UCDSU Campaigns and Communications Vice-President Pat de Brún has defended the choice of a four-star resort hotel as the location for this year’s class rep training weekend, at a cost of €11,000 in student contributed funding.
Around 135 UCD students stayed at the Wolseley Holiday Lodges, located on the grounds of the luxury four-star Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa and Country Club in Tullow, Co Carlow.
The location of the training weekend, which was paid for out of the UCDSU Campaigns and Communications budget, was kept secret until the journey got underway.
De Brún said: “Over the summer I spent a lot of time contacting different possible locations to see what ones had the proper conference facilities and the housing. They [the Mount Wolseley] just turned out to be the best value for money, so I went with them.”
De Brún insisted that the location “really was the cheapest. We actually have a significant saving based on the last good few years of class rep training.”
The University Observer understands that a €4,000 saving was made when compared with the €15,000 training weekend held in Blessington, Co Wicklow in 2009.
De Brún neither confirmed nor denied the allegation that class reps were instructed to refrain from discussing or publishing photos of the training weekend on Facebook. “I think it may have been said to them. I didn’t say it myself,” he stated.
He acknowledged that there had been controversy in previous years with regards to photos taken during the weekend which were subsequently published on Facebook. “That’s the kind of thing that we want to avoid,” de Brún said.
“We want people to know that this was a proper training weekend, that it wasn’t just a piss-up as some people try to convey it as and we really did put a lot of work into that and we just didn’t want to jeopardise it,” he stated.
De Brún said that the reason the weekend is spent off-campus is that it “creates a better sense of bonding between the reps which is important for an effective council”.
He expressed his belief that the weekend away ensured “a captive audience” for the training programme, stating that it would be “a lot more difficult to keep people there at every module, in attendance” if training were conducted on-campus.
This year, the training modules offered to class reps dealt with topics including academic issues and class parties. Reps also took part in modules regarding the benefits of social media, and were encouraged to set up Facebook pages for their classes.
De Brún expressed satisfaction at the weekends’ activities: “I was over the moon with it to be honest. It was a real sigh of relief at the end because I feel we really did get the results that we wanted from it.”