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Positive steps forward overshadowed by SU flippancy

My first encounter with the UCC Students’ Union occurred at Orientation. As a Fresher it would not be a case of good first impressions: only half of them actually managed to make an appearance as the others we were told had ‘fecked off to Electric Picnic’. President Mark Stanton then proceeded to show us a slideshow full of memes and jokes, including an image of his face photoshopped onto Rosie the Riveter. Altogether they seemed more concerned with making us laugh than informing us about their roles.

Opinions were divided on whether the laid-back attitude was endearing or unprofessional; and admittedly, at that point, I was in the ‘unprofessional’ camp.

This represents a contrast to last year’s SU whom she felt “made no attempt to encourage women to run for leadership positions.”

This division in opinion carried over to social media, where images of graffiti were uploaded to the SU’s Freshers’ Facebook page. One showed the words ‘UCC Ents’ spray-painted between flag-posts, with the tagline “Bold enough Marky” on the image and a caption “CIT President wasn’t too happy.” The picture has over 400 likes proving that such social media savvy does seem to endear the SU to students. Unfortunately it also endorses the SU as a group of lads who do not take their roles seriously.

The very fact that the UCCSU is composed of six males is discouraging. It’s easy to feel like there’s something amiss when only males are elected in a university which has more females than males. Even if the system in UCC does not encourage women to run, or other students to vote for them, we cannot simply blame those who benefit as a result.

Feminist Society Auditor, Sonja Warner, stated that the lack of women in the SU “does not reflect badly upon the current SU, who have expressed a major interest in collaborating with us to improve the female participation in campus politics.” This represents a contrast to last year’s SU whom she felt “made no attempt to encourage women to run for leadership positions.”

As a young female student just starting out in UCC, it’s still difficult to see six men represent such a diverse student body. However knowing that the SU are hyper-aware of this and are working to combat it, does soften the blow.

In spite of their work on this front, sexism in the university is a still hot topic with the Philosoph hosting a panel last week to address the issue. The event covered single-gender dominated courses, clubs and societies, and the SU itself.  Stanton was one of the speakers invited on the panel, proving once more that the SU are willing and able to open a frank discourse on the issue.

Although my initial impression of the SU was not a good one, my research into their work revealed this belief was unfounded. However, if they wish to convince more students of their worth, the SU must refrain from using phrases such as “You’re destined to be alone forever just like Páidi!” on Facebook. No matter how humorous comments like that are intended to be, it still conveys a lack of seriousness.

Instead the SU must begin to promote themselves as the capable hard-working men that they are, a process which begins on social media. Actions may speak louder than words, but in this case their carefree doing-it-for-the-laugh voices are drowning out the actual good work that they are doing and it’s about time it changed.

Image by: Emmet Curtin