Graduate Officer candidate Kylie McCardel is a twenty-six-year-old final-year Master of Common Law student at University College Dublin. For McCardel, this course has been “a good two years” filled with “good professors and good people.” In an interview with The College Tribune, McCardle discussed her campaign in the final days before the voting opens.

Originally from Miami, the United States, McCardel spent five years living and studying in the Czech Republic before moving to Ireland two years ago to begin her master’s programme. She spoke warmly and enthusiastically about her hopes to stay in Ireland long-term, explaining, “It’s a great place to live, and there are great people. I’m really enjoying it and hoping to stay here long-term. I want to find a traineeship.”

McCardle was honest and endearing about the uncertainty surrounding graduation that led her to consider a Student Union position. She explained, “I was kind of on the fence at first because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next year”, an experience all too familiar to many students in the final year of their degree. She went on to explain, “I’ve been the disability rights campaigns coordinator for two years now, and I realized that I still have more want that I want to do, and there’s a lot of accomplishments that I want, and I think that would benefit the school. I just haven’t had the ability to yet”.

But what motivated her to choose to run for the position of Graduate Officer? McCardle did not hold back when expressing her profound disappointment at the treatment of university graduate workers. She explained how, on her path to deciding her next steps after completing her master’s degree, “I looked at doing a PhD, and you couldn’t live on the stipend. It’s disgustingly low”. She praised the hard work of the PhD students and the weight that they carry in keeping universities functioning, “these are people who are doing a lot of the teaching, doing a lot of the education for undergrads and graduate students, and they can’t afford to live in Dublin. It’s not fair”.

However, the poor payment of PhD students was just one of many challenges McCardel took issue with for graduate students. She described how “there needs to be a continued look towards unity and towards community for graduates in general”. Her compassion towards the social challenges faced by students was genuine and refreshing. She elaborated on her concerns for the social and situational challenges that graduates face: “The issue is you have such a big campus, and you know, getting people to integrate when they can’t or don’t want to travel very far is hard”.

But why should students vote for Kylie McCardel? The self-proclaimed “perpetual student” completing her third master’s program believes she has something to offer all students. McCardel spoke of her experience as one of the older candidates as a benefit to her campaign, allowing her to relate to the enormous diversity of ages in the student population. She explained how “I’ve been around universities for quite a long time, and I think I can interact with all age cohorts and can relate to the school aspect for the younger students, and also, I can relate to the fact that mature students don’t always have the easiest time being a student”.

McCardel’s Manifesto is “very well-rounded with four main points to help students”. It is clear, concise, and echoes her desire to benefit every student. She described: “My goals range from Smurfit to Richview to Belfield; I want to make sure that every student has the best opportunities they can on campus, and, of course, workers need to have better pay.”

Kylie McCardel, UCDSU Graduate Officer Candidate - Photo Hugh Dooley
Kylie McCardel, UCDSU Graduate Officer Candidate – Photo Hugh Dooley

A brief summary of these four main points in her manifesto is as follows:

Postgraduate Workers’ Rights:
For example, McCardel aims to fight for fair wages for postgraduate workers and will demand that the government tackle issues around sick, maternity, and parental leave and the inequality faced by international PhD workers.

Lower Fees:
This includes fighting to lower the tuition fees for universities and demanding the government increase funding for graduate entry courses.

Community Building:
McCardle plans to institute graduate student events and ensure equity of experience for Smurfit students, so they do not feel isolated from the rest of the university.

This includes demanding that recorded lectures be released and that the University for All accommodations are implemented and adhered to.

Simon van Beek, McCardel’s opposition for Graduate Officer, discusses housing as a key part of his campaign, something notably absent from McCardle’s manifesto.

McCardle explained that despite her decision not to include housing in her manifesto, “it is something that I do want to tackle”. She offered some criticism of her opponent’s approach to the housing crisis in his campaign, stating, “I think that saying that ‘no matter the cost, the building should be built’ is a little oblivious to the fact that students can’t afford to spend thousands on rent every month. You need to have something that’s affordable in addition to having actual housing”.

Despite this criticism of van Beek, McCardle was truthful and understanding regarding the challenges of campaigning for housing. She did not claim to have a solution to this problem or state specifically how she intends to combat this crisis if she is elected. She recognised that “it’s a very difficult balance” to achieve.

McCardle spoke kindly about some of the achievements of this year’s Graduate officer and current candidate for Student Union President Marc Matouc. She didn’t hold back in praising his work on the bus route from Smurfit to Belfield, amongst other things, stating, “Marc has done an amazing job with the bus route and, of course, the gym too. That was such a big game changer because before, it was basically a ghost town at Smurfit.”

She elaborated on his incredible efforts on the bus route and her sincere gratitude for his work, describing how before, “If you wanted to come to Belfield, you had to use the Dublin Bus, and that’s not always reliable”.

McCardle is focused on building on some of Matouc’s work and taking things to the next level: “There are things Mark did well, and I want to expand on those. I want to expand on the bus routes. I want to help people have access to where all the societies usually hold their events so that they can feel like they’re part of campus, not just in some satellite world.”

McCardel concluded this interview by describing herself as “the people’s candidate”, stating, “I really just want to make sure that if I am elected, I don’t want to institute something because I feel like it, but because it’s going to help everybody else”. Her passion for inclusion and a better university experience for graduate students was palpable throughout this interview.

Saoirse Wilson – Arts & Lifestyle Editor