Running for the position of UCD Students’ Union President Marc Matouc offers something very different to the average UCDSU candidate in recent years. Instead of the main focus being on the political, he wants to focus on reviving the “dead” atmosphere on campus.

Two years ago, Matouc took a leave of absence from his Masters in Geopolitics and the Global Economy to run for graduate officer during the by-election caused by the UCDConfessions Reopen Nominations campaign. During his first campaign, Matouc loved a buzzword – with his desire for “collective coalitional action” – and he had a strong passion for bringing back a “more vibrant college vibe”. In both of those senses, nothing has changed.

Marc has learned a huge amount from his two terms as Graduate Officer, explaining that “after this last two years I have grown more confident, I’ve made a lot of great friendships, lifelong connections and I have seen what I can do when I put myself to the test.” During this time, Marc has been busy, hurrying around campus with his distinctive determined walk.

Now he’s determined to win election to the role of President, so I asked him why: “I’ve seen the academic, I’ve seen the welfare, I’ve seen the overall student experience and the politics. I think I have a general well-rounded holistic experience,” he said, “And I think my manifesto, and how I’ve developed relationships with people, resonates with a lot of people. So I said, why not? I’ve been told I should run for it as well and I feel like some parts of my job have gone beyond the role of just Graduate Officer.” Matouc explains that during his two years as Graduate Officer he felt a desire to connect with more than just grad students and expand his plans to improve the atmosphere and environment beyond the remit of his current role.

Marc Matouc, UCDSU Presidential Candidate 2024 - Photo by Hugh Dooley
Marc Matouc, UCDSU Presidential Candidate 2024 – Photo by Hugh Dooley

Matouc’s selling point is his desire to change the direction of the union, from what he perceives as an over-political entity to something which will focus on students’ needs.

“Generally speaking, I think there’s been an issue – and I have raised it before – where there isn’t a strong balance in the Students’ Union. What we need to focus on specifically is the overall community and localise our targets to the campus rather than focusing on what some might call a tunnel vision on politics. Everybody I go to; everybody I speak to – whether it’s from different societies or clubs or the clubhouse bar – everybody’s felt that way. They feel like the SU has become too political.”

Does Marc feel that way? “I feel like there’s an over-focus on politics here. I definitely think we do focus a bit too much on that. Having said that, I want to get this on the record; there should always be a contingent, a section of the SU that should always be political, that’s important,” Matouc insists. Though he notes, “But while there’s really important, wider societal issues going on – and I think that’s incredibly important to keep getting involved with – there’s stuff in our own backyard, that we don’t attain to [sic].”

Asked whether Matouc believes the SU should ever be a political entity, he responded that it should be “somewhere in the middle” of political and a-political. This desire to move the focus of the union to more local issues can be seen in his manifesto which doesn’t reference the housing crisis. I asked him why one of the biggest issues and a cause of the problems he identified on campus wasn’t on the manifesto the SU returning office printed off and was relegated to just one of 33 planned Instagram posts.

“I would like to reiterate that the leaflet you have in front of you is [not my full manifesto] I feel miscommunicated to by the union to begin with.” Matouc feels that there was a lack of clarity from the union, “Last year, we were told to bring in manifesto leaflets. So they didn’t say specifically, give us all of your manifesto points, like it wasn’t implicit. On my real manifesto, on my full one, I do have a dedicated section purely to housing, the cost of living and the PWO as well. That’s an important part of it.”

When it comes to housing, Matouc seems frustrated with how little success the union has had in affecting change, “I’m trying to find new ideas, I’m thinking of fresh ones. At the end of the day we’ve been pushing for these protests for the last five years. So what I am saying to students is, let’s try some of the old, some of the new!”

On the topic of new and fresh, I asked him if it was time for new faces to come into the SU, instead of sabbatical officers staying for a third year, Matouc vehemently disagreed with this assertion, “No, no, not at all.” “I’d say that it’s a good sign that somebody sticks around for three years, do think that three years of anything in the SU should possibly be a limit. But in any job, it takes about six to 18 months to fully feel comfortable at something.”

Matouc’s manifesto is light on specifics, he puts this down to the role of President being, in his eyes, primarily a leadership position which will allow the other elected officers to focus on their own manifesto promises, with Matouc enabling them and pushing the other officers: “The job of the president is to lead, to be the spokesperson for the team. There are other manifestos in place, from welfare, from campaigns, and from every other sabbatical officer that have more specific, more widespread resolutions to problems. It’s my job to give them that foundation, to give them support, to push them up.”

Matouc wants to reconnect, rebuild and revive the ‘pro-covid’ environment on campus, however, Matouc was not in UCD before the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this, much of Marc’s manifesto centres around reviving and rebuilding after the pandemic.

The centre of these proposals is Building 71, into which he wants to move the Students’ Union in order to be more central and accessible for students. He says the idea is likely to manifest in the future, but said he couldn’t discuss specifics by reason of confidential discussions. Matouc believes getting back into Building 71 (left) will help with the engagement problem on campus by connecting the Union to a key social space on campus.

Another way he plans to drive engagement is with consolation prizes or participation certificates for candidates who take part in the SU elections and lose. When asked if this could come across as condescending or patronising for unsuccessful students, Matouc replied saying, “I think you have got to have a big ego to think that that’s condescending. Absolutely there is the personal goal and the personal sense of achievement [if you win], but I’ll tell you something, I’d rather have something to show for it if not.”

His opponent promises to get a living wage for the SU Shops staff, asked why he did not opt to include this on his manifesto, Matouc replied, “As far as I’m aware, my opponent doesn’t have a background in finance, and neither do I. I think people are sick of empty promises, but I will absolutely fight for a living wage.”

“You said earlier about things being patronizing, I’ll tell you what’s patronizing. What’s patronizing is insulting the intelligencia of the student body and saying like ‘Oh, yeah, I’m definitely just going to increase the minimum wage’. I definitely want that to be something on my list, I think there’s room for that. But I’m not going to promise it to the students because I don’t think that’s realistic. I think that’s what the students want. I think they want an honest leader.”

Marc said that students should vote for him instead of his opponent Miranda Bauer as “I’ve got more experience. I think I’ve got more freshness. I’m an outsider who knows a lot of the inside knowledge as well.”

His pitch boils down to experience, he believes his time as Graduate Officer has offered him more experience on boards and committees and given him an insight into both UCD campuses.

“She doesn’t have the experience, the Campaigns and Engagement Officer position does not have experience on 25 academic boards welfare, I’m what’s known as a welfare officer. I see people every day that come into me and talk to me about their issues. I’ve got that experience, I’ve got two years’ worth of it.

“And above all, I have an audience with people like Orla Feely. I’ve had that working relationship for over a year now, my opponent doesn’t.”

Finally, I asked Matouc how he would like his presidency, should he be elected, to be remembered: “I want them to say that he was a Firestarter that he was like a genuine man of the people, you know what I mean? And above all, I think I think somebody who was a connector.”

Hugh Dooley – Co-Editor