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 O’Keeffe.

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

I am running to be the next C&E Officer because I am eager to campaign on issues affecting students and student life. I am dedicated to improving life at UCD and empowering students, so they get the most out of their time here.

I know the Union, I know UCD and I know what works and what does not, so I will not waste any time testing the waters with ideas that will inevitably fail. I am not afraid to get angry and push buttons with University Management to fight for effective lasting change that students deserve.
I am also running based on my experience as a student here in UCD. I know first-hand what it is like to struggle while studying here and unfortunately my experience is more the norm than unique. I want to campaign for students’ rights because no one should have to choose between buying food or affording their rent while missing classes to working almost full-time trying to pay their fees. I want to work to support students and make sure that no student is left behind.

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?

UCDSU is facing not only an engagement crisis but a legitimacy crisis and it is obvious that it needs to change. We need to prioritise working with all students to prove its worth, while also listening to concerns and adjusting how the Union works accordingly. If elected, I want to focus on rebuilding our reputation and relationship with students by showing them what we can do for them. I want to work closely with the Union’s Social Media Manager to more effectively promote the Union’s events and campaigns organised not only by the sabbats but also by the college officers and campaign coordinators. We need better promotion, clearer communication and full transparency so students get to know and trust us.

3. What is different in your campaign for the upcoming by-elections from the executive elections?

Running in the by-elections has allowed me to use what I learned during the exec elections out canvassing and talking to students and hearing their concerns. I have slightly adjusted my manifesto accordingly however my core values stay the same. Recollecting my nomination signatures was a great opportunity to get back out chatting with people and starting a conversation about the elections and the Union. I am taking the by-elections just as seriously, if not more so, and getting out on campus to prove to students that I am the best person for the job.

4. What is the strongest part about your manifesto, in your own opinion?

Intersectionality and Intersectional Activism runs throughout my manifesto. I want to ensure that with everything the Union does next year, students from all backgrounds are taken into consideration and that no student is left behind.

I want to work with clubs, societies and other groups on campus that also focus on enriching student life to establish a more collaborative community in UCD.
Finally, I want to establish working groups to allow all students to have their say on what campaigns the Union does. These committees will be available to join not just by elected members of Council but any student with an interest. This has been successful with the Environmental Campaign Coordinator and EcoUCDSU and I want to expand on that.  We will promote these committees to current students over the summer and continue to encourage students to join them throughout the year whenever they would like.

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

I have experience engaging with students on and off-campus. As a College Officer, I contributed to changing the class rep constituencies to ensure that each student was properly represented that year and in doing so, I successfully recruited class reps and filled the large majority of seats that year. I had a close relationship with my fellow officers and class reps and I want to have that with Council next year too.

I was also the Auditor of the Food Society, one of the largest societies on campus and during my term, we increased our membership by 30%. I have the experience of working with a team and running sold-out large-scale events regularly.

Being on the Campaigns Forum this year has also allowed me to already work closely with the C&E Officer and identify what I want to continue next year and what I want to change. Because of this, I won’t need to waste time testing ideas that will not work.

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

The experience I’ve mentioned above, successfully engaging with students and getting students involved, definitely sets me apart. I was elected the Arts, Humanities, and Social Science College Officer, leading the largest class rep constituency in the Union. I was the Auditor of one of the largest societies in UCD and in doing so worked with the Societies Council. This year, as the Environmental Campaign Coordinator, I worked closely with relevant staff and student groups on and off-campus so I already know how to organise campaigns and work with the Campaigns Forum to support them and get the job done. I know what needs to change and I know how to make those changes.

I put a lot of thought and effort into running for this role and what I can do for students and the Union. This is not a decision I made lightly and I want students to know that I can and I will do my very best for them.

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

My main focuses are intersectional activism, equality for all, sustainability, and housing all under the umbrella of a collaborative community here in UCD. I want to facilitate training sessions, host conferences, and run panel discussions to empower students with the knowledge and skills to tackle issues both on campus and beyond. I believe it is the Union’s responsibility to amplify the voices of those that need it and I am committed to ensuring that happens.

Mahnoor Choudhry – Co-Editor