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#UCCVotes – Hustings Reports

The Students’ Union elections will take place this year on March 6th & 7th, with students having 33 candidates to choose from. They are as follows:

  • President:
    • Breathnach, Séamus
    • Cahill, Tommy
    • Collopy, Eoin
    • Conway, Thomas
    • Hayes, Alan
  • Deputy President & Campaigns:
    • Coyle, Kelly
    • Meighan, Liam
  • Education Officer:
    • Frahill, Aaron
    • O’Brien, Alice
  • Welfare Officer:
    • Connery, Niamh
    • Hanley, Martina
    • McCarthy, John
    • McCarthy, Thomas
  • Commercial & Communications Officer:
    • Finnerty, Matt
    • Murphy, Faye
    • Poland, Amy
  • Entertainments Officer:
    • Carey, Ronan
    • Cronin, David
  • Equality Officer:
    • Browne O’Neill, Katie
    • Richardson, Maeve
  • Oifigeach Gaeilge (Irish Officer)
    • Burton, Edel
    • Duggan, Megan
    • Ó Dullaing, Antóin
  • College Representative for College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences (CACSSS, or Arts Rep)
    • Burke, Andrew
    • Conway, Cahir
    • Daly Mulligan, Alanna
    • O’Driscoll, Eoin
  • College Representative for College of Business & Law (B&L Rep)
    • Chadwick, Jen
  • College Representative for College of Science, Engineering & Food Sciences (SEFS Rep)
    • Hickey, Jack
    • Mimoso, Iuri
    • Rose, Mahrukh
  • College Representative for College of Medicine & Health (M&H Rep)
    • Brennan, Noel
    • Hennigan, Caoimhe

Re-Open Nominations (RON) is also a candidate in all elections. There will also be a referendum on affiliation to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) on the two days.

Earlier this week the Students’ Union held two hustings, one for candidates for part-time positions, and one for candidates for full-time positions. We sent our Staff Writer, Samantha Calthrop, to the events to live-tweet for us and to write-up a report on both hustings.

 

Part-time/Non-Sabbatical Candidates
Time & location: 6pm, 26th February, Western Gateway Building

Candidates at the part-time hustings had three minutes to give a small speech about themselves and their plans, followed by a question from the relevant outgoing Officer about their manifesto. Each candidate then answered the same question from the incumbent before the floor opened to questions from the audience, which all candidates would answer.

After approximately half an hour (and a change to a bigger venue) the part-time Students’ Union hustings began with Jen Chadwick, the sole candidate for the position of College Rep for Business & Law. Chadwick spoke about the difficulties in getting work placements, which she later put down to a lack of resources and investment for students; “students suffer if there aren’t people to support them.” She also expressed plans to increase usage of Panopto (i.e. lecture recording) to all students.

The candidates for CACSSS (College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences) Rep were up next; Andrew Burke’s speech focused on his goals for better communication and advocacy on the part of the rep, and Cahir Conway criticised the current election system for class reps, and talked about planning more ents-related events. Alanna Daly Mulligan, a seasoned activist and advocate for the arts, spoke about plans to improve the reputation and professional appeal of arts, and Eoin O’Driscoll outlined his four-pillar plan to improve community and unity between arts students.

Noel Brennan and Caoimhe Hennigan, candidates for College Rep for Medicine & Health were next on stage; Brennan spoke about plans to extend the opening hours of the CUH and Brookfield libraries, adjusting exam times, and bringing more RAG week events to Brookfield. Hennigan talked about better communication with and inclusion of medicine students, as well as bridging the gap between Brookfield and Main Campus. Both expressed a wish to improve the work placement situation, particularly for pharmacy students, who have a long unpaid placement as part of their course. Both plan to improve engagement between the SU and the Brookfield/CUH campuses, with Brennan wanting to work on social media engagement, and Hennigan on noticeboards and on-campus events. In response to questions on how to improve placements, Brennan said he would meet with affected students and work it out with them, whereas Hennigan would work with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and class reps.

SEFS Rep candidate Jack Hickey plans to introduce a 5-credit language module to the sciences, and spoke about better inclusion of satellite campuses, plus plans around welfare issues like quiet spaces and more gender neutral toilets. Iuri Mimosa spoke about improving systems around group work and continuous assessment, and improving communication & engagement between students and faculty. Mahrukh Rose would like to work on the class rep election process and rep training, talking about her experiences as class rep, as well as improving disability access in labs. All candidates are First Years, and talk about what they’ve learned over the year; they also all express support for making notes and lectures more widely available via Blackboard and Panopto.

Having finished with the College Rep candidates we moved on to Oifigeach Gaeilge; Edel Burton, a pharmacy student and “not your typical gaeilgóir”, wants to see public opinion on the Irish language improved, and have small amounts of Gaeilge around for everyone – on noticeboards and around campus. Antóin Ó Dullaing, Irish graduate with a great deal of experience in running Gaeilge-centered events, would like to create an Irish-speaking common room and focus on UCC’s existing Irish-language initiatives. On involving more non-Irish speakers, Burton talked about her efforts in “building bridges,” and having more learning between speakers and non-speakers of Irish, whereas Ó Dullaing spoke on improving and advertising the existing Irish classes and resources of UCC. A third candidate for the position, Megan Duggan, was absent on the night.

The last position on night one of hustings was Equality Officer, with Katie Browne O’Neill and Maeve Richardson — both committee members of the LGBT society — duking it out. Katie Browne O’Neill spoke about breaking barriers with regard to students of marginalised identities and abilities, and wanted to see sabbatical officers better trained around mental health. Maeve Richardson spoke about issues around accommodation and accessibility. The two had similar opinions and, having worked alongside each other, were very agreeable towards each other. One notable difference was, when asked by the outgoing Equality Officer what additional position they would add to the Equality Working Group (EWG), Richardson said she would not add a position, but would instead split the current position of Disability Rights Officer between an Invisible Disability and Visible Disability Officer, whereas Browne O’Neill would add an Officer for different cultures, religions and nationalities between students — both very strong answers.

During the hustings, of course, was a lively Twitter presence, with the #UCCvotes hashtag full of praise, feedback and criticism; there were calls for more attention to be paid to postgraduates and mature students, continuing dialogue on placement issues and mental health services, and plenty of sass and joking abound. Next we were on to night two…

 

Full-time/Sabbatical Candidates
Time & location: 6pm, 27th February, Boole 4

The hustings began lively, with the room filled with campaign teams and what appeared to be at least a small army of live tweeters. The #UCCVotes hashtag was projected on screen amid tweets of ‘Hi mom’ and ‘TWEET WALL’, plus bits of criticism before the hustings could begin.

Ents Rep candidates Ronan Carey and David Cronin were first up. Both of them praised the success of Docklands, both of them wanted to improve RAG week — fairly standard fare. Ronan Carey wanted to extend collections for RAG week out to raise more funds, plus adding more varied improvements to the week, and talked about plans to bring Oktoberfest to UCC. David Cronin highlighted a few welfare issues too, plans for a healthy-eating themed ‘RAGcovery week’, and wants to see clubs selling flip-flops for suffering heel-wearers. Both of them agreed on the need for more inclusivity, with daytime events, quiet and sensory spaces within ents-events, though neither discussed solid plans for that.

Matt Finnerty, Faye Murphy, and Amy Poland were the three candidates for Comms Officer. Matt Finnerty spoke a lot about forming more connections with businesses, wanting to connect with small start-ups in Cork and have stalls in UCC, whereas Faye Murphy had ambitious plans of re-writing and re-working the role of the Comms Officer altogether, with a ‘Comms Crew’ being used to gain sponsorship and add more transparency to the work of the SU. Amy Poland, a film student with a history in advertising and graphic design, wanted to see better advertisement of the Union, and better use of social media, with a team of students to help with advertising the Union. Faye Murphy and Amy Poland also both wanted to improve visibility around the SU, with Amy Poland advocating for live-streamed student council meetings and improvements to the SU website, and Faye Murphy planning an “SU App” that students can use to communicate more directly with officers.

Welfare candidates were up next. All of them shared a few goals, and there were issues that were brought up by practically every candidate– better mental health support, consent classes, tenancy rights information campaigns, and improved STI checks and drug testing kits. Niamh Connery wanted to see a ‘legal advice clinic’ for UCC students with issues, plus plans for emergency accommodation for students amid the homelessness crisis. Martina Hanley, with much experience with societies, wants to see a ‘Welfare officer’ on all societies, and an online booking system for meetings with the SU. John McCarthy, a returning candidate from last year’s Welfare race, wants to see great improvements around mental health, and wants the union to push for better education at the secondary level. Thomas McCarthy talked about mental health, but mentioned physical health too, wanting a ‘gym buddy’ system and a fair for Mardyke classes – the first mention of physical fitness so far.

At this point in the night, a man in what could only be described as a black pillowcase with eye holes cut in it ran screaming into the room, in one door, down the aisle, and back up again. The political stance of this mystery party is currently unclear…

Aaron Frahill and Alice O’Brien, candidates for Education Officer, were up next. Frahill, former CACSSS Rep and current Student Council Chair, started by asking for a show of hands of who in the audience had heard of the UCC grinds service; “One person! That’s exactly what I mean!” He stated plans for disability-friendly fonts and notes across the board, plus wanting better clarity for students. Alice O’Brien talked about study spaces and library hours, bookable 24-hour spaces, and improved services in satellite campuses. Both agreed that the still relatively new semesterisation system isn’t working, and creates an inefficient and stressful workload.

Deputy President & Campaigns Officer was up next; current Welfare Officer Kelly Coyle had countless welfare issues she’d like to continue campaigning on in the next year, and candidate Liam Meighan talked about plans to improve counselling, accommodation and to introduce consent classes to UCC. Meighan, with admirable honesty, admitted he didn’t know much, and needed to do more research in response to questions on the Student Community Support (of which the Deputy President is responsible). [We should note that he has since posted his answer on his campaign page]. When asked about non-welfare issues, Kelly Coyle talked about plans to improve the exam repeat system.

With the twitter feed politely taken out of view, the five candidates for President took to the stage. All of them pledged to work towards improving counselling and mental health services, most of them made mention of consent classes, and, as ever, accommodation got a fair few mentions. Seámus Breathnach emphasized a directive-assistance, “non-tyrant” approach to letting officers take absolute authority in their area, whereas Collopy wanted to see more political involvement by the SU in national affairs. Thomas Conway talked about plans to improve both education issues and ents events, improving the Old Bar as well as the counselling services. Tommy Cahill talked on welfare issues around UCC, and Alan Hayes spoke on his extensive experience as an advocate with the suicide prevention society Teachtán, and on policies he’d like to bring to the role. All of them faced quite a deadly question from current president Martin Scally, where they role-played speaking to disgruntled residents about RAG Week, freezing up a few times. All of them defended the merits of RAG Week, following which all of them agreed that they want to bring bins back to the library, and would pay the Ents Officer a full time wage (which is at the discretion of the president each year).

This year sees an unprecedented number of candidates for election, too, with 33 overall, and an impressively high number going for President. With voting taking place on the 6-7th of March, and satisfaction apparently quite low with the SU according the Express’ survey, it’s more vital than ever to keep up with the candidates and cast your vote.