The College Tribune spoke to Molly Greenough the sole candidate for Welfare Sabbatical Officer in the 2021 University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) elections. The Boston native is a Stage 4 law student and current SU Mental Health Coordinator whose motivation to run comes from personal “experiences of being on the other side” and engaging with the Welfare Officer she was in “a low place”. She wants “to let students know that their SU cares about them too”.
Spanning mental health, housing, harm reduction and sexual health, Greenough’s policies are as broad as they are ambitious – if lacking in the finer details.
Starting with mental health, Greenough plans to address “discrepancies” within the “external counselling/voucher system”. Acknowledging many students have a “fantastic experience” with the current counselling system she remains concerned a minority aren’t so lucky. Some are “getting their free sessions, but then pushed aside” with no voucher renewals. Queried on where the blame lies for these errors, Greenough admits she’s “not sure” and wants to “continue the work of the Mental Health Working Group” and “get to the bottom of it”.
Mental health supports are aplenty with Greenough aiming for “wellbeing activities” including yoga classes and nature walks alongside workshops on anxiety and bereavement for students. When asked whether these measures were “missing the point” by not tackling the root causes of student stress around COVID-19 academic pressure, Greenough concedes that: “all the yoga and meditation in the world won’t do anything if UCD doesn’t adequately support their students”. Adding that she’s a “a big proponent of [another] ‘No Disadvantage’ policy”.
First under ‘Housing’ is an expression of support to reinstate the SU’s Housing Officer in the SU. The position was terminated last October with President Conor Anderson stating the COVID-19 “economic crunch” as the main reason. When quizzed on how new funds will be sourced for reinstatement, Greenough was unsure saying “she can’t provide an exact answer”. If unsuccessful, Greenough expressed her interest in taking “ Housing Advocacy Course” to better support students in this regard.
Like her predecessor Ruairí Power, Greenough wants to “continue the fight” against UCD’s proposals to increase on-campus rent. UCD has previously expressed its opposition to diverting from these plans and looks set to continue with a €100m COVID-19 deficit. When this was put to Greenough she confessed she was unsure “how much tangible change will be affected”, but believes it is a “fight worth fighting” nonetheless.
Drawing on grassroots student support to get policies passed is a consistent theme across Greenough’s manifesto, but her opposition to rejoining the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) seems at odds with these ambitions. Asked why she’s lukewarm about another referendum, Greenough cites “student disinterest” and Union finances being in “a bit of a bleaker place” for her lack of support. She qualifies this by stating that if UCD students “were interested” then they would have her “100% support” in doing so.
Next on the list is Greenough’s plan for a “mandatory consent training module” for first-year students. Although a compulsory 90-minute ‘Bystander Module’ developed by UCD academics is already in place, Greenough wants to inspect “if it’s feasible to extend [it]” and offer more “aspect[s] completely focused on consent”. It would be “four weeks in total” and be a “pass/fail” module based on attendance.
Reading through Greenough’s policies, it’s hard not to miss that many mirror the previous Welfare Officer’s proposals. Asked how she expects to succeed where her predecessor struggled, Greenough responded that she “gives Ruairí all the credit in the world” for doing “a fantastic job given the circumstances around the pandemic”. Nevertheless, she states she will have “in-person” engagement on her side enabling her her to lobby for “gay mens health service to reopen” reintroducing “free HIV testing” and to work closely “with the HSE to increase at home testing kits which they have piloted over the last few months”.
Despite the optimism, Greenough is cognisant that “student engagement is low”. Admitting that “the SU has let students down” and “there’s not a lot of trust”. Running for Welfare Officer, she believes she can “rebuild that trust” and “get more students involved in the campaigns, in the arguments and what we want on-campus because at the end of the day it is the students’ union.”.
Rowan Kelleher – Assistant News Editor