Hustings for the presidential by-election took place this evening. The event was organised by the L&H and LawSoc. The two presidential candidates, Barry Murphy and Rebecca Hart, delivered an opening speech each after which the candidates were asked questions from the floor.
Hart’s opening speech focussed on getting across her message of “affordability, accessibility, and approachability,” as well as highlighting the fact that she has five years of experience with the union. Speaking on affordability, Hart praised the work that current Education Officer Rob Sweeney is doing to decrease resit and repeat fees, and said that she would like to see that work continued. For accessibility, Hart said she understands the challenges facing wheelchair-users in UCD having spent one day last week getting around campus in a wheelchair. Hart wants to make the Students’ Union, and UCD staff more approachable to students. In her speech she suggests that lecturers leave their office doors open to make students feel more comfortable approaching them.
Murphy opened his speech by telling the audience about his farming background and how it has helped him develop a strong work ethic. To Murphy, protecting the reputation of UCDSU is top priority, and he believes that the way to do this is by respecting the SU’s mandates, and by treating all members of the SU team equally, be they sabbatical officers, college officers, or class reps. Murphy would like to decrease the power of the SU President so that the president would not be able to make an “executive decision” that their team disagreed with. Murphy said that he also has plans to introduce online voting and promised the e-voting system would be in place by June 2018.
Both candidates spoke about UCD’s counselling service in their speeches. To combat the long waiting lines, Hart wants to see external counsellors brought into UCD to provide additional counselling, this is a project which was done in the past but was discontinued. Hart has not spoken to the Welfare Officer about this proposal. Murphy has the view that additional funding is required to alleviate the pressure on the counselling service, and said a hard approach is needed to persuade UCD to invest more into the service. Murphy said he “will run a campaign that will shame UCD into putting more money into the counselling service.”
The first question put to the candidates was “How do you plan on fixing the reputational damage to the SU?” Murphy said his plans focus on offering stability and by sticking to the mandates, sticking to what the union is designated to do by students’ votes. Both candidates suggest promoting the good work the union does for students. Hart suggests the campus newspapers could help with this, and that the union could convince the media to promote its good work, despite both newspapers having editorial independence of the Students’ Union.
To represent pro-life students, Hart said she would listen to all students’ views, represent their views fairly, and leave room open for the debate. Murphy said that he would be willing to include opposing views in debates, but that the union has to uphold its pro-choice mandate to campaign for the repeal of the 8th amendment.
Both candidates were asked how they would manage acting as CEO of a company with regards its finances. Hart admitted she didn’t know how she would manage the budgeting of the SU as it’s on a scale of a budget that she has never encountered before: “hands up, I don’t know much about budgeting but I would be willing to learn.” Murphy said he would use his experience of learning how to manage the accounts of his family’s farm, as well his experience managing the campaigns and communications budget this year to aid him with budgeting.
The candidates were asked about the manifestos they published last March when running for positions. Murphy said he has tried to uphold his manifesto goals, talking about the recent environmental survey run by the union, Murphy said they will be bringing the survey results to the University Management Team to show them that students really do care about the environment. Hart said that what she put in her current manifesto were goals she believed to be achievable in a six month term. Regarding her previous manifesto she said that if there were things within that manifesto that people are interested in, she would be happy to run them.
Murphy said he believed he would be a better president than Hart because he has a fresh approach to the union having only gotten involved last year. His said his experience as a sabbatical officer would be invaluable to the role of president. Hart said she would be the better choice because she knows a lot about the role having been present in the SU for five years and would work with the team to learn more, and ask for help when it’s needed.
Voting in the presidential by-election will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, November 22nd and 23rd, with late night voting for all students in the Newman building until 8pm on Wednesday.