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SU Election Season kickstarts with Virtual Hustings

Maebh McCarthy, Deputy News Editor

Last week saw candidates take part in a virtual Hustings, in the run up to the 2021 Student Union elections. This was the first time that the Hustings occurred in a virtual sphere and over the course of two nights, all prospective candidates took part and expanded on their vision, hopes and ideas why they should be elected. 

On March 23rd 2021, the Hustings for the Executive Representatives was held. These positions include the college representatives, the Equality, Environmental and Sustainability and Irish Language and Culture Representative. There are four college representative positions, CACSSS (College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences), Business and Law, Medicine and Health, along with a SEFS (Science, Engineering and Food Science) Representative. 

The events, held on Zoom, were streamed on the UCCSU’s Facebook Page for the UCC student body to watch. The interaction was undoubtedly larger than previous years, as people had ease of access to the Hustings via social media. As we go to print, the Executive Representative Hustings was watched by over three thousand people. The Sabbatical Representative Hustings was watched by over six thousand people. 

The format of the Hustings was the same for both nights. Each of the respective current representatives of UCCSU chaired the Hustings for their individual positions. Candidates spoke for three minutes, introducing themselves, explaining their manifesto and presenting their ideas for the upcoming academic year. The only exception to this was the candidates for UCCSU President who were permitted to speak for five minutes. Following the speeches, candidates were asked one specific question, based on their manifesto. This was followed by a general question for all candidates. Following on from this, the current representative of the SU read out pre-submitted questions from the Student Body. These questions were collected by way of a Google Form, prior to the Hustings. The questions were pre-approved by the returning officer of the UCCSU Elections, Vincent O’Brien. 

A common theme throughout both nights of Hustings, was the approach candidates would take to the next academic year, should they be elected. There was much debate over the eventual return to campus, a return to face-to-face teaching as well as reintroducing in-person events. The ongoing and future impact of Covid-19 on students was a predominant theme for nearly all candidates. Another topic which ignited debate over the course of both nights of Hustings was the approach to current first-years, with many candidates aiming to introduce supports for these students, due to their lack of campus time during this academic year.

Following the Hustings, UCCSU President, Naoise Crowley, emailed all UCC students. In this email he explained the voting process, which is different to previous years owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The electronic voting portal being used is provided by ‘Membership Solutions Ltd.’ Votes can be cast on the portal, following a sign-in using a student email and password. According to the UCCSU ‘Election Hub 2021’, “all votes are anonymous and data is securely stored in accordance with GDPR and the UCC Data Protection Policy.” It is also explained on the ‘Election Hub’ that there will be an option to “Re-open nominations”, which “shall be treated as a candidate and shall be the last name on the ballot paper.” Voting is set to take place on March 29th, 30th and 31st 2021. The voting link will be circulated to all UCC students via their UCC email address. The results are expected on April 1st 2021. 

University Express live tweeted from the Hustings. These tweets can be found on the @UCCExpress Twitter Page. The videos of the Hustings can be found on UCCSU’s Facebook Page.