The candidates for the UCDSU Presidency spoke to The College Tribune about their opinions on the Students’ Union rejoining USI, whether UCD should reduce fees, the possibility of another ‘No-Disadvantage’ policy and to rate UCD’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Liam Coyle, Ed Leonard and Ruairi Power are the three candidates for SU President, read who these candidates are in their biography pieces.

Alternatively, you could vote for Reopen Nominations!

Would you support UCDSU rejoining USI?

Liam Coyle:I believe, from what I have seen, that the UCD Students’ Union is better off without the USI currently. The value the USI provides is not significant enough compared to the cost involved for membership. However, I would not be opposed to a referendum on this issue and let the students decide in the future. Let me add that questions have been raised as to the legitimacy of their democratic process.
Ed Leonard:I am unsure about UCDSU re-joining USI but would like to see more collaborations on matters of mutual interest and benefit. I would like to see UCDSU and USI having a solid working relationship going forward as both have students’ best interests at heart. I am open to having a debate on re-joining if the Union Council/student body calls for one, so we could debate the benefits and drawbacks from being members of USI.
Ruairi Power:Yes. I am personally in favour of re-joining the USI. The biggest challenges facing us in UCD (extortionate rents, fees and underinvestment in supports) are shared by all Irish students. However, this is a really significant decision that should be decided on by a large group of students. A referendum should only be run if there’s a dramatic increase in engagement with the SU this year (which I will work to make happen).

Should UCD remove or reduce fees for students in light of the ongoing pandemic?

Liam Coyle:I think that UCD should reduce fees due to the pandemic as the quality of education has been reduced. I think that should be reflected proportionately in fees. This is particularly a cause of concern for postgraduate programmes that have excessively high rates of fees regardless of an ongoing pandemic. I also think a possible solution could be for the government to facilitate this reduction.
Ed Leonard:A substantial reduction in fees, particularly for the Student Centre Levy, is required. The fact students cannot avail of most Student Centre facilities yet still have to pay the full Student Centre Levy is unacceptable. Looking at programme fees, as some modules have only pre-recorded lectures and since most students cannot converse with lecturers or other students in person, the standard of teaching is not equal to normal teaching standards yet involves the same fees.
Ruairi Power:I’m in favour of a fully publicly funded model of higher education paid for through general taxation, as is the case in many European countries. Irish students pay the highest contribution charge in the EU. This is wrong, Covid or no Covid, and I will work with students and campaigns across the country to advocate for a public model. UCD should not be raising fees for graduate courses during time of national crisis. I support organising for fee reductions on a school level.

Do you believe that UCD should enact a similar policy to the ‘no disadvantage’ policy which was in place previously?

Liam Coyle:It would not be realistic for a ‘no disadvantage’ policy to be implemented from an academic perspective. I believe a go-around would be to ensure blanket measures are in place such as deferring assessments, examiners given more powers to adjust undesirable grades and so on. These measures would solve the need for university action and mitigate the impact of the pandemic on student success.
Ed Leonard:A similar policy to the ‘no disadvantage policy’ is required as students are being forced to study in extremely tough environments that are outside of their control and that was unimaginable when many began their degree. It would need to ensure that students who are learning in places with poor internet connections, challenging learning environments, etc. are not negatively impacted due to the circumstances that they are being forced to study in.
Ruairi Power:So long as the Covid crisis remains I believe UCD Should:
– Waive all repeat/re-sit fees (as is the case in other Universities).
– Remove grade caps for repeats.
– Allow an automatic right to repeat module assessment components.

How would you rate UCD’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Liam Coyle:6/10 Average at best. They have adapted incredibly well to the online environment and helped students where they can thus far in terms of academic support. They messed up the start of the Autumn trimester last year with unfounded promises for face-to-face classes that were misguided and at times deceiving which came off as ignorant at best and greedy for money at worst.
Ed Leonard:5/10 – This was uncharted territory for everyone so this must be taken into consideration but the serious communication problems, the failure in implementing a “no disadvantage policy” or similar policy and the overpromising of the percentage of in-person classes proves UCD could have responded better. UCD needs to realise that studying from home is not the same as studying on campus and incorporates many challenges that would not occur if not for Covid-19.
Ruairi Power:5/10 – Most academic and support staff did their best to adapt to difficult circumstances and support students in a really challenging time. I don’t think UCD management stepped up to the plate. Releasing inaccurate, speculative figures on in-person campus time (despite objections and repeated questioning from the SU) cost students thousands of euros in rental fees for private accommodation and led to international students leaving their home countries to be confined to their apartments for months. This, alongside the decision to increase graduate fees was a stark abdication of leadership.

Hugh Dooley – News Editor