The Rent Protests earlier this year served as a vocal opposition towards UCD’s proposed rent hike on campus of more than 12% over the next three years. We asked the candidates running for Campaigns &Engagement Officer in the Students’ Union to outline how they would continue the movement during the COVID-19 lockdown. C&E candidate Rekha Vishnu Nagargoje did not respond to participate in this piece (and has since dropped out of the election race).
Due to our current situation, the Students’ Union (SU) need to pay attention and be adaptable. We can only campaign online for the moment, so the SU need to work with algorithms and post a know your rights campaign regarding rent to reach as many students as possible.
The SU need to allow people into the planning of future rent protests, having open Zoom meetings is a feasible way to achieve this. If people have no say in how the protests will proceed engagement could significantly drop.
Furthermore, the SU need to put pressure on UCD to make sure that rents are not raised even further to accommodate for the financial losses during this time. This can be done with online posts, and creating an email template that students can send to relevant bodies.
I hope that by involving students and keeping them updated, the passion from previous physical protests will continue until and beyond the time it is safe to be on campus again.
This campaign needs to build on momentum and move online in a manner sensitive to the current situation.
We need to ensure that it is accessible, owned by students and that everyone feels empowered to be a part of the movement.
We need to reach out to prominent alumni to exert pressure on management to roll back on their decisions. We need to work with TDs to put access to education and higher education funding at the top of the agenda of the new government.
We need to involve the wider student body through encouraging them to get in touch with their local TDs to lobby them on these issues.
Finally, the decision was made behind closed doors with no student reps in the room. Brian and I are working on a project aimed at strengthening the student voice on campus and enhancing the partnership between students and staff. In the medium-term, this is the best way to get all parties in the same book, if not on the same page. We cannot improve unless we can communicate effectively.
*Update: Katie has since dropped out of the election race.