Katie Ascough has spoken to the University Observer about her plans to campaign for a No vote in the upcoming impeachment referendum. This is the second of two articles about a recent email exchange with Ascough. The first article can be read here.
Ascough outlines her wishes to make campus “student-friendly,” to continue fighting for education, accomodation, and microwaves.
Ascough says she initially decided to run to be President of UCDSU “because I believed I had something to bring to UCD students. I genuinely loved campaigning, talking to people, thinking up ideas and setting goals to make UCD a better, more student-friendly place.”
She states “I believed I was a capable President, and I believed I could deliver in fighting for our right to afford college, to have better facilities on campus, and to develop a diverse and dynamic community.” Adding that “I still believe all those things.”
Ascough says that being a female president raises some “unique challenges.” “In complete honesty, leading an all-male sabbatical team has been a particular challenge. There have been several instances in which I felt it takes extra effort to have my decisions respected; however, there are many tough decisions that a President has to make in any Students’ Union, and it’s not always possible to have the full team behind you on every decision you make.” Some disagreement has been clear among the sabbatical team when the other sabbatical officers did not agree with Ascough’s decision to remove illegal abortion information from the Winging It in UCD handbooks.
Ascough sees her campaign as a chance to engage with UCD students. “Though I have had to put several SU projects on hold, this referendum has given me the opportunity to get out there and talk to students for the next two weeks, and I am really looking forward to that part of the campaign.”
Ascough says that she will try particularly to dispel rumours “surrounding my decision to illegally distribute abortion information on UCDSU’s Winging It handbook.” Ascough claims that she did not know that the information initially published in the handbooks was illegal despite it being published last year in full knowledge of its illegality. Other sabbatical officers have also stated that they knew that the information was illegal. The reprinted handbooks still contain information on how to illegally remove a clamp from a car.
She adds that “Another objective will be to highlight the many achievements of UCDSU so far this year, and showing students the effectiveness and hard work from the last four months of my presidency.” UCDSU has recently faced criticism for the postponing of Mental Health Week. The SU was, however, praised for the large turnout at the March for Choice. Though UCD is mandated to support making PrEP available in Ireland there was no advertising from the students’ union about the recent protest for PrEP. The March for Education also had a disappointing presence from UCD. The SU President is not the only person handling these events, but is the CEO and spokesperson of the union.
When asked about funding Ascough says “As per the Referendum rules, no campaign team can avail of financial resources and materials other than what the Returning Officer set out for them.” “The only funding that can go to each team is for the ordering of campaign materials such as T-shirts, posters, flyers, and manifestos, which must be done through the Returning Office with a max spend of about €500.”
Ascough used the opportunity of discussing funding to highlight the costs of the impeachment referendum. “The most expensive part of a referendum is the staffing and Returning Office costs which amount to €1000s.” Ascough has faced criticism for the costs of reprinting the handbooks which required reprinting due to the removal of the abortion information. The reprint cost €7,000.
“There is much to be gained from this year,” says Ascough, “Our Union has been on a platform to beat any other Students’ Union due to our success on the student accommodation issue over the summer.” UCD SU did a snapchat campaign to reveal the horrors of the hunt for accommodation for students, as well as their collaboration with Trinity Students’ Union and daft.ie to encourage people to rent out rooms to students. Speaking of her plans for the future, if she is not impeached, she says “We will continue to fight to have our voices heard, to lobby the government against a loan scheme, to put pressure on UCD for better services across campus – from plugs to couches to, yes, microwaves.”
“The student voice is a powerful tool, and we have the potential, as the largest university in Ireland, to have our voices heard on a national (and even international) stage. I fully believe in UCD students, and I fully believe we can have a strong and successful year if I am to continue as President of your Students’ Union.”
The Minutes of an executive meeting from September 21st revealed that three of the four other sabbatical officers stated that they had no confidence in Katie Ascough as President of the UCD Students’ Union. One of the Arts and Human Science Officers Rosaleen Al Johmani also stated on behalf of the college officers at this meeting that they had lost their faith in Ascough as president.
When asked how Ascough would unite the union and the student body if she wins the referendum, Ascough said “I will return to the SU offices with a sheer determination to keep fighting on as a committed and hardworking President for all UCD students. It has been a stressful and chaotic time for the Union over the past few weeks, there is no denying that. However, there is much to be gained from this year.”
UCD students can vote in the impeachment referendum next Wednesday and Thursday, October 25th and 26th. Students can vote yes for impeachment, or vote no to continue with Katie Ascough as Students’ Union President.