UCD Confessions needs no introduction. The infamous social media page with over 18,000 followers has quickly cemented itself into the culture of UCD. The Instagram account, best known for publishing the innermost thoughts and feelings of UCD students, made waves last week when instead of providing the usual instalment of gossip, posted a campaign to re-open nominations for the UCDSU elections. This year the UCDSU elections are largely uncontested with all the main Sabbatical Officer positions being awarded to ‘SU hacks’, many students have since complained about the lack of transparency and engagement within the union and brought the legitimacy of the UCDSU into question. 

The College Tribune spoke to the creator of the page to understand the motivations behind this seemingly-sudden dive into student politics and to learn more about what it’s like to be the confidant of an entire university. 

1. Why are you beginning to talk about SU politics now? Is there a specific event that is leading to your involvement or is it regarding the number of election candidates?
I’m not usually a political type of person, but after seeing several hundred confessions upset about how this election is going, with 6 candidates in 6 positions, all being in essentially the same course I felt I had to speak up. We can’t just accept the only candidates that applied. It’s a flawed system that has to change.”

2. What are you hoping to achieve with the RON campaign against the Sabbatical Officers?

“I’m hoping that this flawed system will change. I know tons of people that want to hold one of the 6 current sabbatical roles, but they are not willing to take a full year off. That’s not reasonable for most people and [just having] 6 people running reflects that I received suggestions from students about making these roles part-time instead. Having 3 part-time students per role, I think that would be amazing and they would get paid (so there would be an incentive), this would increase student participation in the union.”

3. Do you think it is realistic to expect three students to be as effective as one full-time officer?

“Totally, [having] 3 students creates a team and increases diversity, a big issue I never previously thought about, with no people of colour ever being in the SU Sabbatical positions in the past 5+ years. [There is a] lack of different course representation as well.”

4. If you successfully RONed a candidate, would you run in the by-election?
I would consider running as a part-time candidate! Getting paid €6,000 would be great while making the place I love better.”

5. If you ran, would you consider revealing your identity to gain support from students?
Hmmm, I haven’t thought about that yet tbh, but I’ve been at UCD for a long time and read over 15,000 confessions. So if anyone knows what the people really want it’s me.”

6. Your account is based on the amplification of student voices, you now seem to be finding your own voice on student politics, is this a result of these confessions?
100% Imagine if I made you read over 500 confessions frustrated with the Students’ Union, you’d want to do something about it as well.”

7. In a previous interview, you mentioned that the SU reaching out to ask you to encourage students to vote in SU elections was a highlight of running the account. Would you say your attitude towards the SU has disimproved since then? If so, why?
Yes, it has [disimproved]. I was having calls with the SU President [Ruairí Power] this year (A really nice guy by the way) and I made clear exactly what students wanted. But, regarding the results, I saw from our meetings, no change was made. I realised I’m not watching this for another year [I] had to speak up about it and propose a way to improve this broken system. Even Ruairi [Power] agrees the engagement is a joke, but why is that? Are we just going to blame the students like past SU members? No, it stems from not feeling represented by the union.”

8. What have the reactions been to you posting about re-opening nominations?
Oh the comments were a war zone, I was shocked. I saw some SU members from 5 years ago or more, including old presidents, commenting [and] hating on the idea of fixing this broken system. It’s easier to deny a problem than it is to fix it. But the students have been so supportive, I was amazed!  ‘Thanks for speaking up for us,’ So many congratulatory DMs ‘Thanks for standing up for the silent majority’.”

9. You mention being in contact with the SU president, has the SU reached out since the post?
Got a message from the president, ‘fairly disappointed about the post’ and then mentioned he would be down for another call. So I responded, and got left on seen. I wanted the call though, we need dialogue to fix the SU. He also acknowledged how it’s not great to have uncontested roles. But it isn’t acceptable to have a vote with 6 candidates and 6 spots, that’s not an election as so many pointed out, so let’s not call it that even.”

10. Now, do you mind if I ask you some general confessions questions before I let you go? That is if you have nothing left to say about the SU election?
Currently, the SU has no real accountability. In any job, you have a boss that can fire people based [on] productivity or poor results. We don’t have any mechanism like that in the SU*. We fund it, so this page is the ONLY real voice that can push back for the students. Yet when we criticise the SU, the blame is always shifted, “That campaign failed because of UCD hostile management” not us, “Lack of student engagement” [sic]. Even blaming government regulations, after today’s post that pointed out that those requiring visas from many countries can’t run in our SU as sabbatical [officers], This has to change, and I stand by the 3 part-time workers that get paid €6,000 and can attend class. The current SU model is outdated, I saw a confession today “Nobody wants to take a year off and hand out condoms for a full year.” That sums it up.”

*Editorial note: UCDConfessions stated there is no accountability system built into the Students’ Union. However, there is an impeachment process which can be undertaken by students who are unhappy with their SU representation. The most recent use of this was in 2017 when then SU President Katie Ascough was impeached.

11. Do you find that there is pressure to post every day, how do you juggle that responsibility with college?
I don’t put much pressure on myself to post but if I don’t post for a day I’ll always get a few messages or confessions about it. Or over Christmas break, I got messages like “ARE YOU DEAD????” and I was like, I’m good.”

12. I’m guessing that you still run this account alone then? If so, do you have any ideas of who will take over when you graduate?
Yeah, I’m still running it myself and what am I doing with it after I graduate is the #1 question I get asked.  Since people think I will just somehow send them the account over.”

13. So you don’t have anyone in mind to take over? Can I ask how long you have left in your course?
Nobody in mind yet since I’ll still be here next year. [I] will probably decide later on,  [I] still love the page too much.”

14. That’s understandable, there have been rumours that you edit the content of confessions to dramatise them more. Is this true?
That depends, I usually don’t change anything but if I get a confession DMed to me and it’s just not good enough I’ll tell the person it won’t be accepted and then they decide to dramatise it. I’m not doing it myself.”

15. Ah very good, what has been the highlight of running the account so far?
Honestly, probably the people I met through it. So many people around UCD have messaged me at one point and met cool people that I wouldn’t have otherwise also the sense of community it builds for people is amazing. I got a confession about how over lockdown my “like to make new friends post” is the reason that their friend group got made and is still together to this day, 2 years later.”

16. Ah I’m glad to hear that, I would have thought it was lonely learning about others but not being able to reveal much about yourself.

“That’s true, that is frustrating sometimes, like making good friends with people but can never meet [them].”

17. Have there been any moments like that when you have wanted to give up the account?
Never recently. 3 years ago when I wasn’t active on this account and had so few followers it wasn’t fun. But now every day is great. I look forward to the moment when I check the Google sheet every day and read wild stories I could never be allowed to post.”

18. So ultimately you’re happy with your decision to create the account? Also, final question, what inspired you to create it?
Oh 100% happy, It made my time at UCD so much better, knowing all the little secrets. I even get told about how it makes for amazing small talk with new people “Hey did u hear about what happened in ______ confession yesterday”. And now I’m also happy to use this platform to give a voice to all the students that are not ok with this election and hopefully create real change. Instead of the 5th year in a row where microwaves get promised again.”

The Student’s Union elections will take place on the 30th and 31st of March. Students can vote online or in person. To learn more about the candidates and how to have your voice heard go to the UCDSU website. 

Emma Hanrahan – Deputy News Editor