Students’ Union Presidential Candidate: Catherine Ryan

Interviewed by Heather Robinson

Why are you running for election?

There is probably a lot I could definitely say here but I honestly do feel like I’m the best and most experienced person for the job. I suppose running for Student Union President is not something you do consider lightly and although I did only decide a week ago, it’s not something that came out of the blue for me, and anyone who knows me can definitely testify to that. They can definitely testify to the level of dedication I do have for the Union and ethic for everything I do get involved with. I pride myself on being approachable and that’s one of the main factors of a president I feel, so that’s something I want to bring back to the forefront of the Union.

What key skills/personality traits should an SU president have?

I think definitely, as I said there, approachability is a massive one as well as motivation and passion – but it’s important to be really cool-headed, especially in the likes of University management meetings and everything like that, you have to take everything with a pinch of salt and get the best you can for the students that are around you.

Describe what you think being SU President is about.

That’s a really interesting question. I could spend all day listing off the duties of an SU President. I think the most important one would be to lead the team around them, you know, from being the mediator to making the actual hard decisions that will upset, let’s say, your education officer but you’re giving the welfare officer what they want and kind of being able to manage expectations in your group as well. Other than that you’re managing the student finances to being the leader of campaigns and lobbying for change among the national Union as well as that. Then again, we could never fully understand that till we are in the role ourselves and things often change throughout the year and can change during your term as president so that is definitely one you’d have to see as you go along.

Outline your main objectives if you are elected.

My main objectives other than to lead the team of the exec, would be to publish the exam centre seat numbers online beforehand. I think it is very important as students have enough to worry about when going into their exams other than where they’re sitting or they can’t get to the board, or maybe it is not accessible to them; they may have fallen the week before that and they’re limping or don’t even see their number on the board because it is miniscule writing.

My second point would be to lobby the University management to investigate all the current academic committees to make sure there is appropriate student membership as well as gender balance – and that would be something I have raised already in academic council as the undergraduate representative and is something I’d like to push forward in the next year, regardless of whether I’m elected or not.

I’d also like to enact an entertainment and campaign crew, focusing on the charity fundraising events to how to actually get the students to engage with the Students’ Union. Not many students vote for us or turn out to vote, or know about us, know where the office is it’s so far away from the likes of the Concourse, the Engineering Building, the Nursing Building… So it is important to get those social events back on campus and more so events that are particularly accessible to students who are parents, students who are part-time, and students who have disabilities. You know, it’s a different story if part-time students are coming in here at 6pm and that is when everything is starting in the likes of SULT, everything is kind of on society-wise. They don’t really have access to that and they’re so tired then by the end of the day, they could’ve worked all day and then to go home and just study what they’ve previously learned.

And then as well as that – I’ve two more, I’ll try keep it short – it is to work with the international office to make sure international students are made aware of the housing crisis before they come over. They often don’t understand their rights and responsibilities as a tenant and I think there definitely needs to be that push that they’re kind of told straight off the bat that they actually have rights here as a tenant in Ireland and not to get blown over with a rent of 500/600 euro because landlords see they don’t understand the current crisis.

My last one then would be to communicate with the local businesses in Galway and ask them when they are promoting jobs are they student friendly, are they 20 hours or less or more, and kind of point that out from the beginning because even this year a lot of friends of mine and a lot of other students have come to me being like, ‘It said it was 20 hours’ and now they’re working full-time and they’ve no time for the college really, no time for societies outside of that, and they can often feel overwhelmed and not know where to go to. There are kind of my main objectives but what I will be doing each day of the campaign is uploading a detailed manifesto point on my Facebook and that will be detailing what I’ve done for this so far and what I am intending to do in the next year.

What are the key points of your manifesto?

So the basis of my objectives would be to increase student engagement with the Union. I suppose access for students who might not be able to go to the social events, as well as student engagement with the university committees. As much as our lecturers can helps us in any way they want to, they have been out of college awhile, even the new online systems and everything like that they mightn’t be as up to date as us, so we should definitely have our voice at the table heard when we are saying, ‘This is working for us and this isn’t’. So stuff like that would be my main objectives.


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