Paddy Guiney considers that he has “expanded the role of Campaigns Officer” during his time in office. He is proud of the stance UCD Students’ Union has taken on perhaps less-traditional campaigns such as the Equality campaign which began in August. Having said this, it’s difficult not to see Guiney’s focus, and by extension, his year, as more than a little scattered.
Something that stunted the growth of Campaigns and Communications during the year was the lack of interest in the Union Class Rep recruitment drive which Guiney puts down, in part, to changes in the role’s parameters. Guiney also cites class rep training as something of a disappointment. The event was cut down to a one day event instead of an overnight trip, due to financial constraints. Though he feels they “covered a lot”, he says there was “not a lot of buy-in from the reps” themselves. He is conscious that reps cannot become a “clique” but thinks a relationship needs to be fostered early on to allow for better work throughout the year, aided by a trip away.
Though the work ethic of those who participated in the national campaign against the increase in fees is not in question, Guiney does feel that the Union “should have taken a stronger stance” on the issue. Having promised repeatedly that this would be a year-long campaign, it is disappointing to note that it was virtually forgotten after Christmas, something that Guiney weakly excuses by saying he ran three of the local campaigns he’s mandated to run, before the USI referendum took place.
Being a student-run organisation, Guiney does feel that the Union could become “more professionalised” due to one its fundamental purposes being a “campaign and lobbying group”. Though he believes that it will “interesting to see” what challenges face the Union without the position of Campaigns and Communications, Guiney thinks that if “the Convenors are planned properly, the Union would get more popular in those buildings and become more grassroots” which would be assisted by training. This will put them in a better position to run campaigns in their own areas.
Guiney says he has learnt this year that: “If you want something done, you have to go do it yourself” but he may not have always followed this mantra. A list of ‘Top 5 priorities’ appeared in his manifesto last April, but their success has been mixed. He puts this down to the fact that “the role is very different when you get into the job” but Guiney feels that his brief was successfully expanded far beyond these initial goals.
From the communication end of things, Guiney is of the opinion that this has been very effective, though the media and many of his co-ordinators may beg to differ. Though his plans for this area may have changed since last year, he didn’t want to “run everything in [his] manifesto, just to tick boxes”.
Many of the plans Guiney had at the start of his term in July have been modified over-time to help them better fit students and their needs. Though the idea of ‘Credits for Life’ extra-curricular programme never came to fruition, there is now the possibility of recording volunteer work through student SIS accounts. Promises for extra parking spaces were not directly achieved, though a bike scheme was introduced to encourage more students to commute without cars.
Though there is a feeling that both the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and UCDSU “really dropped the ball” as regards a campaign for Postgraduate loans, Guiney is proud of producing a “well-utilised jobs” list as well as a number of peer tutor group opportunities across campus. Whether these make up the lack of campaigning on postgraduates’ behalf, is another question.
“To the best of [his] ability”, Guiney felt he was “open and accountable” and that any and all campaigns which were run throughout the year were those important to students. Though there were many “highs and lows”, he does not “regret a minute” of the Union experience.
While his intentions may have been good, there are many areas where Guiney fell short this year. There is no doubting his enthusiasm for campaigns, but it often seemed as if he was more concerned by looking like he was doing something, than actually doing something. Hopefully, his flexibility will make his time in the national union a more productive one.