MEET YOUR CANDIDATES: Welfare and Equality officer candidate Aisling Fallon

Aisling Fallon

Why are you running for election?

I am a Masters student currently studying on the MA in Culture and Colonialism and I would be absolutely honoured to be your next Vice President/Welfare and Equality Officer in NUI Galway Students Union for the upcoming academic year. I am running for this specific position because our student’s welfare and the promotion of equality across campus here at NUIG is particularly close to my heart. As a student studying here since 2010, when I first began the Access Programme, a vital initiative which provides students who, for various reasons didn’t make it to third level through the traditional route of the CAO, I have gratefully experienced first-hand the transformative effect that receiving an education at NUIG can have on one’s life, but I have also experienced how tough the journey through academia can be.

Throughout the first three years of my study I suffered with crippling anxiety and my academic and social life suffered hugely. However, four years on I am the strongest and most confident I have ever been; I am the current Auditor for the Philosophy Society, am one of the founding organizers of the mental health campaign “Couch Conversations” kindly funded by, and I have immersed myself within numerous volunteering opportunities across campus which has allowed me to communicate with students and understand the issues that students encounter on a personal level. This shift in the trajectory of my life and student experience, is due to the pivotal moment of when I decided to reach out to services within the college like the SU and ask for help. Particularly due to my own personal background then, I am a huge advocate for education but I am even more passionate about helping other students with the non-academic problems and issues that might arise for them throughout the course of their own academic journeys. We are all human, and by that very fact it is inevitable that life will often present us with that unwanted hand of less than ideal circumstances, and I believe that due to my own first-hand experience with welfare issues and because I am so driven to help our students, to listen to our students, and to fight for what our students actually need, I am a worthy candidate for the position and I would be delighted to help our students in any way that I can during times of difficulty or uncertainty.

What is the one thing you hope to achieve over everything else?

One thing that I hope to achieve as Welfare and Equality Officer over anything else is to bridge the ongoing gap between student and services. Albeit, we have some outstanding support systems here on campus, that I myself have benefitted from first hand, such as: The Student Counselling Service, the Disability Student Service, the Chaplaincy, The Student Assistance Fund, to name but a few. However, from speaking with students across campus I have learned that within these student services there is still often a discrepancy between what student’s need and what they actually receive. My role as Welfare Officer will be to support our students and to connect them with the appropriate services that can help them during times of difficulty. Therefore, it is paramount for myself as Vice President/Welfare and Equality officer to ensure that the services we have in place on campus are equipped to provide students with the necessary resources that they actually need, so that we can adequently support them during the selection of their programme and throughout their stay at NUIG. Intertwined within my aim to bridge the ongoing gap between student and services, is not only to improve on the resources that we currently have, but I also hope to create a clearer and more vivid awareness of the services that are already in place. After having spoken to many students across a wide variety of disciplines, I learned that many of them sometimes weren’t aware of some of their entitlements as students of NUIG, and often weren’t aware that some of services were entirely applicable to them. Ultimately, I believe that working closely with the student services to ensure the availability of adequate services for students during times of distress and also working to further the awareness of the services currently available to our students, will allow our students to have a more enjoyable and meaningful student experience here at NUIG.

Briefly outline the other key points in your manifesto

As mentioned above one of my main aims as Vice President/ Welfare and Equality officer is to bridge the ongoing gap between student and services. There is however two particular services that I will work tirelessly to make significant improvements within, namely the Student’s Counselling Service and the Student Assistance Fund.

Firstly, the Student Assistance Fund provides our students with what is often an elementary source of income that allows us to continue our studies a little more comfortably. However, over the duration of the last 5 to 6 years the rate of assistance has reduced significantly and has had negative and stressful effects on many of our students. The pressure of necessary Finance issues and concerns that our students deal with is unacceptable. As Vice President/ Welfare and Equality Officer I will have the opportunity to sit on the Financial Aid Fund Committee and I will fight on behalf of our students until this is changed.

The Student Counselling Service is a vital service on campus and it does great things for our students, but after having spoken to students and representatives at NUIG about their experience with using the SCS I believe that it is still lacking due to inadequate funding. Mental health and well-being is a huge issue across campus and I am committed to reducing the SCS waiting times and also to changing the policy on the SCS appointment system which I believe are currently capped at a certain amount of visits. It is hugely important that when looking at such vital and important services such as the SCS and their appointment policies we remember to always take into account the individual and their particular circumstances, generalizations of appointments and the like really isn’t good enough. It’s impossible to correctly pre-estabilsh a student’s needs in these circumstances and so I will work tirelessly to change that.

Finally, I don’t believe in extensive manifesto’s that provide students with hugely false promises before the candidate has had adequate time to learn about the student’s actual needs, and so I propose a listening tour should I get into office. This will allow me to visit different departments and to find out what the student body actually needs, rather than making any unnecessary assumptions on something so personal. Your voice matters! I promise to listen to the student voice always, and fight tirelessly on your behalf.

How will you encourage people to see you as someone they can approach with any problems?

Proximity is Power. That is to say, proximity as described as “nearness in space, time, or relationship”. What I mean by this is that, should I be elected, throughout my time as Vice President/ Welfare And Equality, I believe strongly in the power and necessity of proximity, I promise to be present and immersed within the student culture at NUIG, so that during my time in Office I will always remain true to your essence and voice your concerns. The closer in proximity I remain to the student body, will allow them to get to know me and I to know them on a more relational and personal level. Through this exchange of real communication I believe that the students will be able to see how willing and more than delighted I am to help and to listen to them with any problems that they might have.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would just like to offer students my email address so that if they have any current concerns or visions of how the SU should approach the upcoming academic year please contact me. I would be so delighted to hear from you!

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