By Colin Clarke
For one last time, WELL lads, what’s the craic?
When I look back over my six years here, I will fondly remember the role the students’ union has played. I got involved in first year through clubs and societies and writing for An Focal and from the start it educated me far more than any lecture or coursework did. To be honest there was one stage I was thinking about dropping out and it was purely my involvement with the union that kept me here. If there’s one thing I would like to get across to any of you reading this is that if you get involved in any shape or form, you will make friends and you will have experiences that you will remember for the rest of your life. It’s also a fantastic place to get support and guidance and as I said without that support I may have never stayed past first year. Another thing I’d like to emphasise is to talk to somebody if you’re feeling down or hate your course. The university has a fantastic counselling service and they are always there to give a helping hand. Mental health was a huge priority in my manifesto and one of the main reasons I wanted to run. From the start of my term in the summer we decided that we needed to do something about the huge waiting lists in the counselling department. I’m extremely proud to say that after months of fighting and lobbying university committees, the counselling department was given interim hours to clear its waiting lists. Recently it was finalised that there will be a new full-time deputy head of counselling which will significantly cut waiting lists and hopefully help hundreds of UL students.
We also worked to increase the amount of doctors on campus and put pressure on the university through press releases. We released many press releases over the year to emphasise topics like mental health and positive community relations. Some of the other work I’ve done over the year has included sitting on the library extension building committee. I used my influence on this committee to highlight the major need for a 24 hour study facility and fought to have this service included in the new building. I was delighted when this was agreed. Not only will the new library almost double its seats which will decrease the student/seat ratio from 13:1 to 6.5:1 but it will also include a new 24 hour facility. We also fought to provide an interim 24 hour facility that students could use this year and we provided that in the A corridor beside red raisins.
Another project that was close to my heart was An Focal. It was what got me involved in the union in the first place and I was sad to see its deterioration over the last few years due to the fact that we lost our Communications Officer three years ago. I had it in my manifesto that I would revitalise An Focal and we decided to hire a full-time editor. I want to thank Tom for his amazing contribution this year and it actually blew my expectations out of the water. He was never afraid to tackle the difficult issues and even had a lovely visit from a university director telling him to ease off on freedom of information requests. You gotta love that. It was important to me that An Focal got the attention it deserved so I decided to distribute it to college residencies both on and off campus and even to a few people in the community. I hope that this has led to an increase in readership.
Another piece of work that I’m proud of and I hope will lead to increased services and more opportunities for students is the introduction of a new student experience fund. I negotiated this fund with Plassey Campus Centre who are the commercial arm of the university. As a registered charity who are supposed to be there for student needs, I felt that there contribution to the overall student experience was relatively small considering the amount of money they generated. This agreement was strongly supported by the COO of PCC Michael Foley and by the university. From September students will be able to apply to the fund for anything that they think will improve the overall student experience.
I was delighted to be able to contribute to our new strategic plan for 2106-2020. This plan has four pillars which are Student Engagement, Student Centred Facilities, Services and Supports, Student Leadership and Government, and Management and Finance. The plan has 31 objectives over the next four years to improve all of these pillars. It puts in place a clear direction for the union and will make the transition of yearly sabbatical officers easier by putting in an annual operational plan where incoming sabbatical officer’s manifestos are taken into account. The general manager Martin deserves a lot of credit and we also had the opportunity to present the plan to governing authority earlier this month who are the highest governing body of the university.
I also enjoyed working with Keith and Killian in the events and marketing and communication departments. We were able to put together our first Wolves go to the Dogs event which saw 1500 students go to the dog track. We want to grow this event each year and hope it will become an annual highlight in the SU calendar. One of the biggest disappointments of my presidency has been that UL Fest did not go ahead this year. It was certainly one of the things I spent a lot of time and effort on that this year didn’t work out mainly due to time constraints. Also the disappointing incidents from Charity Week this year in terms of complaints from residents and vandalism of property killed the hope of having the event this year. However, we certainly got close and have invested heavily in a feasibility study and planning application to the council for the event which has been postponed until next year. I really hope that Sarah and the incoming team will prioritise and continue to fight for this event to happen. I hope it will bring the UL community of staff, students and alumni together for an amazing festival on Plassey Lawn.
One of my favourite parts of the year was Wednesday nights in the stables where I held Pints with the President. I wanted to be an approachable president who understood the average student and wanted to educate more people about the great work the union does. So every Wednesday I had ten free pints or soft drinks for the first ten people who asked a question about the union. Over 250 pints later, and a few for me, I hope 250 queries were answered in a relaxed and fun environment. This misconception that people who are involved with the union are ‘student union wankers’ is b***x, if you’ll excuse my French. We have over 5,000 members for Clubs and Societies who have access to over €600,000 of funding used for student activities. If you ask me, people who don’t get involved are the ones who say at graduation “I wish I did more”. So if you’re reading this now, take that on board. Don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime.
To my fantastic team, Ciara and Marian, to my other Mum, Liz, to Big Daddy of C&S, Paul and to all the amazing staff here in ULSU, to student council and C&S council, I want to thank you for making this year the best year of my life. To all of the students who I had the privilege to represent, thank you. You continue to surprise me every day with the talent and generosity you possess. You are what makes UL unique and you certainly know how to party. I’ll miss the sessions for sure. Go Wolves!
Stay Classy as always,