Election debates: the abortion referendum and student fees

14:08 Hustings still hasn’t started but there about 30 people here. Front rows are empty. The news team gather in a corner clutching their laptops.

Gareth Bradshaw, the returning officer, and Paula Sheridan chair the debate.

Media CornerMedia Corner

14:10 Speeches start with the Engineering and Computer convener candidates: Ian Kavanagh and Aran Smith. Neither are here.

A spokesperson reads for Kavanagh.

His speech says that he wants to increase collaboration between societies, work closely with the community to reflect issues and set up platforms to increase student participation and update library resources and computer systems.

Most importantly, he wants a regular supply of toilet roll in the Engineering building.

14:13 No-one speaks for Aran Smith. There are no questions from the floor.

14:14 Eve Kerton is up. She’s a 2nd year Communications student running for Societies Officer. There’s the biggest cheer so far when she lets slip that she’s from Clonmel in Tipp.

Eve KertonEve Kerton

She says that some Chairpeople have told her they think the role of Society Officer has diminished. She wants to fix this and attend society meetings, create a “strong online bond” and keep societies up to date on what goes on at executive level. She wants to be a finiancial mediator and run more intersociety events.

14:17 There’s a question from the floor. It’s Nathan Wheeler, chair of the Secular Society. He wants to know: how will she get societies to work with the SU?

Eve says she’ll do this by setting up a Facebook page, sending a weekly email, and by asking socs what they want from the SU.

14:18 Kenneth Browne is runnig for Clubs Officer. He is also a 2nd year Communications student, Humanities Convenor, and very tall – the mic poses its first problem.

His main aims are CV-building sports courses like GAA coaching courses or referee courses. He also wants to make a sports challenge video every two weeks. One team would host an episode and come up with a challenge for one member from each club to attempt. And he wants to establish a sports news team to do videos, interviews with players and highlights after matches.

14:22 Kenneth is questioned about his involvement with clubs so far. “Have you not been more involved in societies?”

He says: “If you’re outgoing and willing to meet the poeple and get the work done, I don’t see how anyone can’t do it”.

The questioner tells the questionee that it’s “disappointing from a club’s perspective that more people didn’t go [for the position]”.

14:23 Nick Sheridan, News editor at DCUfm, asks how will Kenneth deal with issues like the football clubs getting more money than other organisations?

He says he’ll read up in the Summer and would love to address any issues that anyone has.

Kenneth BrowneKenneth Browne

14:24 Fionnuala Moran and Mark Young are up for Humanities Convenor.

Fionnuala is a 2nd year Communications student and first to speak. She says she wants to banish the myth that societies only run events at night:”I know how it feels to feel like the disenfranchised”

Her main goal is to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page instead of sending “the odd email”. She wants to get personally involved with the mental health initiative and media is her big thing because “media students are such a massive section of the faculty”. So she wants to set up a DCU media page or Facebook to showcase student talent.

14:28 Mark, 1st year Multimedia student is up – he’s also apperaing in Hamlet tonight.”Anyone inetrested in theatre please make your way over”.

But jokes aside, he says he is a natural leader. He wants to focus on first years and set up a Twitter page to answer common questions like “Where’s the Mezz?” and focus on issues like plagiarism. He is class rep so is used to sitting in on Class Rep Council meetings.

14:31 Sean Rooney, Society Life Committee member, asks how will they, as School of Communications students, make sure there is an equal balance between the other schools in Humanities?

Fionnuala says it’s in their nature as Communicaitons stuednts to run for SU positions. “We don’t have as many contact hours.”

She says she will get in contact with Class Reps from the other Schools to make their voices heard and will think of different things over the Summer.

Mark: “Just to clarify, I’m a multimedia student but it’s a very good question Seán.”

He says that as first year rep for PhotoSoc, he knows many different people and anyone would be free to contact him at any time of any day.

14:34 Nathan Wheeler asks what are they going to do to engage the students? He references a survey done by The College Veiw which found that 7/10 students didn’t know who there Convenor was.

Mark says that, as Convenor, he could be added to the Facebook pages of each course so if anything does arise, he can work with the faculty to solve the issue. He would also send out his email at least once a month and encourage people to contact him.

Fionnuala says she didn’t feel she could get involved in college life or knew who was there to represent her and that Convenors “don’t have as much presence on the ground”. Twitter and Facebook are the best ways to engage, she says.

14:38 Nick Sheridan aks what they would have done last year when it was decided to cut the thesis from the Journaism course.

Nick SheridanNick Sheridan

Mark says it’s the first he’s heard of this and says he’d “cause a shitstorm” – speak to the faculties, make it as public as possible – “get it in the Irish Times”. He says it would be a complete shame if their course was being denied for them .

Fionnuala says that “Journalism was the laughing stock at the Communicaitons board meeting”.

She says courses shouldn’t be changed, “whatever about the financial issues”.

14:42 Alan Prendergast, 2nd year Accounting and Finance is up for Business Convenor.

“For anyone in the venue here you can call me Al.”

His main aim is to create a new competiton:”DCU Business School Entrepreneur of the Year”. Entrants can show eveyone what they have up their sleeve and “who knows what career opportunities will come”.

He wants students to meet up to help each other out with internship advice, like interveiw tips, and Class Reps to meet up monthly to discuss class issues. He also wants to extend library opening hours around exam time.

14:48 Science and Health Convenors next and that’s Erin O’Reilly and Conor Palin Stewart.

14:49 Erin has a diploma in Science and Health and has been here since 2006. Her aim is to improve communication – emails etc – and to make sure stduents know who their Convenor is, and increase contact with Class Reps. She wants better orientation for new students, to inform students about services available and “continue the work that Sarah Flano does”. She also quotes Oscar Wilde.

14:51 Sean Rooney speaks for Conor.

He calms the room:”Science students relax..I’m not running for your convenor”.

“Bastarding mic,” he says as it decides to act up again.

Conor wants to demand that nurses get equal pay for good work. He also wants to install electronic voting for 3rd years who are away or on placement, and give more support to students in modules with a high fail rate and, like O’Reilly, will build on “Sarah Flano’s great work”.

14:55 Laura Rice and Lorna Finnegan are up for Vice President for Welfare.

They get the most woos. Yes, woos.

Similar-name confusion ensues and Laura takes the mic first by accident.

14:56 Lorna is final year Communications student and last year’s clubs officer.

Lorna FinneganLorna Finnegan

She tells us she’s had the typical student experience: “Like nights out, waking up the next morning being like feck, what happened last night?”

Her aims are two SHAG weeks a year – free condoms all round. She wants to have as many free STI screenings “that we can possibly have” and deal with problems like unexpected pregnancies, by letting girls know that there is support available.

On mental health she says: “It’s one thing being able to know your own mental health but it’s important for you to be aware of looking out for others” and that “it shouldn’t be something that’s talked about for just a week”.

She wants time-management workshops, ways to de-stress like Zumba classes in the old bar or to have a projector in the Mezz for movie nights. She also wants to st up a car-pool system.

15:06 The bell goes and her time is up.

15:06 Lorna says sorry and keeps going with just one more point. She wants to work with the lieks of MCD to run two balls a year and move RAG week to first semester because people have too many commitments in semester two.

15:07 Laura Rice, 3rd year Communications is up.

Laura RiceLaura Rice

“I don’t want it to just be about referendums and rules and committee meetings and budgets. I really want it to be about the studetns and you getting your stamp on the SU.”

She wants to change SHAG week. “As much as it’s about the free condoms, the free lubes” she asks: what about sexual assault in DCU? “Let’s do some self-defence classes. Let’s be aware about it.”

She wants to chair the Welfare Commite meetings and work with Access and other groups to highlight Welfare issues and set up a part-time jobs forum on the SU website. She also wants to improve the Mezz – get some equipment like guitars and boardgames.

She says she wants to create Safe Spots around DCU in the likes of pubs, chippers and shops. “If you feel unsafe, staff will look after you. And you can call the Guards.”

15:14 Nick Sheridan asks about the recent refrendum on abortion where DCU students voted for the SU to take a Pro-Choice stance. “Do you perosonally believe that DCU SU should have a stance and were you satisfied with referendum result?”

Lorna says “I personally didn’t like the idea of there being a referendum on abortion. I thought that it would kind of label people’s voices too much and generalise the voice of students. I don’t think that’s what the Union should be about. I think the stance that it came to was good. It’s a very perosnal subject and I thought it was quite touchy. Everyone has the right to their own opinion.”

Laura is of the same opinon. “I don’t really agree with having a referendum on an issue as personal as that. The result was the general student concensus. I believe that’s right then if students believe they want to take that as their stance. But personally I would be against doing a referednum such as that one.”

15:17 Natahn Wheeler asks a question and is asked to clarify twice. He mentions DCU’s re-afilliation with the Union of Students Ireland and claims the SU “might lose between 50 and 60 thousand euro” in their budget.

Laura: “I’ve been on societies. It’s not about money. That’s showey. I don’t think the SU should be about making things as flashy. It should be about student creativity like videos. If we lose that money out of our budget, I really honestly don’t think that will affect Welfare.”

Lorna: “I agree with Laura in the sense of student creatviity. Money that’s allocated to the SU shouldn’t be about making it flashy – it should be more about the students.”

15:19 Neil Collins has the floor now and wants to know if they will be able to deal with some of the things thrown at them as Welfare Officer.

Lorna: “As long as I have people around me that I can de-stress to and clear my mind I wont let it get to me.”

Laura: “I perosnally have dealt with a lot of things to do with depression like friends and family.I do think im a very strong person and I think I’m very clicked in to my own mental health.” She says the main thing is that she would be fixing the problem. “I do hope that I would be 100% ok to do the job”.

15:22 Aaron Clogher, the Vice Education Officer says that “the levels of interest from the gerneal student body just aren’t as good as I think they could be”. He wants to know how Lorna and Laura will engage with students.

Laura suggests a weekly email and a separate Fcebook page for the Welfare Officer.

Lorna says it’s about getting out there and chatting to students.

15:26 Ciaran O Connor, 3rd year Communications, and Robbie Reid, 4th year Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, are up for Vice President for Education. Reid is absent.

Ciaran O'ConnorCiaran O’Connor and Robbie Reid’s representative

Ciaran says he wants to work on students’ employability skills like holding CV workshops. He wants greater involvement with the Uaneen module – a programme where extra-curricular activities count as part of your degree. He wants students, in courses that do not offer the module, to start completing it. He says it won’t be part of their degree but will benefit them anyway. A newer version of Moodle is being tested here next year and O’Conor wants to suit DCU students. He says he wants to “make suits aware” of students’ financial issues and he also wants to increase LGBT services, like runnig a recruitment drive for the LGBT hotline.

15:33 Robbie’s spokesperson apologises for his absence as he is in mandatory labs for a final year project.

He wants to increase awareness of academic support and services – like library tutorials and the disability service. He says they are not being used enough because people don’t know about them. His speech says he is going to set up a focus group with the DCU marketing officer, Nicola Leddy, to see how to get students more involved in society life. He also wants to make a clear and concise guide to Compensation.

15:38 Paul Doherty gets the mic and asks what changes would they make, if any, to the Class Rep system?

Ciaran: “I think the class rep system at the moment is coming and going. It’s not perfect., but it’s not broken.” He suggests faster, shorter meetings so that more Reps show up to meetings.

15:40 Aaron Clogher, who is Vice President for Education, asks how will the candidates deal with the large amount of paperwork they have to do and meetings they have to attend?

Ciaran: “I’ve been doing that for two and a half years in DCUfm and in secondaery school sitting on the class council. I’ve dealt with these issues. I have no problem with the paperwork and the meetings or anything like that. Its something I look forward to.”

15:42 Laura Rice asks how would he get other class reps to be on the ball?

Ciaran says that more could have been done about the changes made to the Communications course. He says he will “get them to understand that students must come first” and will improve staff knowledge and staff awareness that students are “first port of call and there are students here to help to fix problems and issues”.

15:44 Nick Sheridan is deemed to be out of order by the Chairperson as he questions Reid’s absence.

“Is Robbie confident that the student populaton can count on him to commit?”

A student in the audience, Aideen, speaks up for him. She says that he has mandatory labs for a final year project and would have been here today if he could have.

Ciaran says “I wish Robbie was here, better than me standing up by myself”

15:46 Aaron Clogher, Vice President for Educaiton, and Colin Brennan, 3rd year Journalism student, are running for President.

Colin surpises the room when he says he wants to talk about something “that has been on the minds of Irish people and students – especially students here in DCU.”

“I’m referring to the gruesome murder of Nicola Furlong.”

He extends his sympathies to anyone who knows her: “friends and family and anyone suffering”.

His aim as President is to make services, like the Careers service, more accessible. He wants to promote the counselling servcie and let people know that there is a doctor on campus for just €10. Every Tuesday he would like to present a programme on DCUfm, informing students about what is going on in the Union. He’d also hang around in the Hub afterwards to chat to students. He encourages increased participation in clubs and societies.

Colin BrennanColin Brennan

15:49 Aaron Cloghar wants to keep up the work that was done this year, like running lunchtime gigs and re-enforcing the new SU brand. He says he will tackle what he considers a huge problem: “student apathy” – that is students not being involved in or caring about DCU politics. He wants to make all Officers and Class Reps recognisable and involve more students in the “larger decision making process”.

On USI affiliation he says “we need to join wholeheartedly or not at all” and wants to to get value for money from our national representative.

He also wants to guide the process of DCU joining up with Mater Dei and St Patrick’s colleges, as he was involved last year, and increase the SU’s online presence.

Aaron ClogherAaron Clogher

15:57 David Healion, Societies Officer, asks: “Have you read the Constitution [of the SU] and what it says abou the President?

Colin: “I have read the Consitution. There are eight roles. And one is that he has to uphold the Constitution and represent the students… you have to bring your own qualities to the job. Whatever they want me to do I’ll do it.”

Aaron: “I never leave home without the Consitution.”

“Realistically, it’s what you make of it…You make the position your own and I think that’s the key thing. With the Constitutional Review on the horizon, I think we need to review all the roles of Officers to make sure they’re targeting what they need to be doing.”

15:59 Paul Doherty, SU President, asks for their thoughts on the cancellation of Toxic Tuesday – a weekly NuBar event last year.

Aaron is in favour of the abolition of the night. “It cost the Union money every time it was ran.” He says paying for security and a late bar licence was “a drain on student finances”. He syas societies have thrived since because students no longer put their time and money into Toxic Tuesday and now societies can run events on Tuesday nights.

Colin: “I wouldn’t bring it back because I know that a lot of problems came form Toxic Tuesday. A big part of my maifesto would be getting involved in clubs nd socs.” He would rather have more venets during the day.

16:02 Paul Doherty has a second question about student fees. “How do you think students should pay for their education?”

Colin: “You have to go down the route of situation. If you’re in the position to pay for college – brilliant. But if not, we need to look at a way that they [those who can’t pay] can. I’m just standing here as a person who is trying to follow through and represent students in a good manner.”

Aaron says his view is “a little bit different” to the referendum result where DCU students voted for the SU to take a “No fees” stance.

“If you can pay for your educaiton, you shoudld pay for it. Apart fromt that, SUSI when it gets gong properly, will be able to take matters like this into account…I would personallty be in favour of a more balanced system where students who can afford to pay, should, and stuednts who are not able to be given every support possible.”

16:05 Roisin Treacey, News Editor at DCUfm, asks the candidates what are the big issues facing students?

Aaron: “Going by my manifesto, student apathy is a huge one.” He notes that the crowd today is small and says the representation isn’t great. “It’s important we engage as many students as possible”.

Colin: “My atitude would be, from talking to people, money is the big thing.” I want to improve knowledge that there are services for students – like doctors for €10. He says that getting to know people is imporant so you can know people and say things like:

“There’s Neil Collins. He wears baseball caps”.

Said baseball capNeil Collins in a baseball cap

16:08 Robbie Reid arrives to address Nick Sheridan’s earlier question about reliability.

He apologieses and explains his absence. He explains that he is in the middle of his final year project and that he deos a compulsory ten hours a day, five days a week. “I couldn’t leave. I had organic synthesis to do. This is not a reflection on my ability to do the job. It’s just abrief apology to say I couldn’t be here because I had my college work to do.”

DCUSU HustingsRobbie Reid

16:09 And the debate is over. Candidates are free to roam.

By Mary Mc Donnell

Photo Credit: Rachel Mc Laughlin

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