Name: Feargal Hynes
Hometown: Wexford Town, Co. Wexford
Feargal Hynes is the sole candidate for SU President this year. Although it has been common in the past for the role of President to be uncontested, this will most likely be the first time in five years the role has not been filled by a former sabbatical officer.Hynes, who hails from Wexford, says that he decided to run because he felt that there was a lack of engagement between UCD students and the Union. “I went to concentrate solely on final year and I took a step back from Ents and I chose not to run for class rep and the Union Council and I found out how little engagement there was between the Union and the student body.”
Hynes argues that this is because the Students’ Union has been waiting for students to come to them rather than the other way around. “This idea of them coming down to the corridor is simply not good enough because they’ve been elected to represent the students and they have to take the first step of engaging with the students.”
Hynes believes that the three biggest issues facing students at the moment are fees and grants, mental health and balancing the focus on education with the need to create a sense of community on campus. He argues that, “the level of camaraderie and the level of atmosphere in campus at the moment were at a worrying low, I think, in the past year.”
Hynes’ four-point plan for better communication with students involves video updates, lecture addresses, presidential open hours and SU clinics in a different faculty every week.
Hynes’ experience in Ents shines through in his manifesto as he has placed moving the UCD Ball back on campus as one of his top priorities. Citing the post-show report from the O2 last year, which showed there were no serious incidents, Hynes believes that the proof is there that UCD students can act responsibly and are deserving of trust.
“We worked vigorously on an alcohol policy that, while it got a good reaction from the authorities, they were not comfortable with it on campus again so we’ve been in the O2 last year and obviously we’re in the O2 again this year.
“Last year we had no serious events, we had no arrests or serious incidents in the post-show report and if you compare that to other shows that have happened up in Belfast and Phoenix Park it shows that there is a strong level of responsibility among students… The vast majority of people are there to have a good time and to enjoy it.”
He has also suggested introducing a UCDSU app which would inform students of all the different society events on campus, provide a feature to get onto the guestlist of clubs and offer a “Groupon-esque option on it for a meal of the day, maybe in one of the Students’ Union outlets.”
While Hynes’ experience lies in Ents, he believes that the most important service provided by the SU is welfare. “I think maybe the reason it’s most important is that these are the students who need the service the most… it’s irreplaceable.”
Hynes plans to ask for a substantial commitment towards mental-health services. “I want to see medical and mental health facilities to meet the basic requirements of the students in one year and world-class facilities within three years.”
Hynes sets out a long-term plan for the reduction of exam resit fees. “I want to reduce it by €25 a year for three years. I think we’ve been naïve as a union to come in, bang down the door and say ‘we want a reduction of €100 this year’… We have to be realistic, the university is in financial difficulty as nearly every university in the country is.”
With the upcoming referendum on marriage equality, Hynes plans on running a voter registration drive during Orientation and Freshers week, as well as a #UCDSaysYES campaign. “It’s about equality and not about a preference. It’s the most historically significant referendum that someone of my age, of 21, has ever had a chance to vote in so we need to promote the seriousness and the importance of this referendum.”
Other plans include protecting student grants, changing the Graduate Education Officer portfolio to take on more of a welfare role, moving the res application to before summer break and providing support to the nurses campaign for fair pay and working hours.
When questioned about how he would deal with a stand-off with the university, Hynes said he would exhaust all options. While he was not opposed to marches or sit-ins he believed that the support wasn’t there among students.
Regarding fees, he stated that while it was a big issue for students, there wasn’t the “appetite to fight it in the way we did in the past… We need to have a conversation about the future of third-level funding and I think it’s something that the Union and all of the students need to be involved in.”
Hynes reiterated throughout that the power of the Students’ Union came from the students. “I don’t believe that we as a union can properly represent the students if we’re not engaging and we don’t fully understand what they want to be represented on… It’s just about realising that the power of the Union is in the student; it’s not in the corridor.”
While many of the plans put forward by Hynes seem like a reiteration of what students will feel they have heard before, he argued that the focus on ‘simple, effective’ plans as well as working with a new, more student-focused university management team would help him achieve his goals.