The jury has spoken. Class representatives across DCU cast their vote on Thursday for the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) executive elections.
The representatives decided on eight candidates for eight positions in the USI, which is the student union organisation that serves third level education institutions across Ireland.
The choices were Clare Austick, former USI Vice President (VP) for Welfare, for USI President, Caoimhe O’Carroll of DCUSU for VP for Dublin Region, Megan O’Connor of Trinity SU for VP for Academic Affairs, Beth O’Reilly of UCC SU for VP for Campaigns, Bukky Adebowale of Maynooth SU for VP for Equality and Citizenship. Jenna Barry of LIT SU for VP of Postgraduate Affairs, Somhairle Brennan of IADT for VP of Welfare, and Muireann Nic Corcrain of Trinity SU for VP of Irish Language.
DCUSU’s delegates will now vote for each of these candidates at USI’s congress next week, where all of Ireland’s student union delegates will come together and vote on behalf of their class representatives to decide who takes the positions.
Each candidate made their case to the DCU class reps on Wednesday during the USI Executive Hustings hosted by DCU.
“We need to fight back against funding cuts and ensure the allocation of funding into resources, buildings, and financial support,” said USI presidential candidate Austick at the meeting.
“The government needs to make student mental health a key priority, and we need to integrate wellbeing into courses,” she added.
The theme of mental health came up in several of the candidate’s speeches. O’Carroll, DCU’s choice for VP for Dublin Region, said she wants to ensure recording lectures remain commonplace for universities even when class is back on campus. This way, students don’t need to stress if they miss a lecture, and commuting student won’t feel pressured to take long bus rides into the city for a single, hour-long lecture.
VP for Academic Affairs candidate O’Connor stressed another prominent theme of the meeting: student nurses.
“Student nurses have gone through two and a half thousand hours of unpaid placement,” she said. “There are no real regulations, we are relying on pro-regulatory bodies, and the Dept. of health has already undermined education curriculum. We need to uproot what we are doing.”
When it comes to making change for students, most candidates mentioned collaborating with the VP for Campaigns. O’Reilly, DCU’s pick, proposed ideas about successfully running a meaningful campaign in the digital-first world of education students are facing.
“Digital action and zoom protests are the new normal, so we need to start with that,” she said. The UCC student proposed scheduling zoom lecture walkouts as a tool for campaigning, as well as increasing student engagement with campaigns through social media and outreach programmes, like a USI campaign newsletter and calendar.
Getting students interested in action is has always been a priority for the USI, and DCU’s pick for VP for Equality and Citizenship brought her own ideas to the table as to how she can cultivate more activism among students.
“I want you to use your sport, your talent, your passion, and your art for change,” Adebowale said, explaining that so many students have their own unique set of skills and passions that they can use to make change with the issues they believe in.
Adebowale said that her priority is giving students a voice and platform to stand up for what they believe in, whatever it may be, as she believes “it’s the small changes that lead to the big ones.”
Connection and unity among students is also a hallmark of the USI. VP for Postgraduate affairs candidate Barry said unity is precisely what she wants to cultivate for Ireland’s postgrad. “I want to help create a virtual community for Ireland’s postgrads to connect, support each other,” she said. “Unity is our strength, diversity is our power. We can build strong relationships with students, enabling them to build a space where no voice is left unheard.”
Unity was also a hallmark of VP for Irish Language Candidate Corcrain, who said “I want to create the opportunity to use Irish through inclusivity, accountability, language rights, and sporting, to build a stronger network of Irish speakers.”
DCU’s pick for VP for Welfare, Brennan, was the first to address one of the most pressing issues on university campuses today: sexual assault and image-based sexual abuse. For Brennan, the process starts with information. “I want to ensure info about cybersex and consent is available and to hold active consent workshops and campaigns across local colleges,” he said. “I want to ensure victims get the help they need.” Brennan also said he wants to increase the resources available for student parents and pregnant students.
The USI’s congressional meeting will take place between April 6 and 8. You can find more information about the election on the USI website.
Devin Sean Martin