This was a very strange year, but I think on the whole that the SU acquitted itself admirably. We had a high degree of engagement with our political campaigns, and one of the best successes in recent memory with the GEM campaign. I hope that this year and last have shown that student activism works, and that they have served to create a momentum that we can ride into greater relevance and greater success.
The tenor of the year was drastically different than a normal sabbatical year. From the start, we had to hit the ground running. In better times, the summer is a relaxed period of planning and preparing, but this year was a crisis from the very start. I fielded a huge amount of student concerns over the implementation of the Covid-19 Assessment Guidelines (on the order of 100 separate emails a day), and the template emails I wrote were put into good use by myself and the other Sabbats.
Then, through July and August, we were constantly battling UCD management’s decisions to release class-time figures that were, at best, wildly optimistic. On multiple occasions, I made statements in the media that were borne out 100%: the estimate that 70% of courses would be delivered in-person was total fantasy, and we saw international students arrive in Ireland, undergo 14 day quarantine, only to emerge directly into a second lockdown (a reality I described as “the nightmare scenario” in print over the summer). We created ucdsu.ie/timeline to illustrate how hard we fought against the decision to release these figures, and that we were on the side of students.
This was also the period where I was first contacted by the GEM students. Over the summer, I supported their organising, building numbers through WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups. The Smurfit students contacted me around August/September, and we used similar strategies there. Through September and October we engaged in our first media blitz, getting press coverage on both campaigns in the national media. Letters were sent to heads of schools with signatories in the hundreds.
Around this time as well, halfway through term, we received feedback from the College Officers that students were worried and confused that the Covid-19 Assessment Guidelines had not been extended. I consider this late engagement with the issue to be one of my biggest failings this year. However, I spent a great deal of time attempting to communicate the situation to the student body through campus media and through Facebook. Finally, we were informed by the Deans that, despite dire predictions, students had largely seen their grades preserved through the pandemic. How true that is, I of course can’t independently verify.
Then came the new year and the release of the video in support of student nurses and midwives. I am extremely proud of this piece of work, although the bulk of the credit goes to Ruairí. I hope that this video will continue to be used as the campaign for nurses continues into the next academic year.
We also had the media campaign around Dolores Cahill, which is still ongoing as we wait for major articles from the Journal to come out. The press release we made was picked up by just about every national press outlet and was some of the most successful work we, as the SU, has ever done. Multiple outlets even credited us with forcing Cahill to resign from the IFP (which is a stretch, but hey, I’ll take it).
I am sure I’ve left some things out, but that is as good a summary as I can muster. I absolutely let some things fall through, and to those students I am sorry. But I did my best, as did the rest of the team. Given the circumstances we found ourselves in, I have to consider this year a win. We guided the Union through a very uncertain time, we won some victories, we helped the students of UCD, and we ended this plague year in a much stronger position than we started. All of that counts for something.
I have deeply enjoyed my time as a Sabbatical Officer. These have been the most fulfilling two years of my life, and I thank all of you, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing my to serve in this role.
Love your hair, hope you win.