There’s a well known song that tells us “everybody needs good neighbours”, and it was with pleasant surprise that we heard our own neighbours don’t view us as the social pariahs we had thought. That UCD’s surrounding inhabitants can view our presence here with a favourable eye rather than a scathing one is encouraging news for students, and will perhaps go far to dispel the long engrained stereotype that we are the bane on suburban existence.
What is worrying about the remarks of our extra-campus neighbours is that very few appeared to actively engage in the UCD Community Dr Martin Butler is so doggedly trying to build. The notion that those living in the surrounding areas do little to interact with their student neighbours surely isn’t the best news for Dr Butler’s endeavours. Using the campus for walks is one thing, but surely for UCD to be a true community, it can’t close the borders on those living just beyond the gates.
While we talk of a population of 22,000 students, the actual number of inhabitants of Belfield is closer to 2,500. At the weekend, that number drops even further. Developing the campus for this small a group is simply unsustainable – we need the surrounding community to start using the facilities here. A community project such as the Gateway one in a place like Belfield needs to incorporate the needs of the surrounding residential areas if it is to thrive. These are not people hoping to encroach on our library places or use all our plugs to charge their laptops, but they should be using our shops and restaurants, buying pints in our bars and supporting our football team.
If the results of our doorstepping the community were a pleasant surprise, the results of our official poll were no surprise at all. The fact that 47 per cent of students polled could not name any of the five sitting Sabbatical Officers is probably not a new phenomenon, and while some of the blame lies with the Officers of the Union, students must accept responsibility for their own ignorance.
With the elections only weeks away, it’s time to sit up and take interest in the Students’ Union again. While they might not be recognisable, some of them at least are working hard behind the scenes for our continued benefit.
And yet some are simply using their year as a year out from college, doing little in the way of helping students or indeed fulfilling the promises they made this time last year. The only way we can deal with Sabbatical Officers not pulling their weight is to make our voices heard – through our class reps especially. Ask questions of your class reps, find out if they’ve been to SU Council – many are absent on a regular basis – and ask them what your Union is doing for you this week.
The campus is about to bombarded with election material, and yet only two of the positions are to be contested in the election race. If this sorry trend is to be bucked next year, we need more students to get involved and take an interest in how the Union works.
Our Students’ Union is far from perfect, but for now it is our only voice, make sure it’s saying the right things.