Melissa Plunkett, a third year Midwifery student, is one of three candidates running for Welfare Officer.
The UCDSU Mature Student Campaign Co-ordinator, who is also the ‘unofficial class rep’ in Midwifery, is using her 15 years of welfare experience and realistic campaign promises to try secure the job.
Plunkett noted that securing more counsellors would be the solution but it is promised every year to no success by candidates. Her solution is to focus on ‘supplementary supports’ such as online counselling, which she discussed with Sandra Tighe, and peer supports. She mentioned these ideas to Fiona Hammond, UCDSU COO, who thinks they are a good idea. USI had been promoting Videodoc, and she said that Eoghan MacDomhnaill, UCDSU Welfare Officer, opted against entering the partnership.
Residential Assistants (RAs) not being provided with adequate training is a topical issue. Plunkett has been talking with Aisling Kennedy-Dalton of UCD Estates via email who is working on altering RA training. Plunkett said Kennedy-Dalton was ‘a bit vague as to what her plans were to change it to.’ She was told that ‘come August she’d have a better idea what it would be, but she also specified that the training is in August, so I was a little confused as to how she couldn’t tell me what her plans were.’ She wants to expand training to cover Sexual Assault Disclosure Training, ASSIST Training for all RAs, and to ensure they have supports so they know where to go.
Graduate Student Advisor
Plunkett spoke to Aisling O’Grady, head of the Student Advisers, about several issues on her manifesto. She also spoke to Niall Torris, UCDSU Graduate Education Officer. No plan has been discussed to create a Graduate Student Advisor, but ‘everybody thinks it’s a good idea so it’s just making sure that kind of momentum continues, and if it’s such a good idea why isn’t it happening?’
Plunkett originally became involved in UCDSU when she walked in to ask them why UCD has a creche but no childcare grant. She organised a meeting and discussed the lack of support. The issue has been left with Eoghan MacDonhnaill. She would focus on students getting support, and would support going further if students wanted to, as ‘childcare costs are mad, but we need to start somewhere.’
Plunkett met the manager of the creche last semester and thinks there may only be one students using it, based on her memory of that meeting. Staff use it and it is open to the public, but she noted ‘there are staff in UCD that can’t afford to put their kids into it.’
‘The creche is fantastic, the staff are lovely, it’s a beautiful facility, it’s just the prices are phenomenal. It started as a creche for UCD student parents and it’s not that anymore. I’d like to bring it back to that.’
Plunkett organised a meeting with Brian Mullins, Director of Sport, who is ‘very keen to get students involved’ in Healthy UCD initiatives. She has two ideas in this area. UL ran a UL Transforms, a ‘lets make healthy choices’, which had two staff and two student leaders promoting a healthy lifestyle. She also wants to run fit families style obstacle competition for groups. ‘You spend a lot of time here whether you’re staff or student so it would be nice to create a kinda community environment.’
The Smoking Ban
Plunkett noted that the campus smoking policy is ‘something they are struggling to enforce and I know that they are taking steps. They were trying to hire people to be like reminders’ to get people to remind people of the policy. ‘In theory it is a great idea, but if we could move people away from doorways, that would be fantastic, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to make the entire campus smoke free.’ She thinks designated smoking areas or ‘something more practical’ may work.
Casework and Training
Plunkett is calling on her experience to handle all the pressures of the job. She explained how she has 15 years’ experience in Welfare, including being a volunteer with the Order of Malta, and working part-time outside college as an emergency medical technician.
‘I’ve dealt with being in charge of first aid posts at large events, concerts, all different kinds of events. I’ve dealt with children who are lost, I’ve dealt with people who’ve drank too much, I’ve dealt with people who have taken some kind of drug, I’ve dealt with people who have been assaulted, physically assaulted, sexually assaulted. I’ve dealt with people who have alleged they were raped. So I definitely have the experience in that regard.’
‘My training as a student midwife has also shown me, even more so, that whatever my own personal beliefs, they take a back seat, and you must be professional when dealing with people.’ Students need a ‘professional who knows what they are doing.’
Plunkett sought to address criticism of her manifesto for reportedly being short. She described it ‘as realistic’, and explained how she knows ‘what’s achievable within a year period, so I didn’t want to overstretch…I put down what I thought was achievable and what could actually make a difference.’
When asked if she had any other comments to make, she stated: ‘I believe a comment was made about candidates within the races, all races, that people didn’t mention Repeal on manifestos, and I just wanted to say hopefully it will all be done and dusted by May and I think my history here in UCD will show I actually am very pro-choice and have been actively so for a number of years.’
Plunkett is a strong candidate who has already met with key stakeholders on campus to discuss her plans. Her manifesto mixes the main welfare areas with lesser addressed graduate and childcare issues. She is confident it is realistic as opposed to short.
Cian Carton – Editor
*This article has been updated from a previous version which said Plunkett was the unofficial Nursing class rep rather than Midwifery.