Saskia (20) is a well-qualified candidate for the position of UCDSU Campaigns and Engagement officer. Her CV ticks all the right boxes from involvement in the European Youth Parliament to the Irish Secondary School Students Union.

The stage-two politics and international relations student ran a quiet campaign in favour of rejoining the Union of Students in Ireland last year. Yet her campaigning didn’t start then, “‘I’ve been doing the whole activism thing, since I was 12 years old with different youth groups and stuff. So I’ve always been, for want of a better word, politically active. I’ve always believed in standing up for what I think is right.”

“I always considered running, but I thought it would be after my degree, but what pushed me to run this year? I was up on the fifth floor of the library and someone had written on a poster calling for a ceasefire saying ‘Hamas is ISIS’ and ‘Islamic genocide’. I was like, I won’t stand for this.” Saskia explains it was this interaction which set her on the path to running, deciding to take a proactive step to campaign for what she thinks is right in UCD.

The USI campaign she ran last year was ultimately unsuccessful in rejoining the national union due to not reaching quorum. She now says she would not want to rejoin the national student union.

Saskia McCormack Eiffe – UCDSU Campaigns & Engagement Officer Candidate, Photo by Hugh Dooley
Saskia McCormack Eiffe – UCDSU Campaigns & Engagement Officer Candidate, Photo by Hugh Dooley

“I suppose even though I ran the yes campaign in last year’s referendum, I ran it moreso to get people talking about USI, and in fairness it got people talking. But over the past year, I have seen how well we in UCDSU have done by ourselves and we have even partnered with USI on campaigns such as the “It’s raining now” protest. I think that we are flourishing by ourselves at the minute and by staying independent we can focus on UCD-centric issues while also working in conjunction with USI on national movements. Additionally, I think if we were to rejoin we would lose our seat at various boards and organisations that we have worked hard to get.”

She says she learned a lot from the campaign experience she got from running the USI campaign. “I did learn I needed an actual campaign team, last year it was just me! I was just running around the place with the posters until they were gone!”

“In the past year, I’ve had more organisational roles and different things, such as being on the Politics Society executive committee.”

It’s not just a year of campaigns experience under her belt, but also a year of UCD experience. A year she has spent commuting to the Belfield campus has taught her the value of on-campus accommodation and the struggles of commuter students. As a result, she has pledged a number of initiatives and campaigns to ease their journeys – from rerunning the now traditional digs drive to performing a survey of commuters to “receiving feedback from students who take different bus routes to campus.”

One word that comes up a lot in her manifesto is ‘lobby’ but what does it mean to Saskia? And how can students judge whether she was successful in her lobbying?

“So voice lobbying, or whatever it’s genuinely is a bit of an empty word, I have to say. It’s just for lack of a better word, that I put it into the manifesto a good bit. Just honestly, we have to sit down with the university management and with estates [services] and let them know “This isn’t working, this isn’t sustainable”.

“They’re promising the moon they’re not giving us anything. So it’s just lobbying management and letting them know that these are the student experiences and this is what’s going to happen if we cannot get students into affordable accommodation.”

But how will she mobilise students? How will she build up that grassroots campaigning?

Saskia believes that UCDSU does not use its class representatives enough, “we don’t use our Class Reps as much as we should. Our strength is in our numbers, and our numbers are the Class Reps.”

Like many of the other sabbatical officer candidates this year, Saskia also wants to move the SU back into Building 71, she believes this will increase engagement “by getting back into the heart of campus because we are out of the way down in the Student Centre.”

She recognises that the SU can seem unapproachable, “if you’re wanting to go [to the SU you have to] walk all the way across campus. By getting us back into the heart of campus, we’re right there. People can just drop in.”

“If you have to make appointments, it can make the SU seem unapproachable sometimes. I know myself when I was in my first year, I kind of didn’t feel like I could approach the SU.”

While Saskia has points in her manifesto on various social issues, beyond lobbying it seems the radical line in the union will need to come from the President. Saskia has a deep knowledge of the SU and a track record of enthusiastic campaigning. If her passion for reforming the SUSI system is conveyed to politicians, her lobbying efforts may well be successful.

You can vote for your preferred SU candidate, either online or on-campus, on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of April.

Hugh Dooley – Co-Editor