Those of you who have been around UCD for a few years might remember Ryan Oakes running for C+C Officer in 2016 where he lost to Luke Fitzpatrick. He’s back and this time he’s brought more experience to the table. He’s aiming for the biggest prize of President and believes that his experience will allow him to do the best job.
‘The thing I try to highlight is my experience. I’ve been around for four years and I’ve worked with four iterations of the sabbatical team, I’ve seen highs, I’ve seen lows, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and I think that gives events recently, students want a president who knows what they’re doing, appreciates the role and understands the role’.
His manifesto is pretty rounded with a focus on the role of Ents within the SU. ‘Ents is just an area I think can be improved on but it’s something UCDSU has always had the best events when the President was invested in Ents’. The dip in quality of acts around Ents is something Oakes is keen to address and something he feels should be focused on to encourage a more diverse range of events within the SU.
‘I think the role of the President is to support all the pillars of the SU and to make sure that the whole team is working towards Ents and to make sure it’s a team effort to have more inclusive and diverse events’.
While the focus on Ents may strike students as a little odd, Oakes feels as though Ents could be one strategy of getting students interested in UCDSU again. Activism is something Oakes is no stranger to having been a prominent member of UCD for Choice as well as President of the Lacrosse team. He’s conscious of where UCDSU is with regard to UCD student’s view of it.
‘The SU has a tendency to reach halfway over a gap and then be shocked that students aren’t immediately grabbing their hand. I think more efforts need to be made to restore reputation in the students eyes. My campaign is tailored towards making students be proud of their SU so acknowledging that some students might be lucky enough not to need the Welfare Officer , some students their extent of involvement in the SU could be Ents but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. I think making students more aware of the SU does, can do and should be doing, if you’re seen to be doing the work, nobody can say that you’re not doing it’.
On big issues Oakes is consistent. He’s pro choice and pro USI depending on what they’re offering. ‘I think it would depend on which iteration of USI. What’s the team, what are they offering. They’ve added benefits so that stuff can be attractive to students. As an idea the USI is great but in practice sometimes it’s not’.
His manifesto does lack some things around social issues with minimal mention of issues concerning LGBTQ+ students, disability access or environmental issues. That being said he does seem to want to engage with students to allow them to come up with ideas or campaigns and fund those instead which may work better than general promises.
To enable students to see the work he wants to do, Oakes wants more emphasis on social media from the SU itself. This would follow on from his work when he was a member of the Executive two years ago. He hopes that this in turn would increase engagement and make the SU more successful in general. ‘Numbers in the door don’t really mean anything to me in terms of class reps, it’s about keeping them engaged and the only way of keeping them engaged is by being successful.’
Activism is something which comes through in the manifesto and when asked how he plans to increase engagement outside the SU he replies ‘We’re not going to in one year triple the attendance of students at fees protests but if you can foster that culture of activism year on year then hopefully the activism will repeat the successes of UCD for Choice in other areas’.
Overall his manifesto seems achievable and it’s clear he’s appealing to the general student more than anything else. His promise to continuously highlight the continuing accommodation crisis for students is something you’d expect. The usual promises of more noticeboards, more fighting for mental health resources and being available for students are something we’ve seen before and something which candidates tend to fail to deliver once they realise how big the role actually is. What’s innovative is his promise to bring in mobile charging ports and SU loyalty cards which is something which might swing the undecided voter towards him over other candidates.
It’s clear that Ryan Oakes has the experience to do the job itself but where he may fall down is his ‘knowability’ among students. He could be transfer friendly with a strong social media campaign and if students pick up on his emphasis on Ents, it might be enough to swing it for him.
Rachel O’Neill – Editor