons. Because if you’re running for the wrong reasons, you won’t last year and the job

Harry O’Brien  32:23 

is interesting. And you’re going to need to explain this to me now as well for officer because I was going through other manifestos. And Dylan, who’s running for welfare had this in his manifesto, us he’s gonna continue something that you were doing last year, which is recording casework in anonymized form. He explained to me like in three, three paths, what was that? What it entailed? And why you did it?

Leah  32:49 

Okay. Yep. So this was something that I introduced as part of my manifesto last year. So what I realized was that the welfare officer specifically deals with an awful lot of casework, you know, students come to them with their concerns around reasonable accommodations, and financial assistance, and lots of other different things like that accommodation. And, basically, and there was no data to I suppose, and account for this. And I thought, what better way, and to make an argument to college since I have this solid data behind it. And so we do have a case work kind of report and to that we can anonymously record data. And so I’ve been filling that in constantly this year. And so what I’ll do then, at the end of this year, is collate that, and have all of these territories for next year. So we can go through the college and say listen, 50% of students are struggling financially, we need to introduce a B and C bursaries or, and if we’re introducing campaigns, campaigns is a big part of a welfare well, and also a presidential role. The President oversees all campaigns, and that these these reports can inform campaigns, because there’s no point in US shooting in the dark and kind of doing what we’ve always done. And if it’s not working, it’s not reaching the students. And so I think it’s time that we start working on stats. And, and so that’s what I introduced. And that’s why I introduced it.

Harry O’Brien  34:13 

Really interesting. And if you’re an active, you’ll be around five years older than the incoming first years. And what is it? What is it about the job of President that said that you don’t want to go into the real world? What is it about the job that you want to do? Yeah, good

Leah  34:33 

question. Because a lot of people have asked me this, like, why don’t you just go on and use your degree I’m lucky that I have the professional accreditation that I could become a social worker tomorrow and beyond triple the pay, I’m on at the moment, and are there’s a lot of masters I’m interested in and a lot, a lot I want to do and haven’t been in this job this year. There’s so much more to do. And I’ve only now started to get a grasp of how the systems work. You know, the college program. Because he is so dense, and it takes a long time for any incumbent sabbatical officer to wrap their head around it. And I just feel like college relies on the naivety every year. And if we were able to hit the ground running, you know, fast forward those three months that presidents take to kind of, you know, find their feet, and we would be in a much better position, as opposed as a legacy to leave here. And particularly with the income and progress, I think it’s important that someone who knows their stuff, and as far as those compensations marry,

Harry O’Brien  35:27 

you says, you know, your stuff, and you’re left with the most experience of the three candidates. I spoke to Luke, and your opponent, I asked him, what’s the year ahead of you? He says, Oh, he’s a fresh face. What could you like? Explain specifically for people like me, who with no Students Union experience, how that how the experience that you have will help you serve people better as president?

Leah  35:54 

Yeah, well, I would say the institutional knowledge, first of all, you know, I’m still learning there’s there’s more to learn, particularly in colleges, dense bureaucratic systems, as I was saying, and as everyone else knows, and but I do think I’ve had a head start, because I’ve been in this job for seven months. And I eat slept and bred, Su politics, college bureaucracy, I currently sit on college board, and part of the conversations, I know what’s going on, what has to be done, how it can be done, and that kind of thing. And then on the fresh facing, absolutely. Like, it’s fantastic that we see turnover every year. And that, you know, we breathe new life, the union. But I think every now and again, we need that crossover, the continuity, to get those projects over the line, like the student center we’ve been paying for since 2018. House six currently isn’t accessible. And it’s something on everyone’s radar every single year. And I think it’s time that we actually start. And yeah, me and the promises we’re making. And we’re at a really critical point now, and particularly with COVID and COVID. recovery, that and it’s a prime time for change, and college has made promises to was now and you know, fulfill different things that we’ve been asking for for years. And lecture content is now available online. There are grants for students on placements, things like that. And I need to make sure that we keep the pressure on, and that we can maintain these things when COVID. And that they’re not just short term measures that our team kind of achieved. And then last, because a new team of sabbats came in, and their work was kind of pulled from under them.

Harry O’Brien  37:28 

If you could only achieve one thing from your Manifesto, what would it be?

Leah   37:33 

Oh, that’s a good question. Because there’s so much I want to do to achieve one pig. And like, my main focus is quality shooting experience. I want to continue to evoke change that students can see and can feel. So my main priority is shooting services, I don’t think students should have to go out of their way to engage with the SEO, I think they pay for us three or every year. And we’re in fully paid positions that our job should be providing that service without even having to without students having to even ask for it, they need to be able to just feel the benefits. So what I’ve done this year, say is stuffed all the bathrooms with period products, and so that students have free access to period products on campus. And we’ve also introduced three fan sounds instead of to, you know, to take that pressure a little bit. And, and so yeah, my mercy is providing and shooting services and quality student services for all students.

Harry O’Brien  38:34 

Okay, um, final question. Luke, Luke, he’s proposing he’s a fresh face, Ben is willing to come somewhere between you, yourself and Luke, in terms of that, what is it that sets you apart from Ben and Luke, and makes you the best candidate for president

Leah  38:54 

other than the institutional knowledge, and the fact that I’ve been, I suppose part of this world for the last year I’ve been welfare officer, I’ve had my ears to the ground. And it’s been an intense year for student welfare. And it’s really my caseworker has given me a sense of what students are going through the isolation and all of that. So I feel like I really have a good sense of the issues that students are facing now and what needs to be done to alleviate that. And, and then more than that, the passion to know as I mentioned earlier, and this isn’t a job that you can go into, and for a second time, I think a lot of people go into these roles to kind of springboard into other things or politics. And so if that’s not what I want to do long term, Matala, human rights, social justice, equality of access to education, all of that essential to the work I want to do. That’s why I study social work. And so I hope that comes across and to students when they cast their vote on March 8.

Harry O’Brien  39:50 

Could you explain this to me cuz you mentioned institutional knowledge? How does having a president with institutional knowledge help students

Leah  40:01 

So I would say, institutional knowledge gives the President An advantage because they have a sense of how things work. And so if they want to evoke change, they know exactly how to go about it. And for example, I want to introduce a prayer reflector room on campus. So that and, you know, students of all faiths unknown can come together, and to foster in culturalism, you know, to have a space for themselves. And, and it’s been something on everyone’s radar for the last few years. But now I’m in the role, I know exactly how we have to go about it. I’ve secured a room with the help with the disability therapists. And I know that he has to go to to get you know, and permission.

to get them to America, because in here, oh, I think it definitely gives you an insight, that institutional knowledge as to what issues are going on, and then what solutions and we can kind of pose to solve them.

Harry O’Brien  41:01 

That’s really interesting. I really hope you’re successful with that a mindful meditation room because I definitely use that. Certainly. Thanks for sitting down with us. You’re very good.

Leah  41:11 

Thanks for having me, Harry.

Harry O’Brien  41:14 

Right. Luc, Mac, do people call you back?

Luke  41:18 

Yeah, people call me Marcus. Kind of actually. Yeah, markers ellaby, comic Comic Con and off

Harry O’Brien  41:24 

of some markers, your your captain of the Ruby team, you’re studying PPS. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you’re a one one student, you don’t need to correct me if I’m wrong, I’m just gonna get

Luke  41:35 

I’m gonna actually correct you. I’m I struggled terribly with dyslexia. So I would not consider myself one one student at the slightest, you know, I’m very happy. I know, it’s not great. But I’m, like, if I pass, I’m terrifically happy. Like, I’m surprised because I’ve come so far with everything. Like, just with dyslexia and doing a course that’s so heavily involved with reading, I kind of like, you know, head above water, just about, I’d love to be getting a one on ones. But I can say that’s not a grade that comes on my sheet more often.

Harry O’Brien  42:04 

Okay, we’ll talk more about that in a minute. And, but you seem to have been involved with ith the bloody the SMF, and the PPS, PPS lecture can’t be easy. We’ll talk about a minute, but you’ve had no engagement whatsoever at all, with the Students Union brand subcommittee, you haven’t been volunteer for, correct me if I’m wrong, Why do you suddenly want to run the whole thing?

Luke  42:30 

I think that the reason I haven’t been on it is, I’ll be honest, I never really knew what Student Union was about. And I think this year with kind of the boredom of sitting at home, and I was like, you know, what does the Student Union do, I started reading up on it, I read through the Constitution, I read through all this, I thought there’s so many students that would have been in my position, that don’t have an idea that, you know, I saw it as like, you know, you’re paying a subscription for something, you’re not getting any benefit out of like you’re paying for Netflix for someone else to watch it. And I thought, you know, like, this has to be changed somewhat like people are literally spending money each year towards the Student Union. yet they’re not getting any involvement in it. I don’t think I taught you know, someone who’s already been always involved, or it’s kind of hard than saying that, like, Oh, you can get involved, but someone that comes from a background of not been previously involved. And we’re trying to get involved and trying to push and trying to engage people. It shows that really anyone can do it. And I think it bridges the gap between people contributing towards the Student Union and those who don’t.

Harry O’Brien  43:33 

Okay, okay. So you are, and that’s actually one of your main pledges is to set up these clear lines of communications. Yeah,


yeah. So I and I also feel that the student union shouldn’t just be the policies of one person, the President or an elected official, I have it in my manifesto that like, people should be able to come forward and bring their own policies and ideas to the President. And the President works on behalf of the students and their ideas along with his his own or her own ideas.

Harry O’Brien  44:01 

Okay, do you think you could do that if you were comms officer or if you were some other like, gender equality officer or some part time officer? What is it about President?

Luke  44:12 

I think the President was it’s the role of leadership in the college and the role. It’s this comes from the absolute top of the Student Union down and I think it would be a lot more beneficial. I could be wrong, but I’m going to try in any way improve.

Harry O’Brien  44:29 

Okay, okay. You said you’re dyslexic earlier. And PPS, as far as I know, is a lot of writing. What did you study PPS?

Luke  44:38 

And I love challenges. I love people telling me you can’t do something. Because I think, I don’t know. I’ve told my whole life, you know, oh, for instance, I was told, you know, you probably shouldn’t do history for the Leaving Cert, you’re probably not going to get a good grade. Because there’s a lot of writing there’s a lot of reading, you’re not going to do well and that you’re dyslexic, you know, do something else. I hate when people say and when people say you can’t do something because of a disability, and that’s what drives me to do PPS, you know, I looked down and I remember my career guidance counselor was saying, you know, there’s gonna be some amount of reading and long nights. And I was like, Yeah, like, I want to challenge I want to be able to prove that, like, I can do this, regardless of what I have.

Harry O’Brien  45:22 

Once you know how to pick something that you’re good at.

Luke  45:25 

I think I think by working on your weaknesses, I don’t like saying that you’re good at one thing. I like saying that. Like, I’m not bad at reading. I struggled with it. But I’m not bad at it. I think by someone saying, Would you not pick something you’re good at is like, you know, why don’t do that. I had a love of philosophy. I love politics. I love economics. I might not be good at them. But why not do something because I’m not good at it. Why do something that I enjoy, like I enjoyed, I might struggle doing the readings, but I enjoyed them every day. So if that makes sense.

Harry O’Brien  45:55 

I don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it.

Luke  45:57 

Yeah, like, you don’t have to be like, you know, you can take, you can take the route that like, you know, you’re good at it. And you and you know, many people go to college because they’re good at something I went to, I went to do this course because I really enjoyed philosophy. And I really enjoyed politics. And I really enjoyed economics, I was like, while you do something that I’m not going to really enjoy, because if you enjoy something, you never work a day in your life. So I was like, if I enjoy doing this, it’s gonna be hard to stay up all night trying to understand it. But if I enjoy it at the end of the day, and it’s something I enjoy, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else in college.

Harry O’Brien  46:34 

You, you’re dyslexic, you’ve worked a bit. But you’ve interacted with this disability service as a student with a disability. How do you believe the Student Union could work with the disability service? I don’t think.

Luke  46:49 

So at didn t Corp. And I’ve worked with disability service since day one, like just on my own personal guarantees. I think I’m sorry, could you repeat the question one time? So

Harry O’Brien  47:01 

how would you think the Students Union could work with disability service and the ability co op?

Luke  47:06 

Okay, well, small thing was like, there is still kind of like a social stigma around, you know, disabilities, and I was like, these kind of have to be tackled, like, there have been instances where people are like, Oh, he’s dyslexic, you know, and it’s kind of like it, you have to laugh it off. It’s a bit of a joke. And you know, yeah, like, it happens with some of my best friends like, oh, crying, spell love, stuff like that. And you know, his joke was, there is somewhere deep down where doctors hate you that does like, and if it’s happening for me, I’m sure it’s happening for other people in the college that there is kind of still a stigma around. Or, you know, you don’t do your exams, and the RDS Oh, Why’d you do that? Like, why don’t you do your exams in the audience, stuff like that. And it’s going to make people see it as like, odd. It’s nothing too much. But there is still kind of I feel in my position, and I’m sure there’s others that still feel that kind of like an embarrassment that, ya know, I don’t do my exams in the RDS. And yeah, I do need a little bit of extra time in my exams. And I think, to tackle these kind of stigmas around, there is no problem. If you need an extra 10 minutes, there is no problem. If you need a computer, there is no problem if you need extra time, like I think tackle these kind of stigmas or make it. A lot of people sometimes feel like, you know, you’re standing outside the resource room, the disability service, and you got to feel it when people are looking at me, I’m going in here and we need to talk about social stigma, there is no problem to reach out for support, there is no problem if you have, you know, something that you need help with, you know, everyone needs help with some part of their life. And, you know, we need to cut out that. Oh, by asking for help and weak and vulnerable.

Harry O’Brien  48:39 

Yeah, I think you’re spot on sign of strength looking for help. How specifically could the union work the Student Union to compare that stigma and eliminate it?

Luke  48:50 

You’re just hosting events to eliminate stigma to show that like, I’m just gonna give him a, you know, my example is the one I know the best, but I’d love to learn other people. I’d be proud to learn other people’s what what the struggles they go through, like, you know, with their disabilities, and, you know, show people that, ya know, dyslexic people can read they can they just don’t see your alphabet soup that’s so often depicted. Things like that, you know, encourage that, again, when they see the exact same as you there is no difference in how they see. Or, you know, for other disabilities show that like, there’s no reason they can’t do certain pain, by encouraging out on social media, you know, maybe hosting events that like encourage people with disabilities to like, come forward and get engaged in college. If that’s, you know, there’s I’m sure there are people out there that need this need academic support and aren’t doing it just purely on the social stigma, and that’s something that really needs to change because the supports are there and the sports are great when you get involved with them.

Harry O’Brien  49:50 

One of your most prominent I’d said your most prominent from judging from your manifesto and your campaign pledge is that you wish to To set up clear and direct lines of communication to all groups and societies within the college, expand bit more on what that actually means and how you are going to do that.

Luke  50:13 

So yeah, I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot. And, you know, in September, we don’t know, we’re all on college campus, it may not happen with public health guidelines, it might not. But if we were into something like Discord server, where everyone anyone can jump in at any time and have set times throughout the day and during the evening, because I think sometimes we’re having everything during the day, you know, people have lectures, people have things that they have to attend. So sometimes evening time, you know, after six most societies run events, after six state run them, like six to seven, seven to eight, eight to nine, I think that needs to be a time that needs to be more looked into. Because by having them on during the day, like give you a double pick, you know, if you’re in a double lecture from one to two, from 12, till two, you’ve missed the lunch break, they might be someone might be hosting event items on like discord or stuff, or then drop in coffee, if we were lucky to be on campus in September, but that again, I’m in no control, say would be on campus in September.

Harry O’Brien  51:10 

He talked about setting up a Discord server and hopefully are dropping coffee. What do you mean by that you’re setting up a server for

Unknown Speaker  51:19 

a place where clear lines of communication where I’ll be online, and people will be able to ask me questions or bring forward ideas at certain times and publicize that these times are available all the time. And that anyone can reach me.

Harry O’Brien  51:32 

So you yourself would be available for a couple of hours in the evening. Yeah.

Luke   51:37 

and have it scheduled and you know, have it have it scheduled that it will be a weekly thing and that I’m available, like at these hours each week. Anyone can come by, I would still have hours on during the day, but I think just maybe adding nighttime hours would be more beneficial to some students.

Harry O’Brien  51:52 

So you’d be looking at doubling your you’re dropping office hours,

Luke  51:58 

doubling and potentially doubling or you’re moving them around to make them more accessible to everyone.

Harry O’Brien  52:04 

Okay, okay. And you mentioned earlier, you love economics. So I don’t need to tell you that economists die in the long term rent caps. They reduce the supply of housing in an economy. On your Manifesto, you advocate for caps on private student accommodation. As a student of economics, can you explain to me how this isn’t going to make the problem worse in the future?

Luke   52:31 

So yeah, if you look at the future, there’s a lot of planning, immigration has gone to Dublin City Council for private, extra private student housing, that will increase the supply. So that’s for the supply increases in demand, there’s no more you like, there is no electricity isn’t going to be expanding as rapidly over the next time over the next number of years. Like, if there’s going to be a more of a supply, how can the price increase? So your supply goes up? price falls? Yeah.

Harry O’Brien  52:59 

Yeah. And you’re on your Manifesto, you advocate for red caps, which would reduce supply swaps? Is Is that going to make the problem worse in the long term?

Unknown Speaker  53:12 

So in the long term, in the long term, your money in the long term, if we’re talking long term, Yo, I’m only looking I’m introducing rent caps for this foreseeable future to address this problem until there’s because it realistically, is the Student Union going to be able to fix this problem? Would it support the Irish government? First of all, that housing isn’t just an issue for students across the board? In the long term? Yes, by introducing caps, it could produce that in the long term, but we have to tackle this now. And in the long term, this is a government objective to reduce housing. So it’s not just the power of the Student Union, this is this is the power of if we introduce a cabinet, we can hold the rising of houses until the government address this problem that they have said they tried to address it for many years.

Harry O’Brien  54:00 

Okay, and you have a senior manifesto if you can only achieve one thing on your manifesto what would it be

Unknown Speaker  54:13 

wanting a manifesto

Harry O’Brien  54:15 

Take your time

Unknown Speaker  54:19 

See, I would hate to see just one thing and like you know prioritize one group over another group join me I don’t want to do that.

Unknown Speaker  54:34 

I don’t know can I prioritize there’s because there’s so many important things in the manifesto.

Harry O’Brien  54:40 

You have it DEF CON there’s a gun to your head, you can only pick one.

Unknown Speaker  54:44 

It would definitely be one from my support policy. Definitely.

Harry O’Brien  54:49 

Anyone particular

Unknown Speaker  54:53 

honest Darrell issues that are also close to my heart. I want to see I take the bullet I at this stage like They’re all they’re all things I’m so vocal about, I wouldn’t be able to say, like, I would hate just to say, Oh, this the only one decide to prioritize one over the other.

Harry O’Brien  55:13 

Okay, okay, okay. And Leah and Ben to find candidates for more students who didn’t experience than you, what sets you apart from them and makes you the best candidate to represent students as President.

Unknown Speaker  55:26 

I think what sets me apart is a fresh face. There’s fresh ideas with my policy. If you look through my Manifesto, I’ve looked through the two other manifestos There seems to be a lot of ideas that I have that doesn’t seem to be fully hooked in there ideas, things that are kind of, you know, I don’t see anything about students spaces in the Hamilton for instance, location based timetabling the student Levy, you know, we’ve been paying 122 euro, for a gym that’s been closed for most of the time. Like, I think these are issues that haven’t been addressed in their two manifestos. I think this new, fresh, new idea, a new you fresh face on the Student Union might be the right thing.

Harry O’Brien  56:06 

The college is currently in a funding crisis, facing huge deficit from the lack of income from accommodation from on campus services from international students, how are you going to convince the province to eliminate or reduce the student contribution.

Unknown Speaker  56:24 

So eliminate or reduce, I’m looking at a refund for the gym being closed for the past. You know, in the last 12 months, the gym has been closed for over six months, we’ve paid 122 Euro in those months towards this gym. If we were a member of a private gym, we’d be getting our money back or we’d have our membership paws, like many gyms in Dublin and the country have done while they’ve been closed. I’d like to address that why this hasn’t been arranged. Okay, I like I don’t, I don’t know what you get much benefit out of going to the gym, but you know, 122 euros, quite large money. It’s over a 10 year old month that the gym has been closed for. And this is now to academic, you know, to subscriptions towards the gym that we’ve paid where it’s been closed for some of that time. And I think it’s something that hasn’t been looked at. And you know, when it came to my attention, I was like, you know, if I was in, you know, if I was in a private gym, I’d be going nuts over you’re not getting any money back from the closure facility that I’ve been paying towards. So I think this just needs to be addressed.

Harry O’Brien  57:31 

Okay. All right, we’ll leave it there. So there we have it, guys. That’s the episode for VHF listening, those three candidates, be sure to register before the eighth. It literally takes two seconds to fill out you put in your student number, your name, it’s on every single candidate social media. So yeah, do that. And listen to what I said at the start. We really do have so much going on the ability cooperate growing so fast. And all these projects like this podcast, I just mentioned it at a meeting. And everyone else so Yeah, come on, go ahead. And then I applied for funding, and I got it. And we got a couple $1000 funding. We’re in the studio next year. Short Film again. We both have someone else propose that idea. And we got a few grand for that. So we’re doing that this summer. And so if you’re interested in getting involved in any creative way, and come in, get involved, and you can propose ideas will probably support you. So yeah, and literally we need people with all skills, maths numbers, you know, writing content, managing social media, building websites, literally anything you can think of, we need help. So do join if you’re interested. You will find links to all our socials in the show notes or you can just look up the ability to up and yeah, hope you enjoyed listening to more episodes on Education Officer and welfare officers to give them a listen to the very good and yeah, peace

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