2018 appears to be the year of incumbents running with Niall Torris running unopposed for a second year to become Graduate Officer. His manifesto is simple and easily understandable. It’s targeted at post graduate students obviously but given that undergraduates also get a say in the vote, it’s worth looking at to see why a graduate officer is necessary within the SU.
When asked was he running just because nobody else was, he denied it, sincerely. ‘I think when I ran for the position, I didn’t realise how many structural problems exist for post graduates in UCD. I think a year in the job has given me the experience to realise that there a lot more issues than run a lot more deep then some of the issues I realised last year and I want the opportunity to tackle those issues’.
Some students may feel that the role of graduate officer should be overhauled entirely. Indeed, there is a currently a constitutional review underway looking at the role and Torris himself has been a big part of it. Trinity College Dublin have a graduate students union and it’s something Torris himself has been looking at given that Trinity has the closest amount of post graduates to UCD. The idea of the review is to see ‘what exactly is the student representation offering to the graduates students and how that can be improved’.
A big part of this review may be to introduce a postgraduate student advisor which Torris explains would relieve the amount of casework he is currently putting ’35-40 hours a week’ into and which is ‘preventing the graduate officer from becoming a community role that the average student would prefer it to be’. As an officer, Torris is not privy to how older officers dealt with particular cases and a postgraduate advisor would improve that.
‘You do get certain cases that I’m getting now that said that they came to another officer and the student felt they couldn’t engage with. I envisaged that role being introduced with a view to consistency like consistency with quality of service they’re receiving’.
A big part of Torris’ manifesto is his bid to help PhD students across UCD who are suffering from overwork. ‘There’s a lot of PhD students who work incredibly long hours for undergraduates who provide essential work to students and to the good function of the university itself. A lot of them are on stipends of 15-18k a year and providing 100 hours of contact hours alone. How are they supposed to do their research and finish their project and support themselves?’
Many PhD students are doing teaching and lab tutorials and not being accredited properly meaning they’re not being recognised for the work which can culminate in up to 100 contact hours a semester. 1 contact hour is estimated to require between 1.6-2.5 hours of preparation and cleanup resulting in a lot of unrecognised work and effort. Torris has been working on individual cases through casework which can’t be disclosed but has cast light on the problem for him. ‘It’s very difficult for me to understand why these people aren’t being recognised for their work’.
A campaign that has worked for Torris this year is his Seanad registration campaign with allowed over 100 graduates to be resisted to vote in Seanad elections. This may seem small but given the campaign was run for 3 weeks before the deadline, it is something that could be built on. ‘It was something that we got a lot of comments on saying it was good civic work. If it works for one month, why not run it for the whole year?’
The Graduate Officer isn’t a role that is particular noticed by undergraduates but given nobody else seems interested in running for the role, Niall Torris is a decent candidate. He has a good knowledge of the systemic problems that post-graduates face and has had success with casework this year for some students. He’s engaged and interested and could cause some headaches for upper management within UCD which is what you want in a Graduate Officer. There’s no question that the role needs to be looked at constitutionally but given Torris has engaged strongly with that since last year, there’s no reason why this couldn’t happen.
Rachel O’Neill – Editor