VP Student Support Interview and Manifesto Analysis: UnaMarie Darragh

Interview

Guardian: What will you do to mitigate the proposed cuts to disabled student allowance?

Darragh: The proposed cuts to the DSA will only effect students from England and the main issue is that they will have to pay for the cost of computers, perhaps two hundred pounds, so what we’re suggesting is that they should be able to take that money from the hardship funds given by the University. They will be able to apply for hardship funds specifically for this reason and should be able to get it off any equipment that they need.

Guardian: In your manifesto you talk about pushing for mandatory equality and diversity and training for University staff, how do you intend to go about this?

Darragh: I believe that all four student bodies need to work together as one university and push towards this, and currently all Freshers’ helpers get equality and diversity training and the SRC are also supposed to be given equality and diversity training. The training is only an hour and a half online for staff but only forty-four per cent have currently done it so there needs to be a massive push. The university itself wants the staff number to reach towards the eighty per cent figure. So I feel like its not just the SRC but needs to be a university wide push so our staff are trained to deal with all student needs.

Guardian: What will you do to continue to improve counselling in psychological services?

Darragh: Obviously we all know that CAPS is massively underfunded and under resourced at the minute so to take some of the pressure off I feel like schools should implement peer supports departmentally. So for example, it has already been implemented in the Vet school, and what it is, is eight weeks of training, so thirty hours, so we would have to take applicants from each school and train them up and they would be the appointed people you could go to for peer support. Also I am in the middle of setting up a Moodle page with the current VP Support, so if this proves to be a success it will not only give disabled students better representation it will give them a chance to socialise with other service users.

Guardian: Do you believe there should be a Religion Equality Officer in the SRC?

Darragh: I feel like it’s an issue the SRC has to take seriously. I believe that we could look at a Religion Equality Officer because I understand that if people feel like they are being discriminated against that’s not okay, and the SRC should be doing all they can to fight any type of discrimination. So, yes, I think there is the option of implementing one.

Guardian: What do you intend to do to improve Welfare Week?

Darragh: I think Welfare Week needs to be far more advertised. We need to have people flyer-ing, publicizing it and I plan to implement far more stress busting work shops in Welfare Week, also getting back suicide prevention training because that was a really great workshop that people enjoyed last year. So it needs to be better publicized, there needs to be more advertisement about it, so the inclusion of ‘Pet Away Your Stress’, more stress busting workshops and free yoga and having more training workshops throughout the whole week.

Guardian: How do you intend to promote the green agenda and will you put pressure on the University to appoint somebody to promote the green agenda on its behalf?

Darragh: We will have an Environmental Officer, as a Welfare Officer who will come under my remit. I would be in charge of ensuring that the Welfare Officer can represent his or her constituency, which would be all the people that care about the green agenda. So I would work closely with the environmental officer who will be elected in the new elections to pressure the University to promote the green agenda.

I think it would be my job to motivate the Welfare Officers to ensure that an Environmental Officer is constantly liaising with students and staff so that all of their needs are represented and we could push the University to put through all we want. Divestment was the first policy and so we just have to push the University to make other steps like that.

Guardian: How do you intend to make sure the university prioritises disabled access as they proceed with the Western Infirmary redevelopment?

Darragh: It’s 2015 and I think accessibility has to be at the forefront of all new buildings. Currently on campus some are just not fit for purpose, they don’t have lifts; they don’t have ramp access so when the Western Infirmary is being redeveloped we need to make sure all these things are thought through, that all buildings will have disabled entry and that all will have lifts. When they built the Gilchrist in 2012 they didn’t include a ramp. The ramp at the back wasn’t at the right degree so they had to go back and re-do it. I don’t think this should be the case at all with the Western nfirmary. Lifts, ramps and accessible entry stability should be a key point.

Guardian: What will you do to make Freshers’ Week more accessible to disabled students?

Darragh: A key issue is signage. There needs to be clear sign-posted areas of where to go. We need to work closely with the disability service so that when they get an enquiry that they know they can send it to the disability equality officer or with the VP Student Support to deal with the student enquiries because they obviously don’t know what we do during Freshers Week so we need to keep them informed and have people they know they can contact. So give notable contacts like VPSS or Disability Equality Officer or any of the welfare officers. I think we need to be giving complimentary passes to0 amny carer that disabled students may have because they need to be empoweredd to ahave a good social life as well and its the carer that will help them to do this. Also we need to ensure that the day time events are really strong so I’d work with the other student bodies to make sure the day-time events were just as good as the evening events. As the current Disability Officer a main issue is just having an appointed student who they know they can come to with any issues they might have during freshers week to do with accessibility. And that we can help them, they’ll feel far more comfortable if they know one of us.

Manifesto Analysis

Begins her manifesto by discussing a fairly healthy but not astonishing amount of work she has already done in her time on SRC Council.

She mentions an ongoing project to create a ‘Disabled Students Network:- a Moodle forum gives students with disabilities increased representation and a chance to interact with other service users in a safe space’ it sounds like a very good idea, permitting that I have not surveyed Disabled students response to such an idea.

Wants to launch a Staff and Student Welfare Conference. An interesting concept but we’re not sure of deliverability. Staff and Students rarely appear on the same side of an issue.

She will push for condoms and safe sex supplies to be provided free in halls of residence. There’s a reason events with athletes villages have condom sponsors. If Halls staff don’t fancy dealing with normal things people do in their homes they’re in the wrong business. Students plainly shouldn’t have to come into campus in order to be able to get access to condoms and safe sex supplies for whatever bizarre reasons halls object, all students are over the age of consent.

Best promise is to push for mandatory Equality and Diversity training for University Staff in response to the majority of staff not having currently completed it.

Promises to ensure welfare and accessibility is at the forefront of the campus redevelopment. However, if Liam King’s manifesto is to be believed about how much has already been decided on redevelopment that will be hard to achieve. It’s a bit of a shame because her plans to push for gender-neutral toilets, quiet and family-friendly study spaces, prayer and reflection zones and space for clubs and societies are great plans. One must ask however At a university where overcrowding is a problem to the extent that people have taken exams in hallways and students are already overflowing into the newly acquired site, how much can we expect the university to have planned for space for some these important but previously unheralded spaces? We hope it is not too late for Darragh to secure at least some of these areas for the campus.

The promise to make Freshers’ Week more accessible shows a good awareness of a major issue for home students. But it will rely on co-operation from the two unions to make a major change to the schedule, which might be tricky to secure, the unions already desire to attract home students in the day-time and new ideas of how to do that will have to come with this good will.

The promise to support the SRC Welfare and Equal Opportunities Officers seems ripped out of the job description, but others are much more guilty of that.

A strong, respectable manifesto overall in terms of it’s understanding of student issues , but there are some question marks over the achievability of some promises, if she were to succeed in all that there she would make an excellent Vice-President.