Michael Geary is a Fourth-year Animal Science Student from Glenamaddy, Co. Galway. Though he lacks any experience within the Student’s Union, he firmly believes he makes up for it with what he has learned as auditor of Agricultural Society this year, from organising over 20 events and raising over €60,000 for charity. ‘We have a great sense of community and I feel the college is slightly lacking that sort of community that we’ve built in the Ag faculty… I realise that it’s a completely different kettle of fish, but at the same time, I feel I could make changes in a positive way and bring the union forward.’
This experience as auditor lends itself to one of Geary’s manifesto points in particular: Rag Week. ‘Students are here to get a degree, but at the same time, they want to enjoy the college experience… We just need more engagement. I feel we could put on some great events and have one of the best weeks of our lives, which is what rag week should be.’ Geary wants students to reconnect with Rag Week and become more involved in the planning process, ‘I’m not saying we should adopt an agricultural society sort of scenario in the students union but we could take some ideas and more importantly go to the students and see what they want.’
Student welfare, meaning mental health, is another important point on Geary’s manifesto. ‘A student shouldn’t have to make an appointment today and not see anyone for six weeks.’ Geary believes that the roadblock to the improvement of these services is a lack of funding, ‘If I was to be in the student union, I would look at fundraising if that was possible.’
As a short term solution, Geary believes students should be encouraged to visit their student advisor. ‘I know they’re not a substitute for a psychologist, but at the same time, they are there for students, they are very approachable and they’re there to talk to you and I know it might not be the solution to the problem, but in the short term they might be able to just be there to talk to you.’ Regarding the Silvercloud online mental health programme that was launched in UCD last semester, Geary comments, ‘Fantastic service – not enough students know about it.’ Geary also mentions the charity A Lust For Life and how bringing public figures like Bressie on to campus can help to further highlight the importance of mental health to students.
When asked about the upcoming referendum on the Student Levy, Geary gives a very balanced response. When looking back that the previous increase in the levy to fund the initial construction of the Student’s Centre he recognises that ‘there was a lot of promises made and they haven’t been fulfilled… there were supposed to be storage facilities, office spaces, theatres for rehearsals; none of that was fulfilled. I know auditors of certain societies who have to put all of the society’s equipment and gear and keep them in their own house, which is not acceptable. I am lucky we were given office space in our own agricultural building but without that, I would be struggling big time.’ But Geary can see the necessity of the proposed extension to; ‘UCD is producing some of the finest athletes in the country and since the last gyms were built the campus population has increased and the facilities are under pressure, so there is a need for them but I think caution needs to be taken.’ Ultimately, Geary is ready to fight for the student’s needs, whatever the referendum result may be. ‘I would put my trust in the students to decide what is the best option – if it does go through, promises need to be fulfilled. Students need these facilities, they deserve more respect.’ On the question of UCD rejoining USI, Geary makes a similar comment, ‘three years ago, the students voted against it, I’m sure they’ll make the right decision again next year.’
Keepin’ It Country was a radio show on Belfield FM, featuring four Ag students, that was criticised and then taken off air last semester for inappropriate comments – these four students are members of Michael’s Ag Soc committee, but he hopes that one incident won’t tarnish the reputation of all Ag students. ‘The four lads, yes, are on the Agricultural Society committee. They do amazing work for us for me… They knew they were in the wrong. They apologised to the people that were affected… Their actions don’t reflect the Ag school at all; there is a great sense of community and a great sense of respect among students in Ag and I think it was dealt with appropriately.’
Among other manifesto points, Geary wants to forge a greater connection between students in Res and the Union, organise graduate fairs for specific faculties and advocate for the opening of former computer rooms as study rooms.
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor