UCDSU END OF YEAR REPORT 2019/2020
Name (ainm) Conor Anderson
Pronunciation (fuaimniú) CAH-nor AN-der-sun
Pronouns (optional) (forainmneacha) (roghnach) He/him
Position (post) Graduate Officer
Date (dáta) 6/4/2020
Council Number (uimhir na comhairle) 9 (and final)
I believe that this was a successful year for the Union, and I believe that my contributions to the role of Graduate Officer (relatively new as it is) are part of that success . I began my role with a clear desire to empower graduate students and the sketch of a framework to carry that out. In principle, I wanted to try and build the Union’s ability to meet students’ most essential needs, particularly students without a robust financial support system. By that I mean direct supports wherever possible, particularly economic supports. Too many struggling Ph.D. students are recommended mindfulness meditation when what they really need is a livable wage for the work they do, and I wanted to try and deliver something substantial. That has also guided my actions in working with student groups and societies-I want the Union to be a source of funding for activities around campus.
In this report, I will outline what I consider to be the key achievements of this year, the areas in which I could have done better, and possibilities for next year’s Graduate Officer.
Key Annual Achievements
Students at Smurfit have historically not engaged much with the Union, and I consider my efforts to change that fact to be one of my highest achievements. I held weekly coffee mornings almost every week of term, from 11:00AM-2:00PM in the Smurfit common room. As the weeks passed, a core group of students developed around the coffee mornings, who would talk to me about issues facing Smurfit students, make requests for free stuff to give away, and generally provide feedback about the student experience. I found this engagement to be invaluable. From a numerical perspective, all seats (barring one) were filled on the Student Council from Smurfit, and I helped to draft and present three mandates focused on the Blackrock campus.
Aside from the groundwork of weekly coffee mornings and conversations with students, I also helped to put on two events. In the first term, in conjunction with the UCD India Society, I helped to fund and throw a Bollywood night in the Smurfit restaurant. The event was attended by about 120 guests, and it was a complete blast. I contributed 350 euro out of my budget, and helped with logistics, serving as the initial point of contact with the catering services at Smurfit. I also contributed 300 euro to the Smurfit Ball, helping them to keep transportation costs down for students. Our legendary Entertainments Officer Thomas Monaghan was also tapped to MC the event, although I had nothing to do with that.
The relationship with this group of Ph.D. students, post-docs, and other casualised academic workers actually began at Hustings 2019. Over the course of my term, I have served as an institutional liaison, supportive of the group’s goals but not really a member (given that I am neither a Ph.D. student nor a casualised academic worker). I have dedicated a chunk of my budget to providing campaign materials, I booked rooms for meetings, and I gave input from my perspective as a sabbatical officer of the Union. As with so many items on this list, there were plans for a salon/social, to be funded out of my budget, that have since been put on hold.
UCDSU Conference Fund
From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to provide direct monetary support to graduate students. After consultation with members of UCD Anti-casualisation, I launched the Conference Fund in January of this year, offering 20 awards of 100 euro. These awards were given on a first-come, first-served basis, and were paid up-front, rather than on a reimbursement basis. The awards were also not means-tested; they were available to any UCD Ph.D. student. All twenty were given out in less than a week, and I currently have a waiting list of 27 people for additional funds if they become available. There were plans to expand the fund and give awards to those who are still waiting, but those plans have been derailed by Covid-19 as we wait for confirmation that the University will be paying the remainder of our capitation. Should that go forward, I hope to re-create the fund as a general Covid-19 relief fund open to graduate students, using the remainder of my budget that was dedicated to end-of-year events. A survey to recipients of the awards is also in the works.