Following a majority ‘Re-open Nominations’ vote prevailing in the UCD Students’ Union executive elections, the upcoming By-Elections are seeing significantly more contested races and candidates on the ballot. The Campaigns and Engagement Officer role is now facing a contested race between Eoin Fagan, a final year Physics student and member of the UCDSU Ents forum, and Robyn O’Keeffe, a final year Social Policy and Sociology student and the Union’s Environmental Campaign Co-Ordinator.

Below is the College Tribune’s interview with Fagan.

  1. Why are you running for the role of Campaigns & Engagement in the By-Elections?

I’m running for c&e because the SU is in an engagement crisis, after 2 years of virtual learning we have a group of 1st years who only got partially introduced to their SU at the start of the year, a group of 2nd years who would have never got to meet their SU and 3rd years and above who are more indifferent than normal. Having been around UCD for 4 years and in the SU for 3 of those years I know what needs to be done in order to reconnect the Student’s Union with the wider student base. We need to go back to basics, have boots on the ground and get out of the office. A visible presence is required as well as engaging with students on a day to day basis. When I was collecting my nominations to run, the one question I asked everyone was if they knew what the SU did on a week to week basis. None of them did. That’s not acceptable and I feel that I’ve the right attitude, right energy and all of the enthusiasm needed to make the SU relevant in student’s lives again.

2. The role of the C&E officer is in the spotlight more than ever right now, what are the biggest challenges you expect to face?

I think it goes without saying that rebuilding the trust and rebuilding the relationship between the student base and the SU council/exec is going to be far and away the biggest challenge I would be facing if elected. Especially in light of recent events, I think the issue of a lack of engagement has been amplified and ultimately the SU has been exposed to a RON campaign the likes of which have never been seen to the best of my knowledge. Regardless of the accuracy (or lack there of) of some of the information that this campaign was based in, what it did highlight is the general feeling of dissatisfaction with the SU at the moment. Part of this stems from the poor communication of the wins that the SU has made and the lack of progress that the SU has been able to make on ‘big ticket’ items with a more stubborn than ever management. Therefore improving that communication is key, and with an unprecedented opportunity of engaging with a change in management – next year is crucial for the SU to really get out and score some early wins.

3. What made you want to run in the by-elections rather than the initial executive elections?

Truthfully the timing just wasn’t right for me the first time around. I was waiting to hear back about a few things which I didn’t hear about until just after the results the first time around. In that short space of time the timing went from not right to just the right time. I’m not usually one to be superstitious (just a little stitious badum tss) but given the consideration I gave running the first time, you could certainly argue that the by-election was a sign if you were so inclined.

4. What’s the strongest part of your manifesto in your opinion?

I’d like to think I’ve a well-balanced manifesto that is very strong all round, however if I had to pick the biggest strength I’d argue my plans for engaging with students and rebuilding that relationship between SU and the wider student base represent a real area of strength. I’m very passionate about getting out of the office and engaging with students. I think crucially as well, getting a real recruitment drive to fill out the class rep seats is vital to that and empowering students to engage with their class reps through making council easier to access in terms of virtually (through live streaming platforms) and indeed we need to become an open book in terms of policy making. The class rep role is largely redundant on a council level at the moment, as a ground up organisation and a student led organisation the role of the class rep is to be a voice for the students they represent on the topics and issues we debate at council and bring into policy but how can class reps effectively represent the views of their constituents if nobody knows what we’re talking about? That’s another part of my manifesto that falls under engagement, the SU needs to communicate to the students what the topics are that are coming up at council so that they can engage with their reps to speak on their behalf. In particular I think one of these issues that really is close to the hearts of a lot of students is the public transport that serves UCD. For instance, the 17, 175 (Belfield) and 114 (Blackrock) bus routes are very unreliable for students both in the main campus and Smurfit and the difficulty experienced by students living in commuter towns in trying to get to and from campus with very restrictive bus times cannot be overlooked.

5. What skills do you think you have that will transpose well into the role of C&E officer?

Communication. I have had the opportunity over the last 4 years through college and further afield to develop exceptional communication skills. Having been a class rep for half my time in college and being a part of the ENTS forum this year, communicating with students about issues being raised, events that are occurring and notably during the rent protests in 2019 speaking to national media. Outside of the SU though, I am also the stream rep for experimental physics for my year and have been since last year liaising between the students and staff in physics on a variety of issues. In addition to that, I was also the host of the 3rd and 4th year physics lab debates/presentations as well as a participant. Moving outside of my time in UCD, I am currently one of the PROs for the LGBTQI+ activist group the Anti-Conversion Therapy Coalition and have helped to design the posts we’ve made in addition to doing a wide range of interviews with national media and helping to host an international panel talk. Communication is key to the role of the C&E officer as the primary aspect of the role is to communicate with students and so having such strong communication skills can only help me if I’m elected.

6. What do you think sets you apart from your opponent in the race?

While myself and my opponent have been around long enough to have had the same ‘school’ of how C&E officers past and the problems in UCD have reached the point of such identifiability that most candidates have included them in some capacity however I think there’s two main things that sets me apart from my opponent. First and foremost from my background as a science student has allowed me to develop a very pragmatic way of thinking, I know when to stick and when to twist and having spent 4 years doing experiments that have had varying degrees of success, my ability to analyse in great detail is a strength I can bring. Secondly, I have always seen myself as a very energetic and hardworking individual. At the end of the day, while I know achieving the ambitions and goals of any SU team can be a tall order, a vote for me is a vote for someone who’s gonna work their ass off from June to June.

7. Could you please provide a short, roughly 75 word bio and summary of the main parts of your manifesto?

I’m a 21-year old final year science student from north county Dublin and my pronouns are he/him. I want to be a force for positive change with direction and magnitude. If I’m elected, I’ll focus on rebuilding engagement between students and the union, bringing the environment back to the forefront of people’s focus, support and nurture student activism on UCD and national issues and continue to fight for an end to the extortionate rent increases, college fees and campaign on the cost of living!

Mahnoor Choudhry – Co-Editor