Shauna Young is a final year English and Sociology student at UCD, she is currently the Non-Alcoholic Events Officer within the Students’ Union, she is heavily involved with UCD DramSoc and has also acted as a Peer Mentor. Young believes that these experiences will give her an edge in the race for UCDSU Welfare Officer, the most contested race in this year’s Students’ Union Executive Election.

Young is competing against both Ciara Donohue and Jacob Miller for the role of Welfare Officer. This, however, does not seem to faze the 21-year-old who believes that her ideas are more “realistic” than those of her competitors. Young explains that her work within the Students’ Union and perhaps more importantly, her time working as an employee at the Student Centre has given her an advantage. “I’m well aware of the stuff that they [the SU] do, or rather, I’m well aware of the stuff that they cannot do.”

When asked for examples of promises made in her competitor’s manifestos that she believes are not possible, Young replied “rent strikes to protest high rents” – a proposal made by candidate Jacob Miller. “UCD will just evict the students if they strike. There are ways to go about it, but make sure that nobody is risking their security and where they’re living. It’s just kind of understanding that not everybody has the comfort of being able to find somewhere else immediately. While the rent is disgustingly high. It is a lot of people’s only option.”

Shauna Young - UCDSU Welfare Officer Candidate - Photo Hugh Dooley
Shauna Young – UCDSU Welfare Officer Candidate – Photo Hugh Dooley

When asked what she would seek to improve on from this year’s Welfare Officer, Young said that she would like to see more focus on “neurodivergent awareness, sexual health, mental health, physical health, and harm reduction.” However, she believes that Jill Nelis has done a good job this year and that Nelis isn’t given enough credit for her work, which is largely behind the scenes. Young added; “I think it’s the same with every Sabbatical Officer, they need to give themselves more credit for this stuff. If they’re doing stuff behind the scenes, why are they afraid to show it?”

The role of Welfare Officer includes a lot of casework involving students in vulnerable positions, when asked if promoting this work to the public would be appropriate, Young clarified her statement. “Not everything that happens behind the scenes has to be something heavy such as casework it is so important students come in and know that what they say is confidential. And if I was to start talking about casework, then that’s not confidential. I’ve gone to a Welfare Officer myself in the past, if I had even an inkling that it was going to hit the public stratosphere in any shape or form, I wouldn’t be happy, I personally would actually get quite upset about it.”

Young has made a point about being transparent throughout her campaign. At Hustings she shared that she has couch-surfed in the past while trying to find student accommodation and in her interview, she introduced herself as “an autistic individual, as a mentally ill individual and as a physically disabled individual.” While she notes that these qualities are not necessary to be a Welfare candidate, Young is adamant that these personal experiences will help her to better understand students who go to the welfare office for help and guidance.

A vote for Shauna Young is a vote for accessibility. In her manifesto she promises, among other things, to improve disability access within the Newman Building and to install sensory rooms in the Student Centre. But mostly, she promises to build on the work of the Sabbats who came before her. She claims that this is because “change is not just a snap of the fingers”.

Young further explains that real change involves liaising with university management and other powers within the university. “It’s not just burning bridges; it’s building them because you can’t make change if there’s no connection to the other parts of UCD.” This soft approach is reminiscent of the one taken by recent sabbatical teams at UCD; however, it is in stark contrast to the methods proposed by leading SU Presidential candidate, Miranda Bauer, who calls for there to be more direct action next year.

If there was a buzzword for Young’s campaign, it would be ‘blueprint’. Despite her experience within the Union and relationships with Student Centre staff, many of her solutions are talk and conversation-oriented.

For example, her approach to the counselling waiting list “It’s less of a resolution and more of a laying out of the blueprints for it to be fixed” and similarly, her desire for “updates” on the construction of buildings A, B and C in the UCD Village “I’m less campaigning for them to build more campaigning for updates. I think students deserve to know what the delay is.” Despite this, in a poll conducted by the College Tribune, Young is named as the most popular candidate, leading the race by a mere 3.2%.

There is no doubt that Shauna Young is passionate about Welfare and making the campus a better place for each and every student who chooses to study at UCD.

However, Young herself said that the current Sabbatical Officers act as “six individuals rather than a team” and that “there can’t be a Union if the team behind it aren’t in unity with each other. If I get elected for Welfare, I really want to make sure that my team know that we all are working with each other, not against each other.” Therefore, it will be interesting to see whether, if elected, she can step up and participate in the direct action that may be required and may even burn bridges.

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

Emma Hanrahan – Co-Editor