Conor Fox asks James Atkinson why he should be our Campaigns and Communications Vice-President
According to final year Commerce student and Campaigns and Communications candidate James Atkinson, “communications is one of the biggest problems facing the SU…students don’t know enough about the Union and especially about the services it provides”. Twenty year old Atkinson wants to change the way the Union communicates and make it less of an alien organisation for students. Speaking to the College Tribune, he expresses the view that, “it’s not a case that I’m better than [the other candidates], it’s the fact that I’m better than anyone for the job.”
Brendan Lacey’s performance this year as C&C Officer disappointed Atkinson and it was one of the reasons he decided to run for the position. “He was not held accountable enough…he wasn’t responsible enough to manage the duties he should have been doing”. To counter this, Mr. Atkinson sees himself as “professional, approachable, reliable and accountable…I’m not a Union ‘hack’…I have an objective point of view”. He sees himself first and foremost as a student “who’s trying to make the place better”.
In relation to the accountability of officers, Atkinson has big plans for change. If elected, he intends to publish his accounts online and would encourage all other Officers to do the same. He wants to see a fixed budget for the C&C Officer, so they “can start the year with a plan.” As vice-auditor of the Commerce and Economics Society, Atkinson tells the Tribune that he feels that “considering the Union’s in a million euro debt, you need commerce graduates in there, people with experience”.
Another key issue for this candidate is the students’ connection with the Union. Complaints are rife about the state of UCDSU’s website, something the Wexford native completely agrees with: “it’s shocking; it’s absolutely the worst website ever!” He informs the Tribune that he’s currently building a new website for free to show how easy it would be to rebuild the Union site.
Atkinson also promises to make video reports on Union activities every two weeks (stating that if he misses one, he will donate €50 to the Welfare fund). He applauds Rachel Breslin’s recent SHAG week video, but ask: “how many times have you seen a fun engaging video from the Union?” He feels that the Union needs to connect with its members: “humour is vital if you want to reach student masses.”
Among several main issues facing the sabbactical candidates in this year’s race are the Union’s stance on ‘free fees’, the upcoming Constituional Referendum and UCD’s affiliation with the USI. Atkinson is dealing with these issues head on.
He feels that free frees are unlikely to happen as it is “unrealistic”. He points out that despite the campaigns, the Student Contribution Fee has risen each year. “I would be in favour of obviously educating students and obviously not leaving them with a whole pile of debt…but I would be in favour of putting it to referendum and getting students informed.” He believes that a rise in the Student Contribution Fee may affect students more than a loan scheme or a graduate tax as it is upfront payment: “mothers and fathers literally don’t have that.”
In relation to the upcoming Constitutional Referendum, Atkinson states that he will vote for it to be passed, believing that the fact that Officers may be penalised for not doing their job properly will mean “the fear” will be an incentive for Officers to work. The passing of the Constitution will abolish the position of Campaigns and Communications Officer, however he feels that while it removes the title of the position, it does not remove the duties. Overall, Atkinson imagines that in theory the Constitution will improve the Union.
When asked his thoughts on UCDSU’s affiliation with USI, Atkinson says that he is in favour of a referendum. If elected, he would not campaign actively for either side, but would hope to be “actively involved in getting a debate going”. On a personal level, he says that he would choose to disaffiliate as it is a sixth of UCDSU’s budget.
Finally, as crops up every year, is the complaint from students over the cost of class rep training, which many feel should be held on-campus. A former class rep, Atkinson says that if he is elected, he will look at all the options and run “a cheap as class rep training as possible”.
However, he concedes that it is still likely to take place off-campus. He feels that if training is off-campus “you can build a sense of community…you have to bond [reps] together to give you an effective crew”.
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