It often seems that the President and four Vice-Presidents of UCD Students’ Union are at their most visible and approachable before they hold those positions at all. In the first week of March each year their faces appear on 300 posters, 1,000 manifestoes and 4,000 flyers all over campus, asking us to elect them as the leaders of our representative body.
Visibility and relevance is a constant problem for the SU, but when placed in the context of the work undertaken by the five sabbatical officers it is one that we ought to expect, rather than something we should argue with a degree of cynicism.
Many students complain that the five officers live in a kind of ivory tower – a bubble in which they can only comprehend a small fraction of what it is to be a student.
The sad truth is that this perception is one that likely cannot ever hope to be addressed. Given the increasing red tape under the presidency of Dr Hugh Brady, and the ever-growing list of committee meetings the SU’s sabbatical officers are required to sit in on, it is almost impossible for them to be able to fully relate to the current student experience, if they are to be in a position to effect the change demanded of them by their constituents.
Of course, the sabbatical officers can always do more to retain the common touch, and to keep their ear to the ground in terms of the problems their fellow students are facing. But a successful SU officer is not necessarily one who can be seen out and about the campus every day of every week: it is one who can strike the balance between retaining their human touch and keeping track of the demanding bureaucratic schedule handed to them by UCD itself.
It is unfortunate that this year’s crop of prospective officers seem to tick all of the same boxes: all seven are male, all have prior SU experience or are heavily involved in campus societies, and all acknowledge that the promises in their election manifestoes are almost entirely contingent on the financial situation of the university – and of their own Union – for the year ahead. It is a crying shame that, for the second year running, there will be no elected female presence on the Students’ Union corridor. Where this culture has developed from is a difficult question to answer and one that requires the student body to look critically at itself.
But irrespective of the fact that there are so few candidates running in this year’s elections, and although their demographic profile might not be fully representative of the membership, the seven men seeking your support in the SU elections deserve to be commended for taking the brave step of putting their names forward for approval or rejection by their fellow students. We can only wish them well in their election campaigns, and hope that the five who win the privilege of representing us can make the best contribution they can to bridging the gap between our union and ourselves.
Following recent correspondence received by this newspaper, The University Observer would like to clarify its policy on dealing with student bereavement.
Sadly there are far too many student bereavements each year in UCD, of which the Observer is not – and nor has a right to be – automatically informed of. While the frequency of student passing is of regret to everyone in UCD, including ourselves, it would be inappropriate for us to report selectively on any student deaths.
If the Observer asserted a right to report on all student deaths, we would undoubtedly find many bereaved parties rightfully questioning our place to report on the deaths of students we do not personally know. We fully respect the right of the friends and family of any deceased student to grieve in their own time, and in their own individual manner.