Continuing our election coverage, today we look at the candidates in the Educational race, Sam Geoghegan, Shane Comer, and Patrick Wolohan. Look out for video interviews on our Facebook page, and full analysis in our pull-out election special, on campus next Tuesday
What is the role of the Education Officer?
“He or she is the link between the students and the university. After being Education Officer for the past eight months, I know what the role entails; I sit on over forty University committees and would have to deal with a lot of personal cases.“
How will you be voting on the proposed Constitution?
“I will be voting yes. I was one of the nine who sat on the Constitutional Review group and I think it’s a step in the right direction. There are a lot of things that I think were poor with the Constitution and I think that this is fit for purpose.“
How do you think you’ve performed this year in your role as Education Officer?
“I think I’ve performed quite well. I’m not going to lie – there is a learning curve and I think [the University Observer] alluded to it last year, that since I wasn’t a Programme Officer I didn’t have that much experience, that it would be a steep learning curve and it was. I think I’ve performed quite well and next year I’ll perform even better since there won’t be that learning curve.
Due to his year spent as Education Officer, Geoghegan shows an understanding of the various facets of the role to which he is currently seeking re-election. He cites access to education, a Postgraduate Loan Scheme and moving the University ‘into the twenty-first century‘ using technology such as iTunesU as being among his top priorities for next year.
Having secured an extended study facility during this year’s Semester One exams, Geoghegan is determined to maintain various frontline services for students, including protecting library opening hours, addressing the reduced book-buying budgets and reinstating the Disability Support Service’s Peer Note Taking Service.
Geoghegan is eager to “keep as many post grads in higher education as possible” by introducing a Post Graduate Loan Scheme. Should lobbying USI and the government to introduce such an initiative fail, he is willing to approach a commercial bank on behalf of UCD students to set up a loan system similar to the one found in DCU.
Geoghegan identified his lack of visibility on campus this year as his major weakness, “with the volume of cases and volume of meetings … it’s hard.” He also admitted to there being a lot of “red tape” in terms of Education in UCD, which “made it hard to get things done.” However, he feels this experience stands to him, “I know what is achievable and not achievable.”
He deems his current manifesto to be more realistic than that with which he won last year’s uncontested Education election. He admits that a lack of experience in writing his manifesto last year meant he was unaware of the feasibility of carrying out a large amount of his promises, but points out that he still has four and a half months to complete these tasks.
Course: Third Year Science
What is the role of the Education Officer?
“To represent the students from an educational point of view, to represent their educational needs. To stand for them on their educational requirements, that’s problems of any description that impede on their education. They come to the Education Officer if they have a problem like that that is affecting their educational and academic experience.
How will you be voting on the proposed constitution?
“Currently, I’m leaning towards voting ‘Yes’, but I understand there is going to be quite a significant ‘No’ campaign. I will obviously keep an open mind.”
How do you feel that this year’s Education Officer has performed?
“One thing that I would have done differently this year is manage the bookshop debacle a lot differently. In times when everyone’s watching the pennies, to see waste like that is simply just not right.”
Shane Comer represents a different take on the role of Education Officer, and his manifesto certainly contrasts with those of recent years. Comer has not made any wild, sweeping promises, and instead pledges little, but little done well. “I’m a huge believer that simple things done well are better than great ideas done badly.”
Comer emphasises communication as a key area which he seeks to improve on, stating “I feel the Education Office isn’t an office that is as publicised as it should be … I want to create a UCD-specific education blog, a Facebook, a Twitter: simple ways of connecting the students with me, the Education Officer, if I’m elected. I want students to reengage with their education.” He also points out that this online presence is also cost-effective.
Perhaps the most strongly-worded section of Comer’s manifesto concerns his enthusiasm for free fees, leading to doubts over the possibility of Comer accepting a mandate to fight for an alternative method of payment, should the upcoming referendum on SU policy result in a change of stance on the issue, but he is quick to emphasise his respect for the wishes of the electorate. “My professional opinions would have to be in line with the Union. I will always believe education should be free; I will always maintain that. But if the students decide on a [different] policy for the Union, that is their democratic right to decide that, and I will continue to represent that.”
Comer also plans to run three different educational fairs during the year, a feat which the sitting Education Officer has not achieved even once. When asked whether this constitutes over-ambition on his part, he admits that there are potential difficulties. “I don’t think it will be easy; I think it will be challenging certainly, but I think I have the drive and the ability to succeed in doing so.”
Although he lacks a background in Education, Comer makes up for it with considerable administrative and Welfare experience, and talks not with massive confidence, but with eloquence, consideration, and warmth. Whether he is suited to role of Education Officer remains to be seen, but he does proffer an emphasis on communication and an approachability that voters may find appealing come polling day.
Name: Patrick Wolohan
Course: Third Year History and Economics
What is the role of the Education Officer?
“The main role is a support role for the students of UCD, both undergraduate and postgraduate, to make sure they are getting on fine with their course and subjects. I see it as a reference role – you can refer them to people who can help them with their problems, as well as trying to help them yourself.”
Will you be voting for or against the introduction of the new constitution?
“I’ll be voting for it. I think there are several good points in it. I think the accountability of the finance committee would be the main one. I think the residence coordinator is a great idea because I have been on campus for two of the last three years and I think residence has a big role and that it needs more representation.”
How do you feel this year’s Education officer has performed?
“I think Sam did a fine job this year. There are one or two things maybe he did slip up on, but nobody is perfect … He said there would be expos each semester, they didn’t happen. But then again he has been good, I liked the way he got the out of hours study area. I would definitely try and maintain and further that idea next year if I was to be elected.”
Patrick Wolohan is the self-professed “Jack the Lad” candidate in this year’s race for Education Officer. Wolohan is the current Gender Equality Officer, and reports that he ran for his current position on a dare are something he wishes to dispel. “That is a rumour I want to quash. I’m very interested in the subject and I do care.” It is also something that he hopes will not be assumed of his current candidacy. “I wouldn’t run if I wasn’t serious … my ideas are just as good, I have some ideas that are good, realistic goals.”
Of Wolohan’s goals, his suggestion to replace Blackboard with Google Docs is certainly his most ambitious. Although he sees Google Docs as more “efficient”, there is little likelihood that he could convince all lecturers to switch from Blackboard to what would appear to be a very similar system.
On a national level, Wolohan says that he will make grant applications easier for students and lobby TDs to ensure that the welfare of Irish students is not compromised by the Government. Regarding the latter issue, he believes that “persistence is key at end of the day… there’s no point doing nothing and then complaining about it, you have to try at least.”
The specifics of how Wolohan would achieve Blackboard lessons, interview workshops, and provide support for students suffering from stress are vague, and many of his proposed services are already provided on campus. However, he concludes: “There are some things in the manifesto that we already have but everything can be improved … I wouldn’t put something down if I [thought] I couldn’t achieve it.”
Photography by David Nowak and Caoimhe McDonnell. Look out for full analysis of the Education race in our pull-out election supplement, on campus next Tuesday.