Student welfare in UCD has been highly recognised this year due to the efforts of Students’ Union Welfare Vice-President, Scott Ahearn. This recognition is mainly positive, with a huge increase in the Student Welfare Fund, a series of successful ‘How To’ talks and a Kick the Habit programme. Ahearn feels he will walk away from the year feeling he has “given it his all” – and after looking at his achievements this year, he has every right to do so.
One of Ahearn’s main priorities for the year was to set up a Welfare Crew, which would help raise student awareness of the Welfare position and the services it provided. He feels that it has been a successful in “opening Welfare up a lot more” but concedes that more structure is required – something he will be expected to have sorted next year when he starts his second term in the office.
While Ahearn has enjoyed a lot of praise for his unquestionable dedication this year, the issue of the introduction of medical fees at the Student Health Service remains. He explains that the requirement for fees is due to further restrictions on the Student Services Charge, from which the service is funded. As other student services are also funded under this umbrella, including IT and library services which were deemed more essential, fees were a necessity to balance the books. However, it cannot be said that Ahearn abandoned the cause of free healthcare, having taken extensive measures to aid students who could not pay the fees, and ensuring the establishment of a student health fund of €20,000 for those under financial strain. However, students are still unable to have their medical cards registered both at home and with UCD.
In a year that saw an increase in students’ financial problems, Ahearn managed to secure an estimated €105,000 solely for the Student Welfare Fund, which was an incredible achievement in a time of recession.
Ahearn has also dealt with a lot of personal cases throughout the year, asserting the “your problem will become my problem” slogan in his manifesto, taking between 50 and 60 individual cases per week. However, he describes the personal cases as “one of the most demanding parts of the job.”
Ahearn admits that some of his promises did not happen, such as publishing an Online Cheap Guide and increasing food choice for students with special dietary requirements. Ahearn counters that such campaigns were never his “number one priority” and that he never got a chance to complete them – which, to be fair, seems a tired excuse given his passion for the rest of his job.
In a poll taken earlier in the year, Scott Ahearn was seen as the most recognisable of the four Vice-Presidents, proving his workrate and public profile when compared to his colleagues. Ahearn has been there for students on an individual and broader level. Welfare this year has been quite successful and we can be only confident in anticipation of Ahearn’s second term.