After a year where cutbacks and maintaining regular services was vital, James Williamson took over during a stormy period where further cutbacks were threatened. While not having the most spectacular year, Williamson can be satisfied with how he’s conducted himself throughout.
Saying that he has “a few more achievements on paper,” when compared to his predecessor, Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin, Williamson feels he has had a successful year, saying: “It’s been a tough year. I’ve enjoyed it.
“I think I’ve been a good Education Officer, I’ve done my best in everything that I’ve promised to do, the year isn’t over and obviously when you’re running, you don’t fully understand the job so there’s one or two things that you won’t be able to get done, but that’s the way with every brief.”
Williamson says one criticism made towards him was the lack of publicising his achievements throughout the year, but said that it wasn’t in his nature to hype himself up. “I don’t like getting up there and saying ‘I did this, I did that’, said Williamson. “It can be quite difficult if you’re in the middle of something which you know is going to take you six or seven months, you don’t want to be giving updates every few minutes, because you may end up showing your cards.”
Regarding his biggest achievement of the year, he says that it was extending the library opening hours to include Sundays throughout the term. While a significant achievement for maintaining academic standards within the university, when he was asked how much of a role he played in achieving this, he immediately replied: “It was completely me. If myself and Paul weren’t here, the library wouldn’t be open on a Sunday, it wasn’t the priority of the people who were here.” While he’s entitled to state his achievements, such an answer comes across as slightly jarring when considering the modestly phrased statement that came before it.
However, he felt that it was a significant jump from what the previous sabbatical team had done regarding library hours, saying: “Last year’s team hadn’t got it on their agenda to have the library open on a Sunday, it’s the SU position that the library hours shouldn’t be cut back. If there’s an attempt to cutback library hours, you should fight it.”
Williamson is adamant that the majority of his manifesto ideas were all achieved with the exception of three, an exact figure either highlighting a defensive element to his personality or one that signals a perfectionist. One of these three ideas that didn’t come into fruition was an advice helpline to deal with student queries, which ran into immediate problems mainly to do with training and staffing.
“It would mean that our programme officers and exec officers would have to man them and that’s not possible because myself and Scott are the only students who have been trained enough to deal with those student queries,” he explains. “There’s not a chance that I would be able to give them the training required as part time officers that I received as a full time officer [to adequately deal with student problems].
He admits that his lowest point this year came after the USI fees march back in November. Admitting that the entire Students’ Union “took their foot off the pedal” due to their exhaustion from campaigning. He also mentions the Christmas exams period where he received death threats because of their cancelation, saying it was necessary to make sure all students were safe and didn’t risk their livelihood making their way into exams.
Williamson’s next stop is to put his name forward for USI Education Officer when nominations open again or return to fourth year Science to complete his degree. Should he be elected, his experiences this year will be put into good use and may mean that UCD students will see and hear more of Williamson for another year.