Interviewed by Sorcha O’Connor
Why are you running for election?
The main reason I’m running, I feel there’s been a disconnect between the SU and the student body itself. I feel like they’re a little bit unapproachable, that’s it’s become an ‘us versus them’ thing and it’s become a little bit exclusive. I want it to be inclusive for everybody, that if I got elected I could walk down a corridor and nobody feels worried or apprehensive about coming over to say hello to me or if they have a problem. If I’m walking down the concourse for example and somebody’s got an issue that they need to talk about that they could stop me in the middle of the corridor. And I’ll stop with them and I’ll have a conversation with them. I think that’s the main thing. That’s one of the big reasons why I’m running.
On my flyers you’ll see #r4wr which is Rebecca for Welfare Representative. I changed it from officer to representative because I feel like if you’re going to do this job you need to represent the student body of the college so I think officer is a bit like elitism, a bit unapproachable. If I become a representative, I’m representing you for a reason.
What are the key skills and personality traits you think a Welfare Representative should have?
They need to be approachable! People need to feel comfortable with you enough that they can come over and tell you their problems. You need to be patient with them, you need to have the time to help them. Sometimes with delicate issues, that they don’t want to talk about, for example money; I think it’s a very Irish thing that you don’t talk about money at all! I think certain things like that you need to be able to talk about with somebody if there’s issues, especially if you can’t pay your rent or if you are living on a minimal budget.
I think also you need to have leadership. I have to be honest with you all, I am bad with technology. I don’t do technology, I don’t get it, I don’t like it. I feel important if I can open Facebook and it actually works. So I have somebody on my team who does that for me. I think that’s one thing you’re going to need if you have a team: you’re going to need to trust your team. You need to be able to trust in their skills and their personalities. I’m really good at talking. I like talking to people, I like having conversations and finding out about them and their story and that’s important.
I think you need to be able to work as part of a team. You need to be able to get on with people and maybe have a difficult conversation.
What are the main welfare issues affecting students in NUI Galway?
I think Condom Wednesdays; it needs to be more visible. A few years ago, every Wednesday, it didn’t matter what was going on, you always knew the Welfare Officer and his Welfare team would be there at a certain time. That they would always be there for two or three hours and they could hand them out. And people could approach them and not feel uncomfortable.
I also have to praise Megan Reilly for her equality campaign that she did last week for tampons because she’s raising such an important issue that needs to be highlighted, that a lot of people don’t know about. Imagine only having €10 for your week and knowing your period is coming and knowing you can’t afford sanitary towels and tampons. I think that needs to be expanded a little bit more.
I’m running on a mental health platform. I want to make a Mental Health week per semester, so one run in October with Mental Health week nationally but also another one coming in January, say after our provisional results are released. So this semester they were released on a Friday, waiting an entire week to get your results and then you’ve got the weekend to be thinking about it, over and over in your head. The week after there needs to be an event to make people realise that these results are only provisional and that they’re not the end of the world. I saw people who were very upset about it and I just wanted to remind them that no matter what, there’s always supports there.
I want to do sessions for students, later on in the semester when they have got a risk of stress or anxiety. There are fantastic workshops going on for students on anxiety, like not able to do your work and stuff like that but it’s all in early January, early February. I think I very much want to move that to late February or early March, nearer deadlines.
Could you outline your main objectives?
I want to be approachable. I also want to make everybody aware of their financial rights and their accommodation rights. Accommodation is such a huge issue. I can inform students of their rights, help them and direct them to the right people who would be able to answer their questions. I could have a basic overview of it if I looked into it and studied what your question is or whatever your problem is I could probably come up with it, because I’m a law student – it does come in handy for something!
SUSI is such a huge issue and you have to be on them, on them, on them. I want to help somebody, if they come in and they’re at that point where they are between can’t afford to go to college and they know that SUSI is coming, they just haven’t gotten it yet. The welfare officer has a direct line to SUSI. So they can raise problems or specific queries with SUSI related to a particular person’s account. If you are in any sort of difficulty, that’s what we are here for.
What are the key points of your manifesto?
I want to make more mental health workshops and events throughout the year to give you the support that you need. I want to bring in counselling sessions, especially for people who have suffered a loss through suicide or cancer because it’s such a huge issue that not a lot of people are talking about or they’re going through this and feel like they’re going through it by themselves. I want to make a support group, a safe environment where they can talk and they don’t have to pussyfoot about it. They can just say what they’re thinking and get it out. You need to be able to say it to somebody that you trust where you know that there’s not going to be backlash from that.
Another thing I want to raise awareness on is drink spiking – show people how to help their friends, how to prevent it.
Another thing I want to bring in is confidence workshops. I was looking at the counselling website and they do a report for 2015/2016 and I was taking a wee glance at it and the majority of people are going in – 36% I hope I’m not wrong – are going in for anxiety. I can’t speak to the reason why they’re going in for anxiety, but I can guess the reasons around it, and maybe it’s due to people being afraid they can’t speak in large groups. So I want to help people with that because it’s a skill you’re going to need for the rest of your life. It’s a skill you’ll need for presentations or even just to go up and talk to somebody at a job interview. You need to be able to have that confidence in yourself.