Kylie Roche is a social science student running for the role of Welfare Officer. She has been unwillingly branded as the outsider in this election race. Her campaign has been fueled by idealism and a personal dissatisfaction with the current Student’s Union. “I’m running for Welfare because I think I can make a difference in individual student’s lives… I know that I’m not the favourite to win, but I do think we need to encourage more students who are not involved in the Union to run for these elections because something needs to change.”
Roche has been criticised for lacking the union history that her running mates boast, but she does have some relevant experience, such as her work with Childline, Oxfam and as an access leader for DARE and HEAR students.
Consent is a large feature of Roche’s manifesto, but she has a distinct opinion on Consent classes. “I don’t think they should be mandatory, mainly because for people who have been survivors of sexual violence, I don’t think it’s fair to make them go.” Instead, Roche would focus on classes for people who have been sexually abused, in which they could receive information on how to go about reporting someone or how much it costs.
Roche is well aware of the lack of resources available to students with mental health issues. “When I had to go for counselling, I couldn’t get it in UCD so I found the Clonwilliam institute in town, it has a pay-as-you-can rate.” “Our mental health services cannot cope with the demand and as a result I will build relationships with other mental health services around this city in order to give our students the quickest possible access to high quality mental health services.” The Student Health centre has already begun to offer vouchers for use in counselling services outside the college in an effort to alleviate pressure on college services.
After missing the hustings due to illness, Roche released the speech she was supposed to make on her Facebook page. It was a powerful piece that outlined her personal motivations for running – she feels that the union let her down in her time of need.
Roche contacted a sabbatical officer in a time of crisis and felt that she did not get the support that the union owes it’s students. “I’ve heard of a lot of people who have emailed sabbatical officers and not gotten a reply.” Roche acknowledges that sabbatical officers lead busy lives, but she also thinks that waiting four months for a response, like she did, is far too long. “I didn’t get a reply until I put up my speech yesterday.”
“The Education Officer and the Welfare Officer have achieved a lot with the union, like with the Gender Neutral bathrooms… I do think they need to focus a lot more on case work because its very important, if you can’t help individual students, there’s no point in you being in the job really.”
Ultimately, Roche believes that the Union is “becoming increasingly out of touch with the students it claims to represent.” Roche had a tough campaign ahead of her as she was singled out as the underdog from the very beginning. As the voting closes this evening, her chances of victory are still slim, but her campaign has raised some interesting questions about how we judge our candidates. Would you rather a Welfare Officer that has been building a career in the Union for years or one that has faced many of the same issues that they might have to help students with?
“I know I’m not the favourite to win, the other two candidates, they’re fantastic as well, and it was very good of them to come up to me and say that we can work together no matter who wins and I think that’s what we need.”
Muireann O’Shea – Film and Entertainment Editor