Current Position: Final year Nursing student from Wicklow.
Main policy: Making UCD campus more accessible for everyone.
Other policies: Lobbying for more car parking spaces and lobbying for better food facilities.
Cringiest line in manifesto: “You will usually find me with a big smile on my face, dancing in the rain somewhere between Health Science and the Student Centre.”
One of the most striking things about Rebecca Hart’s manifesto is the simple slogan ‘Approachable. Accessible. Affordable’. Simplicity seems to be the main theme of Rebecca’s campaign as her promises centre around making life easier for students.
As Rebecca says herself, she’s been involved in UCDSU ‘from day one’ and as a result has many connections which she feels can help her if she was to be elected President. ‘I took part in Strictly Come Dancing in UCD last year and as a result got to know the current Hospitalities Manager so I know him to be able to say ‘Can we go for a coffee, I want to have a chat” rather than an email such as ‘Dear Sir, You don’t know me but I want to have a chat’. ‘ Hart also makes references to connections she had within the Conway Institute as well as staff members in the Student Union who can give her ‘the staff’s point of view’ on certain issues which she feels is a big advantage. “I’m getting both sides of the picture rather than just the student’s side”.
Hart would like to see improvements made to the way the union publicises it’s service given the amount of resources at it’s disposal. She makes reference to the campaigns that the SU runs, in particular the same-sex marriage campaign run back in 2015 which she says was great because ‘Every single student knew what was going on. Campus was full of student faces and I love that campaign because it was normal student photos, it wasn’t union people’. Whether the same sort of campaign could be run in the run up to the referendum on the 8th Amendment remains to be seen, but Hart is under no illusions there. ‘I think it’s more difficult for students there because they wouldn’t necessarily want to put their face beside [a photo] and we saw the attacks on individual students during the impeachment referendum as opposed to a body of people so it would be a lot harder to get students to put their face to a comment’.
One of Hart’s main aims is to be an approachable president. ‘When I went out and got my signatures I didn’t go around and say ‘I’m running for President, will you sign this?’ I saw down with them and spoke to people.’ She believes that the high student engagement seen with the impeachment referendum can be further used for other campaigns. ‘Having been out on the ground and speaking to students, I know that there is that level of interest if we’re not throwing it down their throats.’ She also acknowledges the work done by Barry Murphy on getting students engaged saying “Barry [current C+C Officer] has done an amazing job, everyone on campus knows him from the Snapchat campaign so I do feel students are actively engaged and it’s a matter of keeping those campaign’s going’.
The main aim of Hart’s manifesto is to make UCD building’s more accessible for everyone. In a bid to understand the problem Hart got into a wheelchair and went around campus trying to access buildings and found several problems. ‘The ramps, trying to get up them at this time of year when they’re covered in wet slippy leaves, I couldn’t fit into one of the bathrooms even though the doorway is supposed to be 2.5 inches bigger than the average wheelchair. The immediate plan would be to fix the electric doors on campus. You push the button for the double doors and only one door works, half the doors don’t work. Aoibhs Nic Giolla Riogh [the current Health Science Officer] did the same thing last year and of the 7 she found working, she managed to get that number up to 21 out of the 33 on campus but now it’s back down. The problem is, if you push through those doors, you wear down the springs so the wheelchair access doors need to be pushed open. Why can’t we just have automatic doors?”
Another key promise of Hart’s is to reduce the waiting lists for counselling, a promise made by many people who have ran for SU positions but Hart feels she really can do something about it. ‘I’ve spoken to the Health Service and there’s around 180 students on waiting lists and if a student is on the waiting list for more than 2 weeks, the service provides vouchers for students to go out to external councillors for five sessions. Those vouchers are great but you still have to trek out to Clonskeagh, Dundrum, Blackrock which aren’t that fair away but if you’re in a such a state that you need to see someone, 2 weeks is a long time to wait.” Hart would like to see an external councillor brought in once or twice a week to help ease waiting lists. ‘I know the budget isn’t readily available but then we have to work out how to reallocate the budget’.
Hart also wants to lobby UCD on the number of car parking spaces available and the price of parking permits which as reported by the Tribune, are set to increase. Car parking spaces are dictated by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council who just last week granted planning permission for an extension to NovaUCD on the basis that the number of car parking spaces initially planned for, were reduced. ‘My campaign would be to see, where is that money going, why is the fee being increased without extra resources being put into car parking spaces? What’s that money being used for? Personally I have no issue with paying €100 for the year, anyone who drives has to acknowledge that €100 is pretty good for parking. My issue is anyone who pays €100, you’re coming in and there’s nowhere to park. My position is lobbying, why are they trying to reduce car parking spaces?”
It’s clear that Rebecca Hart is an experienced and capable candidate. She’s been involved in the SU for the last 5 years and doesn’t believe that Barry Murphy having had more crossover training than her puts her at a disadvantage. Whether this is Hart playing the underdog card remains to be seen but she is definitely not a candidate that you can immediately write off. When asked why she’s running again given she came third to Katie Ascough in last year’s election, her reply is simple “I still believe I can do an amazing job for the students”. If she is elected and delivers on the promises she’s made in her manifesto, she might just do that.
Rachel O’Neill – Editor