Today (right now, as I write this) UCC student council meets to, among other things, decide where UCC’s votes at USI Congress will go. As with the SU elections, RON (Re-Open Nominations) is a candidate in all elections. Síona Cahill, current USI VP for Equality & Citizenship, is unopposed for President and, due to her involvement in the past two USI Officer Boards, is unlikely to be RON’d. Originally being elected to Maynooth Students’ Union, Síona received nominations (to be eligible to run) from 22 member colleges, including UCC SU Exec.
Oisín Hassan, outgoing USI VP for Academic Affairs, is re-running for his position, and is similarly unopposed. The first contested position on the slate (looking from the top-down) is for VP for Welfare; Jessica Elder (Welfare Officer, Queen’s University Belfast SU/QUBSU), Damien McClean (Welfare Officer, Trinity College Dublin SU/TCDSU), Niamh Murtagh (VP for Welfare, USI) and Rachel Sherlock (UCC) are all running for the position. Sherlock, a UCC student, had hoped to run for UCC Students’ Union this year, but due to a technical error could not submit the necessary documents on time, missing the window by about two minutes. Determined, Sherlock shifted focus to USI, and decided to run for the position of VP for Welfare. We spoke to Rachel about why she ran:
Throughout my college life I’ve had to tackle more obstacles than I felt I was equipped to cope with at times and the support needed has not always been available to me. I’ve had a fantastic 4 years at UCC and I really have loved college but it’s also not possible for me to look back on my time here without remembering the negatives and the times where I have been failed by outdated systems. I’ve helped friends and strangers through similar situations, and situations beyond what I’ve had to deal with myself, and there’s no place I’d rather be than by their side, but I can do more. There are countless students who may not have someone to get them through the day but ultimately, they shouldn’t have to rely on that person either. There is more that we can do for our students and there is more that should be done. There are too many gaps in the system and grey areas that lead to the decline of a students mental and or physical health and I can’t stand by and watch as other students have the same negative experiences I had because I didn’t speak up to create change. I’m running for change.
There is only one candidate for VP for Campaigns, and they should be no stranger to UCC students; following her time on WIT SU, Michelle Byrne was elected as USI VP for the Southern Area for this year. Part of that role is to liaise with, and frequently visit, college campuses around the southern area of Ireland (i.e. most of Munster). Speaking earlier to the Express, Michelle outlined some of her key goals & targets, should she be elected as VP for Campaigns:
There are many areas I want to focus on, but ultimately my work will be driven by students, Congress and the policy officers I would be working alongside. I want key campaigns around the funding of Higher Level Education and accommodation. We need the government to act and we have proven time and time that we can be a driving force as a student movement.
The snow in Ireland last couple of weeks and the news of warming in the Arctic has proven that we need to take action now on when it comes to environmental sustainability. Initiatives such as the reusable cups from UCCSU is just the start! I am currently working towards a national environmental strategy with the Student Switch Off coordinator and want to roll this out next year.
A full time Irish officer for the first time this year will open a new chapter for USI when it comes to campaigns as Gaelige and I want to be at the helm of it. The USI Postgraduate symposium was the start of a longer campaign around postgraduate affairs – I want to roll out a postgraduate survey to kick off this campaign. I want to expand our drug harm reduction campaign to include drug testing kits and look at consent to search information.
Teachers and students on placement overall need supports. I was involved as a sabbatical when USI ran a very successful Nurses campaign – raising their wages from €6.49 to €9.49 while interning. UCC Pharmacy students are facing similar injustices, with their placement payments scrapped and fees risen. We must launch a campaign to reverse this for our students. We have done it before, we will do it again!
The #MeToo campaign and the UCC Fem Soc campaign for consent classes has shown we need to do more work in the area of sexual harassment including providing a toolkit for SUs on how to approach this. We need marriage equality in the North and we have many more strides around LGBT+ issues across the island. We need to continue to campaign with UCC students to see abortion access across the island and look forward to what we will be working on post referendum.
Next is VP for Equality & Citizenship, and the UCC flare is continued, as UCC student and outgoing UCC Societies Executive President Anna Heverin will go against current USI VP for the Dublin Region, Aisling Cusack, for the job. Heverin has been active in student life in UCC for years, being a former Auditor/Chairperson of the UCC Journalism & Media and Choral Societies.
For the first time this year, as alluded to by Michelle Byrne above, the position of LU don Ghaeilge (VP for Irish) will be a full-time paid position. Aoife Deasy, Saint Angela’s College Sligo SU, is the sole candidate.
The final position UCC students will be voting for tonight is the VP for the Southern Area. Adam Clarke (Carlow College SU), Phillip Desmond (Limerick Institute of Technology SU) and Lorna Fitzpatrick (IT Carlow SU) are battling it out for the position formerly held by current UCC Student Budgetary Adviser Cian Power.
For the first time in some time there was no UCC presence on USI Officer Board last year, despite UCC being one of the most populous SUs in the Union (votes at USI congress are determined by student population), and students not wanting a repeat this year will be hoping that Heverin and Sherlock can pull through and get a result.