A survey conducted by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has shown that 68 per cent of students feel the way the union represents them is either very effective or effective.
The union’s strategic plan annual review, which the survey’s findings measure the success of, has shown that the union has made significant strides in completing the goals and recommendations outlined in the 2015 plan.
This strategic plan, the first of it’s kind for TCDSU, was drafted in 2015 by then-President of TCDSU, Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne. The aim of having such a plan was to give the union “effective” and “forward-thinking” direction until 2018. The plan contains four main headings, under which goals and recommendations are named: represent, serve, community, and effective and forward-thinking.
The survey was completed by 360 students. Explaining by email to The University Times why the number was small, President of TCDSU, Kieran McNulty, said that they only aimed for that number so they would have “the same as took the original to try and emulate conditions”. In an attempt to mimic the original survey, the union made an effort to ensure that no class representatives completed the survey.
Over half of the goals set out will be measured as a success or failure, based on the results of the survey. “Representation effectiveness”, for instance, is a success if it increases from 48 per cent to 75 per cent. This year the question about representation on the survey returned a positive result of 68.8 per cent, so the campaign is not yet a success, but it is experiencing a move in the right direction.
Speaking about the results, McNulty stated that there was “nothing too surprising” in the findings, and that he was happy with the results.
The highest positive result from the survey was under the question about the unions commercial services, such as the union’s shops and JCR cafe, which saw 81.8 per cent of respondents classify as effective or very effective. Accounts released last November revealed that the shops ran at a deficit of more than €6,500. This is being addressed by the union, according to McNulty, and improvement of the shops to make them profitable was one of the main manifesto points of TCDSU President-elect, Kevin Keane.
The lowest positive result, with 59.3 per cent of respondents selecting effective or very effective, was under “College campaigns”, such as campaigning for student spaces and better facilities. The union has made campaigns on student spaces one of its main focuses this year, recently gaining the support of students through referendum on the inclusion of a student centre in College’s planned Estates Strategy.
Some of the other key parts of the strategic plan that have been completed, or are due to be completed soon, include the improvement of the union’s front office of House Six. McNulty said that they have a secretary role now “to answer queries from students, which didn’t exist previously”.
A survey of the union’s staff – which excludes its elected sabbatical officers – was carried out at the end of last year with the findings of the report already “carried out”, according to McNulty. A similar survey will be carried out at the end of this academic year.
Another element of the plan will see sabbatical officers complete a review of their workloads and responsibilities. When asked what he envisaged coming out of these reviews, McNulty said: “It will probably come out that some committees etc may not be relevant or could be delegated.”
McNulty said that he is also looking into non-elected students and guest speakers speaking at TCDSU’s council, considering the high number that did so this year. He also hoped that Provost Patrick Prendergast would continue to attend council on an annual basis following his visit to council in January.
McNulty said that the plan will be completed by June this year, with two strategies to be developed – a commercial and investment strategy and a communications strategy – along with a report on TCDSU’s involvement with Union of Students in Ireland (USI), following USI’s annual congress last month.
The report concludes with recommendations for the development of the next strategic plan. The report suggests that instead of biannual reports on the plan, which were “deemed as far too extensive”, there should be a brief one each semester. It also suggests that the next plan be extended to four years instead of the current two-year model. This would allow time to review the plan extensively every two years and “give more stability” to the union.