Two achievements stand out for Paul Lynam as the highlights of his year as Students’ Union President. The first of these is the march against fees that saw 5,000 UCD students take to the streets in protest as part of a national campaign commanding a 40,000 strong student attendance. Lynam states: “It was the largest student protest since the 1960s. And I’m proud of that.”
The second of these achievements was the creation of 15,000 graduate internship places by the USI after the UCDSU pushed for graduate unemployment to be made a priority during the first national council in July. Lynam expresses his pride that one of his team’s policies had been initiated on a national level.
“It was a sense of personal pride as well as pride within the national organisation and indeed this organisation [UCDSU] that put it on the agenda within the USI that 15,000 graduate internship places were accepted in the 2011 budget.”
At the start of the year UCDSU laid out twelve priorities, chosen from the manifestos of the officers with the aim of achieving them by June 30th. Notable achievements from these priorities include the semesterisation of the registration fee, the expansion from a six-day week library to a seven-day week library, working towards solutions to graduate unemployment and the negotiation of a new instalments plan for students living on residence.
Regarding the twelve priorities worked towards by the UCDSU, Lynam says: “They achieved some one hundred percent, they made progress on others and they gave a good stab at others.”
Despite these positives, Lynam does not describe his year as Students’ Union President as perfect, saying: “Did I make mistakes? Absolutely.” However, Lynam attempts to qualify this, by claiming: “Will next year’s make mistakes? Definitely. Did last years? I’m sure he did. Mistakes come with the job.”
Despite this admission that not every move made was a successful or correct one, Lynam is adamant that all his decisions, without exception, were made by him with the best interests of the student body in mind. The service of whom, he explains, has been a job that he has “adored”.
Lynam responds to allegations that his manner of execution of his role as Students’ Union President has been too hands off, by saying: “It’s a fair criticism. I think the president, when he sees a weakness in an officer should intervene,” implying that he did not do so but declining to cite specific examples.
He furthermore refers to his leadership techniques as “laissez-faire” at times, but made the point that it was important that he did not exert too much restriction over the SU officers as a whole for the good of a productive working environment.
Some people have noted that the presence and productivity of the Students’ Union declined slightly in November, following the intensive efforts of the march. In response to this, Lynam explains: “I do think it is safe to say that we were just preparing for the exams and we weren’t as proactive as possibly we could have been, but November usually is a quiet enough month for a Sabbatical Officer.
“But we reviewed ourselves and went at it again in January,” he continues. “Out of twelve months there is going to be one month that’s first place and one month that’s twelfth place. November would have been twelfth.”
Lynam describes the Students’ Union’s year under his presidency as “overall a good year,” adding: “We were absolutely as visible as we could have been. Could we do more? I’m sure we can but there are times when we need to be in the office getting the deals done that need to be done for students.
He claims “the Union is better than it was one year ago” and when questioned about promises made in his manifesto that unfortunately did not come to fruition, Lynam explains that he felt it was better to make a lot of promises even though some might not be achieved, as it forces you to work harder at fulfilling as many as possible. For example, plans for turning the Student Centre into a cinema one night per week, as outlined in his manifesto, were never realised.
When The University Observer put this to Lynam, he responds that he had prioritised Welfare during the year and that such measures as a student benefit fund were more rewarding on a cost-benefit ratio than the cinema plan and had therefore been pursued instead.
Lynam is quick to point out his proudest personal project achievement which involves a deal he has been working on with the HEA to ensure the security of funding over the next five years for UCD’s Counselling and Health Centre services to the tune of 600,000 per year. This deal has not yet been approved, but Lynam is optimistic that it will be accepted by the HEA in May.
As Lynam’s year draws to a close, the exact nature of his legacy remains yet to be determined. If his deal is accepted by the HEA it will constitute a major achievement in student welfare and if the Union’s Save Our Ball campaign is successful, he may be able to garner back some of the student support lost in the UCD Ball’s cancellation.