Week one of the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) elections has come to a close, and now we are in for the final stretch. But, over the four long hustings held this week, major issues have come and gone with no candidate being able to outline concrete proposals with respect to how to tackle any of them.
Higher education funding is a good example. No presidential candidate – even those who have placed it prominently on their manifestos – has turned the issue into a focal point of the campaign. The funding of third-level education is for sure a major problem that the sector faces and it has a direct and lasting impact on students. It can be a difficult sell – if you are using the words “higher education funding” to do so. These words are incredibly dull and candidates who have attempted to bring the issue to the table could have made their lives easier by opting for words like “income-contingent loan scheme”.
But if presidential candidates can’t sell the issue during a campaign, how can they mobilise students around the issue, if elected? Shane De Rís has tried hardest to make students care about the issue, while sole education candidate Aimee Connolly also touched on the issue briefly at Thursday night’s hustings. Their rhetoric, though, has hardly ignited a fire among their fellow candidates or the electorate. But it should.
One of the biggest disappointments of the election talking points has been the lack of conversation, beyond mere soundbytes, about the paucity of women running in this year’s elections – a perennial issue for the union. Any candidate in any race could have primed themselves to be the most educated person on the topic. The issue is far beyond running just a few workshops, as the union’s Education Officer, Alice MacPherson, pointed out at council only four weeks ago. Any candidate, man or woman, could have set the agenda for their race and pulled ahead, because this is an issue that has dominated discussion among students for years.
Instead, these candidates have pushed a pile of issues so evanescent that students will hardly remember the policies of the person they elected by the end of Reading Week.