Presidential Profiles: Joanna Siewierska – ‘The Pro’
Joanna Siewierska, one of three UCD Student Union President hopefuls, sat down with me to discuss her campaign, manifesto and why she’s running to be your next SU President. ‘I want to be president because I want to strengthen the structures that we have [in the SU] and make sure that we are united, both in terms of our communications and engagement with our student body on a variety of levels, but also as a movement and a union that’s pushing for change and improvements on campus. We need to be well-organised, well-trained and connected with each other and that’s something I think I can develop in our Union.’
The candidate’s manifesto outlines her core aims for her presidency and what her campaign will be based upon. Siewierska aims to bring the UCDSU back to its ‘Bread and Butter’ by attempting to ‘strengthen the current framework’ of the Union. Her manifesto also centres on affordable housing, environment, improving college supports for students and work on dropout rates and international student life on campus.
Siewierska served one Semester as chair of UCD Labour Youth and has done extensive work within the union as a trainer of officers and class reps, citing her experience as a valuable asset to her today. Studying Law with Social Justice, Siewierska is ‘leaning towards ideals of equality of opportunity, but also looking at outcomes for people. I want fair access to university, I want a variety of liberal ideals, but I think rather than put a party or political ideal label on myself, I think I prefer to say […] as an officer I represent the views of the people who are my constituents.’
The candidate says she has ‘mostly engaged with other SU officers’ as a means to tease out the feasibility of some of her plans for the role, although has not yet talked with estate services directly regarding her plans. Siewerska spoke about her intentions to ‘raise the presence of UCD in national debates’ by further encouraging students to partake in protests in Dublin city centre. She also outlined her intention to ‘stand in solidarity with other students at national rallies’ by joining other student groups at USI organised protests but conceded she would be happy to ‘walk at the back’ should UCDSU not be officially affiliated with USI. ‘I’d like to see actions similar to [the protest in solidarity with Nurses and Midwives] around students on our own campus and around our own issues as well as the national ones.’ Siewierska refrained from taking a stance on the potential USI membership referendum in UCD but said she would agree to remain ‘in regular contact’ with the organisation and accept the mandate adopted by the students.
On the upcoming Student Levy Referendum, which would opt to continue the payment of the student levy to fund future projects, Siewierska has ‘decided not to put a stance on the referendum in my manifesto because I want students to decide what they think is best.’ When asked on her personal opinion, Siewierska responded that she ‘is still doing a lot of homework around it’ and advocates that students to their research and vote in the referendum.
‘I really care about running for this position because there’s issues that I’ve encountered as a student and there’s issues that I see other student’s encountering, and I want to do something about it. Yes, I also want to have bigger Ents, and I’m buzzin’ to see if we are going to have an Ents officer or not. I’d love to see us being able to deliver more for students for pure banter and being that bit more visible and fun. We have a housing crisis, we have incredibly high levels of students contracting HIV every year, we have people coming forward with mental health issues […] and there’s not enough resources to help them. […] There are some really important issues that are affecting students and I think that our Union is a very relevant and important structure to fight those fights. Has it been doing it to the best of its potential every year? No, there’s always more that can be done. I think my background as an activist as a person that really believes in social justice and in the power of student voice, I think I am the right candidate to come in and try and reinvigorate the Union.’
By Conor Capplis – Features Editor