In light of recent events surrounding COVID-19, we interviewed Joanna Siewierska, UCD Students’ Union’s President, on the current plans from the Union and what they are doing to help students. “The work of the Entertainments Officer is about to get very busy,” says Siewierska, “people are sitting around and there isn’t an awful lot to do so there’s a massive gap in opportunity to hold virtual pubs, webinars where we tap into creative talents. We’ve so many student actors, musicians, comedians who can be putting on gigs virtually.”
In terms of the Union’s current campaign in protest of the 12% Rent Increase, Siewierska commented that, “everything has taken a secondary priority because of the COVID-19 concerns.” However, this is not to say that the campaign has been forgotten about. “Even if this situation wasn’t happening, we would have had to diversify our tactics anyway. So the fact that people will be more focused on online things that are happening and the fact that we will be tapping into students through social media even more now, I think it works in our favour because we would have had to move a lot of our protests online anyway because the physical protest, was achieving something, but to achieve real change we need to use other areas to apply pressure and that’s what we are going to do.” Joanna emphasised that the Union’s goal is still to “stop the 12% increase and that has not changed.”
Some of the issues identified by the Union facing students were isolation, lack of support systems and financial distress and it was reassured that “while we don’t know the full extent of the nature of issues which will turn up, I think we are ready to support students no matter what.” The elections have been postponed until further notice while Siewierska waits for UCD to “give us a few green lights before we can put things into stone.” As well as this, the Union has played a role in the university’s planning, sitting on the monitoring group and representing student issues in the contingency plan being drawn up by management.
UCD is yet to release its official contingency plan. The Union is relying on this information to continue to address any concerns which may arise from it.
COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency on the 12th of March by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar calling on all schools and colleges to close until the 29th of March. The situation has escalated since, with the number of cases rising each day.
UCD has followed these directions by moving teaching and learning online and cancelling traditional assessments in the RDS, Blackrock and Newman.
For up to date information from UCD on COVID-19, save the link below:
Updates will continue over the coming weeks…
Mahnoor Choudhry – Reporter