Following a majority ‘Re-open Nominations’ vote prevailing in the UCD Students’ Union executive elections, the upcoming By-Elections are seeing significantly more contested races and candidates on the ballot. The President’s race remains uncontested and this year’s UCDSU Welfare Officer, Molly Greenough is back on the ballot.
Below is the College Tribune’s interview with Greenough.
1. Why are you running for the role of President in the By-Elections?
While I was disappointed with the results of the first elections, I respect the democratic structures in place. I respect students using their right to vote, even when it’s not in my favour. I’ve used recent events as a learning opportunity and it enabled me to shift my focus to issues relevant to the student body; many of the concerns raised in recent weeks have been incorporated into my manifesto. However, I still know that I’m the best person to lead the Students’ Union. This is why I’m sticking my neck out for a second time.
I’ve seen the SU from just about every angle– class rep, ENTs forum, college officer, campaign coordinator, and sabbatical officer. I’ve seen successful events and campaigns, and I’ve seen some flops. I have a deep understanding of the institutional structures of UCD and UCDSU, and a demonstrated track record of fighting hard for students.
I believe in the power of a strong student movement, I believe in the power of students when we band together, and I believe in myself. I also know that there’s a lot of work to be done; it’ll be a monumental task to rebuild students’ faith in UCDSU in the wake of a legitimacy crisis, but I believe I’m the best person for the task. I’m keen to get on the ground and speak with students, to ensure they feel understood and represented by their union. I’m experienced, passionate, and committed to leaving UCD (and the SU) better than I found it.
2. What approach will you take in dealing with the change in management in UCD following the resignation of Andrew Deeks?
I’m cautiously optimistic about Prof. Mark Rodger’s tenure as interim President, as well as the appointment of Prof. Barbara Dooley as interim Registrar and Deputy President. I hope to enter this new relationship in good faith, and give each of them the opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to work alongside the Union to tackle important issues such as the under-resourced student counselling service and the University’s discriminatory accommodation strategy.
I also hope to continue working closely with UCD management to tackle issues pertaining to dignity & respect on-campus; in my experience, there are certain areas where the UMT is more willing to work alongside the Union than others. We’ve seen successes working alongside management in relation to exam accommodations, free provision of period products, and consent education. I think that it’s important to work alongside management on issues where there’s clear room and interest for collaboration.
That being said, I’m not interested in wasting time. Sabbatical years go by very quickly, and I can’t afford to waste twelve months on wishful thinking. If it’s clear from the outset that there are ideological blockades that continue to thwart any meaningful change on issues such as counselling or accommodation, I’m not afraid to shake things up. Protests, demonstrations, seeking the attention of national media, occupations.
I won’t permit the fact that Prof. Mark Rodgers is the interim President to serve as another opportunity for the University to kick the can farther down the road. The way I see it, the hundreds of students on the counselling waiting list don’t care whether there’s a change in leadership– they care about being supported by their University.
And that’s what I care about, too. I appreciate that it’s going to be a unique time for the University Management Team, and that there will be some learning curves for everyone, but if they’re looking for a ‘get out of jail free card’ from the SU during these unprecedented times, they certainly wouldn’t be getting that under my leadership.
3. What is different in your campaign for the upcoming by-elections from the executive elections?
In terms of my manifesto, it’s largely the same as my original campaign; it has been edited to include some of the core issues that were raised during the executive elections. With regard to campaigning, I’ve significantly increased the size of my campaign team, with the aim of reaching as many students as possible. I’ll have an increased focus on lecture addressing, and will be on the ground every single minute of election week. I think that speaking with more students about my goals for the year if elected, successes this year as Welfare Officer, and ideas for addressing their concerns will demonstrate how committed I am to the student body. I also hope to have an increased presence in Smurfit, as I was only able to take one trip to the campus during the last election.
To be completely honest, the most significant thing that has changed is my own personal attitude towards campaigning. While I understand and respect the outcome of the exec elections, it was a daunting time to be a candidate and I think I let myself be a bit too discouraged at times. I’m giving 110% of myself to this campaign and will not let anything stand in my way. I feel more confident and motivated than ever before. I’m planning on putting my best foot forward and demonstrating to students why I’m certain that I’m the best candidate for the role. I’m going to leave it all out on the table, or the concourse, rather.
4. In the Breaking Barriers part of your manifesto, you deal with many points on student engagement with the Union. Why do you think students feel disengaged from the Union?
That’s a difficult question to answer, because I imagine the answer is different for every student you ask. For some, and what I think the most likely option is, I believe that it boils down to a general lack of understanding of what the SU does on a day-to-day basis. And to be clear, the onus is on the SU to engage with students and demonstrate its worth, not vice versa. We can’t just expect students to enter college and know that we’re advocating for them, representing them at disciplinary meetings, helping their peers access mental health supports, supporting students that have been evicted, holding UCD management to account on a weekly basis, lobbying the Government for change. I think the SU needs to do a better job of showcasing its wins and actively making students aware of what we’re doing on a daily basis. Whether that’s posting more regular updates on social media, having an on the ground presence on a weekly basis, shifting back to basics with posters and leaflets– I think that there’s a lot of work to be done on all of these fronts. There’s a serious problem at hand if the general consensus is that SU sabbatical officers hand out condoms for a year; this perception is something I want to actively work to combat. In doing so, I think we’ll be able to demonstrate the value in a Union and hopefully encourage more students to engage with the SU.
However, I don’t think the executive elections were reflective of the SU’s overall engagement for the 2021/22 year. By most metrics– social media, town hall attendance, protests, peer to peer support– engagement with the Union was on the rise. I believe it’s worth noting that this was following on from the COVID-19 pandemic, so I would imagine the trajectory would have continued to rise. Granted, we’re in a different place now following on from the impacts of the RON campaign; there’s definitely a level of trust that needs to be built up. I’m committed to doing that. I think that there were some fair criticisms raised and there’s always room for improvement, but equally, I do believe that this year’s team was strong and made a positive impact for students at a local and national level. I won’t use recent events as an opportunity to undermine my own team’s hard work this year. I hope to learn from our failures, but I also believe that I learned a lot from our successes.
5. What have you learned from your role as Welfare Officer this year that you hope to transpose into your role as President if elected?
I have spent the past ten months working on the ground with students— hearing the range of issues that impact our students and seeing the repercussions of a UMT that prioritises commercialisation over student welfare on a daily basis. I’ve also gained confidence on boards and committees, established good working relationships with many units in UCD, and we have seen some wins (most recently the introduction of a consent subgroup). I have an in-depth understanding of the day-to-day workings of the Union, structures, etc. and hope to use my experience as Welfare Officer to support and lead the Union throughout the year.
A key facet of the role of President is to support the rest of the sabbatical team and ensure they are able to fulfil their constitutional duties, mandates, and own personal goals for the year. Sabbatical roles can be incredibly rewarding, but extremely draining, too. I believe having a year under my belt would allow me to better support the other officers to be the best representatives as possible. I also would like to be there to support them during difficult points in the year, encourage them to mind themselves and their mental health/wellbeing, and make sure they maintain a healthy work-life balance. I would also use my experience to give advice and guidance as they navigate new waters.
6. Could you please provide a short, roughly 75-word bio and summary of the main parts of your manifesto.
I’m currently your Welfare Officer and running to be your next President. I hope to use my extensive SU experience to break down barriers surrounding SU elections and overall engagement with the Union. Under my leadership, the SU would focus on fostering a sense of community, student empowerment, and maintaining political momentum. If elected, I promise that I will always be fighting in your corner. It’s your vote, your voice, your Union.
Mahnoor Choudhry – Co-Editor