UCD Students Union for the first time hired a Press Officer this year, to manage press relations and advise the SU political affairs. Of the 13 requests that the Tribune made for comments from the SU this semester, only two received a reply; one from the Union’s Press Officer Christina Kelly and one from President Barry Murphy.
At the start of the semester, on September 26th, The Tribune requested an update on the implementation of the Student Union’s mental health plans from Welfare Officer Melissa Plunkett, such as the hiring of new staff and the implementation of the triage system. The Tribune received no reply to this request, despite the Exec minutes reading that Welfare met with Sandra Tighe, the head of UCDs health centre before September 17th and Plunkett and Murphy explicitly discussing the hiring of new staff in the health centre and the triage process.
On October 8th, the Tribune asked Kelly for the number of class reps recruited this semester. The Tribune received no reply. On October 11th, the Tribune contacted the Union Press Office once more hoping for a response from the Student’s Union to the national budget, to which no response was received. Furthermore, on the same day, the Tribune contacted Plunkett via the Press Office for a quote on the slow progress of establishing gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. The Tribune received no reply, despite the Executive minutes reading that Plunkett met with Campus Accessibility Officer Tina Lowe to discuss bathrooms before September 17th.
Upon receiving no response from the Press Officer and making them aware that their comments were needed before our print deadline, the Tribune sent these requests directly to Murphy. When no reply was received to this email, the Tribune editors visited the Student’s Union corridor to be told directly by Plunkett that she could not make any statements to the press without the Press Officer present. The Press Officer has been absent for days due to illness.
The Tribune received an apology from Murphy late on October 16th, but when these requests for comments, as well as the request for Class rep numbers, were reiterated, they received no response.
On October 24th, The Tribune contacted the Press Office again hoping for a comment from Plunkett on the RA consent classes that were scheduled but were cancelled. Yet again, the Tribune received no reply, despite the fact that the Union’s Exec minutes show that RA consent classes were discussed during Executive meetings on September 11th and 24th. At the same time, the Tribune also asked for a comment on the It Stops Now Mural, as well as an explanation as to why a planned SU debate coming up to the presidential election did not go ahead. The Tribune only received a reply when they visited Kelly’s office themselves.
On November 1st, Tribune contacted the Press Office for a comment from Murphy on the noise complaints from students in the Residences. On this occasion, the Tribune was given a reply, not from the Press Office, but from Murphy directly. This was the first time the Tribune had received a response by email from the Union this semester. Murphy provided a comment, but the following day the Tribune was asked by Kelly to replace that quote with a quote Murphy has made for the SU press release.
The Tribune finally received the class rep number that was initially requested on October 8th on November 2nd.
The Tribune Editors may not have required this amount of communication with the Press Office if Council and Exec minutes had been made available publicly as they as required to be. This breach of Union mandate is discussed in this issue’s lead story. Therefore, the Tribune received these documents from other Union members, such as class reps and executive officers. On November 15th, the Tribune office received emails from both the Campaigns and Communications Officer and the Press Officer reminding the Tribune editors to only seek comments and information via the Press Office.
Prompted then by the SU to send any outstanding questions regarding the Union to them, the Tribune sent requests for comments to the President, C&C and Welfare via the Press Office. The Tribune received a response from Welfare and an assurance that the remaining questions would be answered by lunchtime on the 17th. The Tribune had not received these responses by the time of print on November 19th.
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor