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Students’ Union Election: Candidate Watch – Vice-President For Welfare

UCC’s annual Student Union Elections take place next week, with voting taking place on March 4th, 5th and 6th. This year, as part of the election registration process, candidates were asked to answer five questions for The University Express about their campaign, their manifesto and their plans were they to be elected. Each day, we will be running through the different positions and shining a light on each of the candidates. In this issue, we focus on the three candidates running for Welfare Officer (The most hotly contested position!): Noel Brennan, Naoise Crowly and Róisín Hussey.

Noel Brennan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What made you choose to run for this position?

I decided to run for welfare officer as I’m passionate about supporting students. Over the last few years of college I’ve seen the challenges that students face and the pressure they are under. That pressure can come from a variety of sources whether it be moving away from home, exams, assessments and so much more. Having seen students, particularly in their final years become apathetic and down, I knew this was something I had to work to change! I’ve have a real interest in all aspects of student well-being and having worked on welfare campaigns and events last year I know that I’m capable and ready for this position!

If you had to choose one point from your manifesto as your main goal, what would it be?
That’s a hard question as its very difficult to pick just one point from a 13 page manifesto! The two main issues that we need to tackle are counselling service  accessibility (waiting lists) and the housing crisis. Its commonly cited that it takes up to three weeks to get access to counselling services at UCC. So if I could only make one change it would be to reduce the waiting lists at UCC. It is unfair to deny students access to vital services and unacceptable to make them wait. There is massive potential to work on this issue next year especially with the new head of counselling coming in and the opening of the new student hub!

What do you think sets you apart from the other candidates for your position?
Its my experience and track record for getting stuff done that sets me apart from other candidates. The experience I have gained from clinical placements, societies and the union puts me in the perfect position to advocate for welfare-related issues and support students this year.
Having done clinical placements throughout my time in UCC, I’ve met a wide variety of patients with different conditions including mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and so much more. I have been with patients in some of the worse moments of their lives so I know I can be that person for students next year!

Having done a year on the union is one of the key things that sets me apart. I know how the union works and I know how the College works! This year I have gained invaluable experience. I have sat on mental health working groups, worked on academic policy, protested on issues like the housing crisis and so much more! It is this experience that I can bring next year!

What experience do you have that you feel will help you, if you get the position?
Having worked on several societies including St. Vincent De Paul and the Medical society, I have been actively working on social justice and welfare issues for several years now. I have been involved in mental health and sexual health campaigns with societies, and won society awards with the Medical society for organizing mental health events. On top of this I have organized volunteer activities for schools all around Cork and ran a variety of community engagement projects and entertainment based events. This experience makes me an ideal candidate for the union next year!

So look in one line what sets me apart is that I have been actively involved in welfare related issues for the last four years. I have experience and a track record for getting stuff done that sets me apart from other candidates!

What do you feel was the SU’s greatest success this year?
Having been on the union this year I honestly feel that there has been so much fantastic work done! The union have worked on a wide range of issues but if I had to focus on one thing it would be the work done on mental health and housing. This year the union have really tried to breakdown the barriers stigmatizing mental health, they have worked to link Niteline to counselling services and got extra funding for said services. They have organized several campaigns on the housing crisis and worked to inform the student body of their rights! I can honestly say that it would be a real privilege to expand on the fantastic work done by the union this year!

Naoise Crowley

What made you choose to run for this position?
Welfare issues including mental health, poverty along with equality and inclusion have always been very important to me. Having gone through difficult times on a personal level and come out the other side of it, I felt this was a place where I could make a difference to the lives of others who were struggling.

If you had to choose one point from your manifesto as your main goal, what would it be?
My main goal would probably be the creation of the ‘UCC Food Bank’. Financial hardship and poverty is not always associated with students but it is much more prevalent than a lot of people think. I would like to bring a lot more attention to it and tackle this issue comprehensively in a very tangible and direct manner.

What do you think sets you apart from the other candidates for your position?
This year, the most contested position is that of Welfare Officer, which is great to see and highlights the passion students have for welfare in the college. Both of the others running have great qualities and I think they are great candidates for the role. I would say that my ideas are unique, novel and progressive and have the ability to bring greater democracy and equality to welfare in UCC.

What experience do you have that you feel will help you, if you get the position?
Having been involved in a number of community organisations over the years, and being a current volunteer and secretary of my local Saint Vincent de Paul conference, I have a lot of experience in welfare related matters. I feel this experience would stand to me in helping fellow students on a personal level through casework.

What do you feel was the SU’s greatest success this year?
That is a very close call. Without a doubt, the sexual violence awareness campaign held in late January was very important in drawing attention to a pertinent issue on college campuses as well as highlighting the Bystander Intervention program. As well as that, the linking of Niteline and UCC counselling services was a really novel idea and its importance cannot be overstated. It’s tough to separate the two. And I don’t think I can.

Róisín Hussey

What made you choose to run for this position?
Life experience has given me a passion for student welfare and an in-depth awareness of the care that other students need and deserve. Life experiences have also taught me an incredibly deep compassion, empathy, kindness and understanding of people and their struggles.Having first-hand experience with bereavement, changing college course, difficulties with Susi grants and serious financial issues during college, severe anxiety and self harm that led me to access UCC counselling services as well as Pieta House, family hardships, long term relationship ending, a sexual assault, problem drinking, landlord issues… I have been through it all. But more importantly, I got through it all. And I truly believe that life experience teaches you lessons that simply cannot be learned in a classroom.And my first-hand experience of those things and how I coped and managed to come out the other side is why I believe I am ideal for the role of Welfare officer and decided to run for the position.

If you had to choose one point from your manifesto as your main goal, what would it be?
If I had to choose a main goal from my manifesto, it would be the changes to the counselling services. The current waiting times are about 4 weeks for the counselling services in UCC. That is for the students who are actually aware of how to attend the services, make an appointment and where it is located.I want to tackle this issue with UCC, to make these services more accessible and known and also to have them further invested in. As Welfare officer I need to highlight to UCC that students NEED this investment and that it has to be prioritized for the well-being of students.

What do you think sets you apart from the other candidates for your position?
I believe that my goals from my manifesto are achievable and feasible. I am listening to the societies and to all the students who have expressed their concerns to me. I am very aware that the work I hope to do is not a one-person job and that endless amounts of work have been done by previous Welfare officers and different societies to help them achieve these collective goals. We have to be realistic too on what we can achieve and what we can contribute to those who will take over these positions in the future.I understand the pressures and struggles most students go through and you’ve dealt with people who have gone through similar experiences and feel that I can provide students with the advice, help, and access to the support networks that they need to get to the other side.My ability to listen well and truly empathise with the plight of students, offering my own experience and the methods I used to cope along with the other facilities and services available to students across campus, with the HSE and charitable services.

My unwavering willingness to ensure that each and every single student has the best college experience possible through supporting them, engaging with them and keeping an open mind. This can be offered through on-campus-events, arrange meetings or just being approached and asked for a chat.

What experience do you have that you feel will help you, if you get the position?
I have solely organised charity events such as Lollipop Day, I have attended conferences such as WomenLead where I met some incredibly passionate people with fantastic views, opinions and gave me inspiring insights and awareness on a range of student issues. I was involved with SCS to ensure student safety during RAG week, I am the secretary of the German society, I have been involved with numerous different society events and charity events.I have previous experience working with the Welfare crew to promote the physical and mental well-being of students particularly during exams, attending meetings where we collectively produced concepts for Welfare promotion and followed through to help organise these ideas into action plans.My interpersonal skills were highly developed, including communicating effectively with people of different backgrounds, ages and genders, as well as with those who have different thought processes than me. I have developed teamwork skills as I worked collaboratively with a group of people in order to achieve a goal, developed decision making skills including the importance of becoming a more proactive decision maker and move forward with implementation of plans and have developed my planning skills which helped me maintain the ability to stay focused on the goal we had set and complete on schedule with less stress.

What do you feel was the SU’s greatest success this year?
I’m going to look at it from a Welfare perspective and say that for me, the success on how well the SCS was run this year was fantastic. The safety of students was vastly improved at events such as Balls and Rag week.