“Like it’s hard?” Erin Byrne, final year EPL student channeled her inner Elle Woods in her first campaign video in her quest to attain the role of Vice President for Wellbeing in this year’s DCU Students’ Union (DCUSU) elections.
The Rush native’s ‘Legally Brunette’ video highlighted the changes she believes she can implement for students after a year that has been more challenging than ever before.
Byrne feels her time as Editor-In-Chief of HerCampus DCU and as a class rep, sets her apart from other candidates. She has seen both ways of being a university student, on campus and on Zoom.
The twenty-year-old feels that she has been lucky to experience university life and wants to use her own experience to help students as the university tries to navigate its way out of Covid-19.
One issue Byrne wants to bring to light, is the dangers that face women walking when the campus is dark. “The safety of women is definitely up for question. I think we need a safer security system”, Byrne explains.
“DCU’s a very public campus. We have a public gym, cafés and shops,” said Byrne. “While we have DCU security, there’s only so much they can do. We need an increase in security, specifically at night time.”
Byrne suggests an app that allows female students on campus to buddy up and communicate with each other.
Byrne thinks female representation is really important in university politics and feels it is important for younger students to see other women in leadership roles.
“The SU this year comprised of four men and one woman, female representation has to be everywhere. We need to have representation to normalise things for women’s issues. Men can try, and can be allies to our issues, but they actually can’t advocate for issues like we can,” she said.
Byrne explains that seeing women in similar SU roles showed her that it was possible. “Even as a second year, I saw Christine voted in as president and I remember thinking that was amazing. Having a woman in a place of power is just as important to inspire other women,” she said.
Byrne is on Jigsaw’s youth advisory panel. She felt the need to give back and help demolish stigma after using Jigsaw’s services herself.
It was through Jigsaw she saw the direct impact that a string of lockdowns has had on mental health in this country. From her role in HerCampus and as a class rep, Byrne was inundated with the issues connected with feelings of isolation this year.
“I just started to see issues coming from all different areas… I’ve seen it in friends. I’ve seen it in family. It’s very worrying,” she said.
The pressure to constantly improve yourself during lockdown is something that she has experienced first-hand and she feels her own experience with anxiety will help her to relate to students more.
Period poverty is something the final year student would like to address if elected. She feels that the way in which period products are provided on campus currently is not accessible enough for students that may feel embarrassed.
Her idea is to have a vending machine with period products, pregnancy tests and lubricant in it. She acknowledges the stigma that still surrounds these products as the reason that many do not feel comfortable to go up to a desk to ask for them, even when they are in dire need.
Byrne would also like for the SU and the university as a whole to try to cover the consultation for those that need to renew their pill prescription.
Teachers and nurses play a significant part in her manifesto, parties Byrne feels have been forgotten about.
She intends to set up workshops for teaching placement hosted by teachers that are fully qualified and teaching themselves and host more events for nurses that take place outside of placement hours.
Byrne’s manifesto can be adapted for an online semester and for a return to campus. “The reality is we are living with Covid and it is going to be here for a while,” she said.
Liaising with campus residents about more flexible rules as well as running empty gym workshops for those that feel intimated when learning how to use the machines, are also something Byrne would like to introduce.
Voting for DCUSU elections takes place on March 24th and 25th, information on all candidates can be found at https://www.lead.dcusu.ie/
Image Credit: Erin Byrne