Name: Bill Thompson
Hometown: Poole, England
Course: History and German
Opposing candidate profile:
Second year History and German student Bill Thompson believes his communication skills are the greatest asset that he will bring to the Undergraduate Education Office if elected. Viewing the role as being a problem solver and advocate on behalf of students, he feels the most important part of his job will be dealing with individual students.
“For all one might say, and for all I will espouse, what it comes down to is individuals… There are 25-odd thousand undergraduate students here [sic: the amount is actually closer to 17,000]. That is a big number, but that is 25,000 individuals and you can’t let down the individuals. It’s about personal cases,” he says.
While his communication skills may not be as “laconic,” or concise, as he describes, it is difficult to argue with him when he asserts that he presents a strong case. He is a confident speaker and seems keenly aware of the best way to approach the types of UCD officials he would encounter in the role.
This awareness is clearly a product of the experience he has gained in student politics; in school, as a class rep and this year as the International Students Co-ordinator. “Since I was about 14, I’ve been involved in student politics and representation at some level or another so I understand how academic systems work, I understand how boards work, and how students work as importantly as anything else… If you can bring yourself onto the level of the people you’re trying to bring an idea to, they’re much more ready to accept it.”
When asked to rate the performance of this year’s Undergraduate Education Officer, Adam Carroll, however, it is this focus on personal cases that Thompson criticises most harshly. “There haven’t been any big key initiatives… Others have done a lot of admirable day work, but I do think there is room for some bigger initiatives to be pushed through.”
Naming the reopening of the James Joyce Library on Sundays as the last major achievement by the Education Office in the SU, Thompson hopes to focus his energy on lowering resit fees and streamlining the registration system, as what he calls his “marquee campaigns.”
However, he believes these are relatively basic goals. “I’m not necessarily offering anything particularly out there or beyond, but I’m a very realpolitik kind of person; what’s achievable, what can we do, what workable. I don’t want to promise something absolutely out there and then not be able to deliver on it. I want to aim to work on things that are deliverable.”
Though not one of his flagship campaigns, Thompson also hopes to ensure all of UCD’s libraries are open seven days a week. He believes compromise will be necessary on the opening hours on other days in order to ensure that Sunday openings in each library are financially viable.
“There are students who do not necessarily need the James Joyce Library, who need their specialised libraries. I want to make sure they have the same level of access as everyone else. This could mean cutting back, in order to make sure there are Sunday openings, even during peak times.”
The lowering of re-sit fees and an increase in library opening hours are promises made year in, year out at election time, and promises Education Officers regularly fail to deliver on. However, Thompson is confident that these are very achievable plans on his behalf.
He believes changes in the University Management Team, not limited to UCD’s new President, Professor Deeks, marks “a wind of change in the air,” which he feels will be to his advantage. “I believe this is the time we can stick a flag in the ground and say ‘Look, everything’s changing. There’s new opportunity, there’s a fresh chance. The way things have been for the last few years; that’s changed now. It’s the time for change.’”
Focusing strongly on possible opportunities created by these changes, it seems beyond this Thompson hasn’t thought much about the actual feasibility of his campaigns. While he is confident his negotiation skills are strong, it appears the actual logistics and the realities of the situation have surpassed him.
He asserts, in his own defence, in terms of viability, much will depend on the situation he finds himself in next year. “I’m not necessarily looking at this point to nail down campaigns and specific strategies because I believe it’s something where you have to see how the land lies, see who you’re working with, see how everything is.”
Since the new constitution came into effect, class reps have been the responsibility of the Undergraduate Education Officer, something that has been largely ignored this year. Thompson seeks to focus more on this area, by giving reps more responsibility and authority, as well as offering them more support.
He hopes through this to increase engagement with the Union. “I think that by making class reps a more obvious point of contact, a more obvious rallying point for their class to take issues to, to take concerns, to take ideas to them, then you can really open up the Union through that.”
Thompson appears to have a good understanding of the Union, and seems committed to taking the role further, to campaign on the education issues that are affecting students on campus. While personal cases are a large element of the job, each year Education Officers are criticised for not being visible enough outside the walls of their office, and a determination to change that can only be a good thing.
Opposing candidate profile: