Welfare Officer review: Wel-fairy Godfather Part II

 
 

It is difficult to scrutinise Welfare Vice-President Scott Ahearn, as his tenure has provoked little controversy and the only pitfalls are minor ones that he himself highlights.

Ahearn rates the overall SU performance as having been high, and denies the belief that there was a slackening in SU activities following the November 3rd protest against third-level fees.

“In terms of each individual brief, Paul had successes, Jonny had successes, Pat definitely had successes and he’s just been elected and is staying on, James had successes like Arts Peer Mentoring and a range of other things with the library, and I feel myself that I’ve come out with successes. So as a team, I think we’ve done well in terms of the Save Our Ball campaign.”

He cites two Welfare Weeks as among what he regards as his best achievements over the year: “The aims of my Welfare Weeks were to promote me, promote what I do and promote what we have.” He is also proud of what he perceives as his achievements in Residences and his work for students suffering with mental health issues.

Ahearn’s immeasurable contribution to helping students with mental health issues has inspired his desire to study Social Work at postgraduate level following his next sabbatical year as USI Welfare Officer: “That one second pause where a person says ‘yes.’ You are probably the first person who this person has told; this person is contemplating killing themselves. You have to take it from their end, talk to them about, and see it from their end. Why is it they do that?”

Ahearn cites the biggest issue facing students this year as being finances. He investigated the system in place in other colleges in order to help implement better financial support services for students in UCD. While he says he will recommend a full-time Financial Support Officer to be implemented in UCD, as is the case in DCU, he admits that this will simply be a recommendation.

He did not simply work for the welfare of UCD students. He also worked for improved efficiency in terms of the role of Students’ Union Welfare Vice-President by establishing the Welfare Crew.

The Welfare Crew has served not only to assist the work of the Welfare Vice-President and to provide yet another opportunity for students to become engaged in college life, but it has also provided a platform for aspiring SU Welfare candidates, particularly the incoming Welfare VP, Rachel Breslin, of whom Scott is confident is ready to take the reigns and to continue and further his legacy.

He adds that September 2010 proved to be the most challenging period of his two-year tenure as Welfare Vice-President: “For me, September was the closest I’ve come to saying ‘there’s only so much that I can do’.” While finances have been cited as one of the major issues facing students at that time, Ahearn also believes that the situation on UCD Residences that month, when hundreds of students arrived on campus to discover their Res rooms were unavailable and that they would have to seek temporary accommodation for the first few weeks or term, was also prevalent.

Ahearn’s handling of the situation is difficult to criticise, as arguably, there was very little he could do except listen. “I’m very proud of what I’ve done with Residences, but that was incredible. To have angry mammies from Galway on to you; it was very difficult to manage that.”

Undoubtedly, Ahearn’s role in the initiation of the Meet Your Neighbour/Life Scheme cannot be undermined, and his recognition alone of the difficulties facing students living away from home from the first time is to be his credit, especially as he admits having thoroughly enjoyed the transition and living in Belgrove for the first year of his degree.

Overall, in both years of his tenure, it is difficult to find fault with the performance of the Welfare Vice-President. The queue outside his office of students with personal cases wishing to speak to him is testament to his approachability and the prevalence of Welfare across campus and in campus media reflects Ahearn’s stellar commitment to his role.

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