Hometown: Greystones, Wicklow
Course: Veterinary Nursing
Currently the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Co-ordinator of UCD Students’ Union (SU), Sam Blanckensee is another candidate going for the role of Welfare and Equality Officer that has been involved with initiatives focused on promoting welfare and tackling inequality for a number of years.
Blanckensee believes his experiences in secondary school, his work with youth groups such as BeLonGTo, and involvement in UCDSU demonstrate that he is more than capable to fulfill the requirements of the role.
“I’ve been working on specifically mental health all through school. I have been working in BeLonGTo, which is the LGBT youth organisation, since I was about 17-years-old and I was a facilitator there for a few years so I was working on mental health, sexual health workshops.
“I was giving a lot of workshops myself, around a lot of LGBT issues, but also around mental health and sexual health. I was working with the Welfare Crew quite a bit this year, as far as whatever work it did I was involved with, and I’ve been working with Cian [Dowling] throughout the year.
“As the Welfare Officer for the LGBT society, I’m Safe TALK-trained and have been working on personal cases. So there’s been about ten personal cases I’ve been working on throughout the year on a range of issues; whether that was coming out or mental health.”
On a personal level, Blanckensee feels very excited and enthusiastic about the upcoming elections, and feels that would be translated into the role of Welfare and Equality Officer if he were to be elected. “I’m excited… When I get a role I want to be able to put 100% into it, and I think I’ve definitely shown that this year as LGBT Co-ordinator and Welfare Officer for the society. I really have put my 100% into it.
“The stuff that I’ve done this year hasn’t been done in a few years and I think that’s what you really need in a Welfare and Equality Officer. You also need to be approachable, and I do feel that I’m an approachable person. I’ve been through a lot of the things that you will have to come across in the welfare position. I’ve been through mental health stuff myself.”
When talking about some of the prime issues that affect students on campus right now, Blanckensee singles out and assesses how openness is a serious problem on campus. “I think UCD students are really struggling to talk about things in general.
“I think openness on campus is hard to come across, so whether that’s trying to impress your new friends when you’re in first year or just not wanting to open up about something because it’s too close to home when you’re in later years; it’s very much trying to make people be open.”
However, expanding on this solitary issue, Blanckensee says, “The three top issues, Cian [Dowling] would say he’s dealing with everyday are the personal cases he would get in, [which] would be, crisis pregnancy, mental health and finances. Those are kind of the top three that UCD students are dealing with on a day to day basis.”
With the Welfare and Equality race so well contested, it is key for candidates hoping to be elected to stand out from the rest. Some of Blanckensee’s personal ideas include the suggestion of putting in place a night bus service for students on UCD Residences to avail of.
“I want to bring in a night bus, which is something that, it’s been tried before, it’s failed before, but I think that if you can do it in a kind of business smart way I think it could really help students go on nights out. And from Monday to Wednesday you’ve got no NiteLink to get home.
“I know myself, living so far away from campus, I commute, so it takes me an hour and a half to get back home even from UCD. But on nights out, on Thursdays and Fridays there’s a NiteLink, and Saturdays, but the days that students go out is Monday to Wednesday.”
Although it is a broad term, Blanckensee does believe that he can also make the position more “fun” to be involved with. “I’ve seen different campaigns such as the living library. Basically it’s where humans are books; so these human books have different titles per se; so maybe a homeless person, an alcoholic and these people are put on UCD campus and people can check out the books. And they can ask this book whatever questions they want for 15 minutes once they don’t hurt the book, and it’s to try to reduce stigma. It’s quite an interactive campaign
“There’s also a ball pool where every ball has a question on it and two people sit in the ball pool and they sit there for say 15 minutes, and they talk to each other and they make friends from this ball pool and from asking each other questions.”
Blanckensee also places a significant emphasis on aiming promote sexual empowerment should he be elected to the role. “I’ve an awful lot of experience with sexual empowerment because it’s something that really big at the moment in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s something that is so core.
“Sexual empowerment is a new way of looking at sex where it’s about talking about sex, communication and that’s exactly what I want to try to bring on campus; where having poster going ‘So you want to have better sex?’ And literally talking about sex. Being the person who goes ‘yeah, but sex is cool, sex is fine.’ Sex is something good if you want to have it.”
There is no doubt that Blanckensee is an enthusiastic candidate. He has much experience having worked as part of the Welfare Crew, completed his Safe TALK training, and through his involvement in the LGBT Society and his work as LGBT Co-ordinator of UCDSU gained an understanding of what issues students are worried about.
This work with the SU gives him an understanding of how the organisation works, but more so gives him a grounding in the compassionate and empathetic abilities that are needed for the role of Welfare and Equality Officer.