Hometown: Cabinteely, Dublin
“You run for a position because you believe you’re the best person for the job,” says this year’s Gender Equality Co-ordinator, Rebek’ah McKinney-Perry, who is the oldest of the four candidates for this year’s race for the position of Welfare and Equality Officer of UCDSU.
A fourth year Law student, McKinney-Perry intentionally doesn’t promise too much in her manifesto. “My manifesto is fully feasible in my opinion,” she says. “I guess, having the year as Gender Equality [Co-ordinator], I’ve learned that my manifesto for Gender Equality [Co-ordinator] was very ambitious. I guess, while I got some of it completed, I didn’t get all of it completed.”
Her manifesto outlines her top five priorities (should she be elected) as; introducing an online counselling service, “Free Condom Fridays”, creating a better sense of community in UCD Residences, anti-sexism and anti-homophobia training for society auditors and the creation of a rent deposit loan scheme, in that order.
McKinney-Perry sees herself as the candidate with the most experience, saying that “I know how the system works and, because I have been around an extra two years than the other candidates, I think I do have that extra experience of knowing how realistic is it, what is the feasibility of these ideas?”
In this year’s race, the visibility of the Welfare and Equality Officer on campus has been mentioned by all four candidates as a priority issue, and McKinney-Perry is no different. “What should the Welfare and Equality Officer be? It should be a very visible port of call,” she says.
She also hopes to make students more aware of the myriad of services available to them. Certain services, she believes, are under-utilised due to lack of knowledge among students about their existence. “I don’t think [disability services] are advertised well enough, because they have fantastic resources available, and people are not making use of them.”
Other campaigns that she hopes to run include the “Free Condom Fridays” each and every Friday, and “Tea & Chats” for students living in each of the UCD Residence locations at least once a month. Residence is an area that McKinney-Perry feels was “let down a little bit this year” by all of the current SU Officers.
Although she acknowledges that the position of Welfare and Equality Officer is quite “time poor”, she believes that by giving greater responsibilities to faculty conveners and the co-ordinators on the Campaigns Forum, there will be time to achieve all of her goals.
On top of this, McKinney-Perry proposes to introduce a Res Officer for each of the residences on campus, as well as adding a Mental Health Co-ordinator to the Campaigns Forum, which would require a referendum that McKinney-Perry hopes could be held alongside the class rep elections at the beginning of the 2014/15 academic year.
Some ideas, however, will require greater cooperation from services within UCD with no direct connection to the Union. McKinney-Perry outlines a plan to reduce the cost of the morning-after pill in the UCD Pharmacy by either asking them to reduce rates to be closer in line with some cheaper pharmacies, or by the Union itself subsidising the cost, thanks to increased funding from corporate sponsorship.
In her manifesto, McKinney-Perry claims that she “will ensure a certain percentage of jobs on campus are allocated to students”, with the food service providers being the focus of this campaign. This is an example of something that she believes could be in place before students return from the summer break.
In terms of her own employment, McKinney-Perry proposes to take a 10% pay-cut if elected, with the money being saved to be redistributed back into the Welfare Fund. “Having been someone who has availed of the Welfare Fund, it is totally not tokenistic. It’s me saying ‘I have availed of this, if in any way I can help someone else avail of it, or even show my gratitude for the fund.’ I know people have suggested that it is perhaps populist but it is actually, on my part, completely genuine.”
A 10% pay-cut would represent around an additional €2,000 for the Welfare Fund, although McKinney-Perry says she would encourage the other three Sabbatical Officers to follow suit.
“I think it is a good gesture,” she says, “that we do take our jobs seriously. Even if that provided bus tickets for 100 students for the year, I would feel like I was doing good. It may be perceived as tokenistic, but it is genuinely not. It’s more that I’d like to show my gratitude and if I’m in a position to give back to a fund that has been very good to me, I would love to do so.”
Despite being involved with the Union since arriving at UCD in 2010, McKinney-Perry sees the need for breaking down the barriers between the average student and the “clique” of the SU.
“I think the SU needs to be more relevant and more localised. Again, harping back to my manifesto, that’s kind of my idea. Because I had been involved with the Union since I came to college, I have a certain view of the Union.” She explains.
“So when I was deciding to run for this position and writing my manifesto, I just went to a load of friends of mine who have had nothing to do with the Union… and said ‘what would make the Union more easier for you?’ … People only care what’s relevant to them.” Whether or not McKinney-Perry is the one to reignite students’ interest in the SU once more is still to be seen.
Opposing candidate profiles: