Freshers’ Week means different things, depending on who you ask. Ask a bright-eyed young fresher, and they’ll tell you it is the most exciting thing that they have encountered in UCD. Ask someone who has been around for a few years, and they will tell you the two societies to join and the best table to steal pizza from.
Aside from the one or two new events, Freshers’ Week has remained a steady constant for as long as I have been in UCD. We see the same events, the same people and the same freebies. The Students’ Union will always give out free condoms and FilmSoc will always be doling out the popcorn. It is doubtless an exciting week for all involved, but one cannot help but feel that things need to be shaken up.
For those both new and not so new to UCD, it is time to look around you and ask what is actually happening. Look at the people who are representing you in all facets of your university life and question whether or not they are capable of this job.
The Students’ Union is in its third consecutive year of being a largely exclusionary face of students. Five young, white, straight males represent the entire student body to the university authorities, to the media and to the public in general. Given that UCD has only become more diverse over the last few years, where is the diversity in our union?
While certain individuals are doing their jobs to the best of their ability, this imbalance needs to be addressed. Campaigns and Communications Vice-President, Pat de Brún, has yet to announce any formal plans to encourage diversity in the SU, but something must be done. The only thing that differs these men from each other is the counties which they come from, and even then, four out of five are from counties that are relatively close to Dublin.
Women, members of the LGBT community, mature students and other minorities have made progress in the SU, but it seems as if the higher echelons are closed off to those who differ from a very narrow standard that UCDSU have set down for themselves.
Even in the people who work around the SU, only two women, the Editor of this publication included, work in the SU corridor. What message does this send to new students coming in, following the mantra that de Brún has been forcing on them in lecture addresses? The lack of visible diversity in UCDSU hardly encourages anyone even slightly different to “get involved”.
The best thing to do is listen to what they are asking you to do, only try something different. Do not become a part of the tired old clique, shouting and making in-jokes at SU council. Get elected for class rep or SU executive and try to affect real change. Do not go along with the sheep-like mentality that has infected SU council for the past few years. Go in there with thoughts and ideas of your own on how to affect real change and try your best.
Student politics must stop being a tired old boys club, churning out the politicians of the future. Its structures are there to protect students. While you may notice the efforts the SU sabbatical officers are going to in order to make sure you know their faces, make sure that they actually do what you are paying them for. It is no good having a students’ union you recognise, but who are doing absolutely nothing to help you on your journey through college.
Do not be afraid to use your executive officers if you want something to be talked about. Want to attend a debate on feminism? Make sure the women’s officer makes it happen. Feeling alienated and alone as a member of the LGBT community in UCD? Go to the LGBT rights officer and make sure you are taking advantage of all the services offered to you. Just as Students’ Union sabbatical positions are not there to send people straight to the Dáil, executive positions are not there to feed more members of the tired clique into sabbatical positions, thus fuelling the incestuous cycle of student politics.
Students’ unions can and have done excellent work for the rights of past, current and future students. It is now up to you to demand the best service that you can and make sure that your voice is heard among the rabble, because if you don’t speak up and demand better where you think you deserve it, no one will hear you.