Laois Native, Darryl Horan (22) is one of two candidates running for the position of Education Officer in the upcoming Students’ Union (SU) elections. The SU’s Education Officer deals with issues of academic interest, handles relevant student cases, sits on UCD’s Academic Council, provides careers supports to students and must organise at least two education-focussed campaigns during the year. We have interviewed Horan and all other SU Election candidates, grilling them on their manifesto promises which can be found on social platforms online.
When asked why he chose to run for Education Officer, Horan explained, “the Education Officer has a lot more oversight than the things I want to change, which is mainly the structure of fees and funding of higher-level education. It’s also that the Education Officer, in the  constitutional changes, the role has been expanded to be more campaign-y than it was previously.”
A final-year History and Classics student, Horan explains that he is the man for the job based on his “long experience of campaigning on traditional issues.” Horan relates his involvement in Fix Our Education and Take Back the City as examples of his background in campaigning on student issues.
While Horan has extensive experience in the campaigning aspect of the role, the current Education Officer, Brian Treacy, explained in an interview with the Tribune that up to 60% of his working time was spent on casework. When asked how he would adapt to that element of the job, which he claimed would make up “easily half the job”, Horan said; “Honestly, I think quite well. A lot of the work that I currently do in my job would be casework […] dealing with work colleagues, dealing with their issues. Also, a lot of the early work of Fix Our Education involved hearing the concerns of students and trying to formulate policy to adapt to their needs. I’m also just a nice person and I think I get along with people!”.
When asked why students should vote for him instead of his competitor Hannah Bryson, Darryl said; “My manifesto, first and foremost. As well as that, I’ve been a fighter on educational issues since 2015. I like Hannah a lot and I would like to continue working with her if I’m elected, but I do feel that I am a better candidate for the reasons outlined in my manifesto”. One of the main differences between the two candidates is on support for students with disabilities, which is an issue that is featured prominently on his competitor’s manifesto but is not directly referenced on his own. When asked about this Horan explained that the Union needs to get a wider understanding of the issues which impact disadvantaged groups and “act from there”. He intends to do this by implementing the findings of the Widening Participation Survey when they are complete.
Much of Darryl Horan’s manifesto has been described as “radical”. This includes his “aim to end Repeat and Resit fees,” something his competitor sees as unrealistic as students should focus on tackling the on-campus rent increases first. When asked why he could achieve this goal where many previous education officers had failed to do so, Horan said; “Even given Coronavirus, I have no doubt that by September […] students will still be outraged at what their education is. They are going to want changes. Repeat and Resit fees are a good touching point here. When I look at examples like Trinity, which had a movement which fought against a 400 Euro flat repeat fee and won. There is no cost to repeat or resit in Trinity. And we sit in the same halls as them, the RDS. There’s no reason that we can’t get, if not ending it entirely, at least a reduced rate.”
Horan hopes to channel student’s current frustrations and to “keep fighting” for improvements to the campus libraries. He hopes to build upon the work of current Education Officer Brian Treacy, while also saying that the University’s current offers of improvement are “not sufficient”.
Horan puts a lot of emphasis on creating national movements on issues of importance to students, citing his work to nationalise Fix Our Education before the COVID-19 outbreak. He hopes to channel the frustration at the current fees and build a national coalition against the current fees format which he describes as a “subtle way of saying that we [UCDSU] need to rejoin USI (Union of Students in Ireland).” He explained this move by saying that “the issues that we face in UCD, are not specific to UCD. They are national issues. If we are to combat them and defeat them, we need to do it at a national level.”
Horan also explained that USI has unique access to a number of committees such as the HEA (High Education Authority), “if we want to lobby [these committees], one of the best ways to do that is to lobby them in boards”. Horan argued that this access outweighed the significant membership contribution which the UCDSU would be required to pay. This contribution is calculated by charging €5 for every full-time student and €3 for every part-time student. He also asserted that UCD “would quite possibly put down part of the fees” through the grant which UCD gives to the Union.
Horan appeared to have a deep understanding of the budget and finances of the Education Officer and explained that he thought that spending the Education budget on subsidies would constitute “a drop in the bucket” in terms of rental supports and that the role’s budget would be better spent on campaigning to solve the issues that made these supports a necessity. Horan explained that there is some money that must be spent on “exams and supports” which lead him to derive a “70-30 split” of the budget in favour of campaigning.
When asked how he would bring about the “general academic advancement” of students, a core job of the education officer, Horan said, “In the immediate future it would have to be a ‘No Detriment’ policy, because we are going to see massive strains on students over the next few months. Going forward, it always comes back to money. If students are not under their current financial burdens, they can spend less time working, more time studying and less time worrying about repeat and resit fees.”
Horan has come out publicly in support of UCD implementing a ‘No Detriment’ policy, in a post to his Instagram, Horan said: “No Detriment is the only sensible policy going forward in these difficult times.” A ‘No Detriment’ policy, Horan explained “would ensure that no student would receive an average grade lower than the average they had achieved in the last semester prior to the disruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.”
Hugh Dooley – Reporter