On-Campus voting takes place on the 4th and 5th of April.  

Jill Nelis is a final-year English and Drama student from Belfast. She is running unopposed for the role of Welfare Officer. While her experience with the UCDSU and university structures is limited, Nelis has played a role in UCD DramSoc as their Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Officer. As the D&I Officer, Nelis states that this role allowed her to have face-to-face contact with the wider UCD community. 

A driving impetus behind her campaign is that, as a disabled student, she has received significant support from the SU and would like to now offer similar aid to other students. She further cites her personal experience as a “disabled queer woman” as a reason she is best suited to the role. She explains that this “does not lend itself to an easy time… and I have fought so many battles for myself.” 

Nelis’ campaign manifesto is anchored by 5 key points: housing, accessibility, equality, sexual health and consent and unity. Under the banner of housing, she has specifically pledged to reinstate policies prioritising the allocation of on-campus accommodation to students who live further from campus and to instigate a “phased release of housing”. 

Currently, UCD accommodation offers are entangled with the release of CAO results leaving many returning students unsure of their housing status right up until the beginning of the college term. Alleviating this concern would be of tremendous benefit to many UCD students.

The Welfare candidate fails to include other minority groups in her manifesto such as international students, students of colour and low-income students. However, she assures that she has “many plans to take an intersectional approach to [those] student groups.” Nelis notes that she did not include them in the manifesto because she “did not feel equipped to speak on the needs of these groups” as she currently does not know what they specifically want. Arguably this could have been a crucial research point when preparing her manifesto. 

She does note that it is “particularly important not to silence the voices of the minorities which [she] is not involved in” as she believes speaking for them “at this time… would be premature and vastly unfair on [her] part.” She explains a few loose ideas on how to address students of this cohort by stating she would like to continue anti-racism workshops and “make them much more regular”. 

Nelis does make some critical points on how to make the campus more accessible for disabled students. She proposes measures to combat two specific issues of accessibility on campus. Firstly, she wants to increase the servicing of access buttons to ensure a reduction in difficulties for disabled students. Secondly, she calls for a drastic improvement of campus laundrettes which she describes as “inaccessible and unhygienic”. As a student with first-hand experience of the accessibility (or lack thereof) of campus, Nelis’ proposals in this area are keenly attuned to the demands of the student populace who are most affected by issues of accessibility. 

Her plans to integrate those who feel disenfranchised in their UCD experience are too lacking detail to make one confident that they will be achieved. Additionally, her stated goal of improving the accessibility of transgender healthcare does not provide a roadmap for acting on such a large and complex proposal. 

Nelis disagrees, however, on the lack of specificity in her manifesto. She defends her manifesto stating that it is “actually [because] she will go above and beyond to do these things.” Elaborating on this, Nelis states that she does not want to limit herself to “one avenue of protest” or “help” as “times change rapidly and something… relevant two months ago may not be relevant now.” She further expresses the desire to be able to think on her feet and “act with the utmost efficiency while also completing the things on her manifesto.” 

On the previous Welfare Officer, Míde Nic Fhionnlaoich, Nelis feels that she “could have done the transition between the strict COVID regulations to the non-existent ones.” She notes that she feels she could do that better but neglected to further indicate how. Nelis further adds that she thinks she could “take a more hands-on approach to general accessibility on campus” than Nic Fhionnlaoich did. 

The criticism of Nelis’ attention to detail, however, cannot be justifiably extended to the specific pledges previously discussed in the areas of accessibility and housing. Here, Nelis’ manifesto is impressive, crafting concrete frameworks for action and clearly delineated goals. 

Conor Power – Politics Correspondent 

Additional reporting: Danielle DerGarabedian – Editor