Outgoing Welfare Officer Conor Fingleton’s seeming apathy let down UCD’s students, writes Bridget Fitzsimons.
It seems that this year, UCD students have been a bit short of welfare from their Students’ Union (SU). While Electrical Engineering student Conor Fingleton may have felt he “did do a good job, as good as I could have,” the statistics are simply not there to back up his own opinions. He feels that he has “had a very enjoyable year and I think I have helped a lot of students throughout the year,” but in a year when the Student Health Centre hours were reduced, the contraceptive clinic was removed and LGBT members were forced to pay for Pink Training, it seems as if welfare for UCD students has fallen by the wayside.
Last year, Fingleton presented an impressive manifesto that held a variety of promises. His victory over three other opponents was no doubt impressive, but the pressure was very much on for the year. Fingleton promised to bring a wide variety of services to UCD students, including a nightbus, new bike shelters, improved health centre hours and services and condom machines on campus amongst many other things. However, it seems as if the majority of the manifesto was put on the back burner for other projects this year.
Fingleton blames his lack of keeping his manifesto promises on the current economic climate and feels that “this time last year we did not know the situation we would have been in after twelve months. We didn’t foresee that there would be a world recession or an economic downturn.”
Oversights must be admitted on his part however, considering that budgetary cuts in UCD were inevitable considering the huge debt UCD is currently in. Fingleton feels differently, stating that “I don’t think it was an oversight to be honest. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the cuts that are happening in the university this time twelve months ago,” and that his manifesto “would have been feasible” a year ago.
Fingleton’s insistence on blaming his lack of activity on the recession is naïve at best and irresponsible at worst. In a year when financial problems were clear and obvious on the horizon, it was time for action and campaigning, not a relaxed attitude toward welfare.
It seems as if Fingleton’s weakness lay primarily in his lack of action. While this year’s SU has seen more than its share of campaigns and protests, it seems as if Fingleton missed the boat on this occasion. It seems as if when told he cannot do something by the university, he just accepts it, instead of readily campaigning.
“We didn’t foresee that there would be a world recession or an economic downturn”
Indeed, when asked if he fought to install condom machines in the on-campus residences as his manifesto promised he simply stated “we weren’t allowed. Residences just aren’t willing to do it. We just asked and it was rejected.” Then when asked if he felt the need to push further on the issue, he said “I didn’t think we would be able to.” This lack of active campaigning seems to be what has really failed Fingleton this year.
While not directly involving him, it is undoubted that the recent Please Talk funding queries reflected badly on Fingleton. Fingleton refutes this completely, saying that “I wouldn’t say there wasn’t any visibility but that was only going into setting it up in other places. The money wasn’t coming in to go into UCD.”
Please Talk experienced a dramatic drop in visibility on campus in the first semester. After serious questions were raised regarding the huge funding being pumped into the campaign, visibility was dramatically increased. He admits that he should have worked harder for Please Talk, stating that “I accept that I didn’t advertise it as much as I could have.”
Environment played a huge part in Fingleton’s manifesto. He promised, among other things, to increase the amount of recycling points on campus. Fingleton stated that he did not carry this out as “the way recycling is working now; there’s not a market for recycling. It’s not economically viable to recycle.” It seems that he has done a complete turn from his environmental policies contained in his manifesto, as he has on many elements of his manifesto.
Perhaps Fingleton was not aware of the job that awaited him. He admits that “there was a lot more work involved than I thought there would be,” and while he may have instigated some projects, such as the cheap condoms initiative, this came from the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). It seems that whenever Fingleton acted, it was at the command of a higher power.
His lack of drive meant that cutbacks happened and promises made in manifestos were forgotten. While some good happened, it was overshadowed by the lack of activity on every other level. While Fingleton may argue that he handled a large number of personal cases, the fact remains that the role of UCDSU Welfare Officer is more than personal cases.
He has let down students in need of contraception and healthcare and countless others due to apathy and lack of drive. It seems as if this year, inaction was far more harmful than any bad action.