February began in truly dramatic fashion, with two of our biggest campaigns of the year jam-packed beside one another.
We opened the month with Mental Health campaign week. We distributed many useful, destressing trinkets: spforks (as the name suggests, a mélange of spoon, fork and knife — a handy tool when even the thought of washing dishes is just too much to take on), stress balls and Student Support Cards; given out in accordance with Union of Students in Ireland’s national mental health campaign. We also organised mindfulness workshops across the four campuses (if you didn’t attend, the key message to take away was: take five minutes every day to relax, contemplate and ground your mind in the present. Hint: when you’re relaxing, the tension is usually around the neck and shoulders.)
Twenty thousand of the USI Student Support Cards have been distributed all around Ireland this year. These cards are as important as anything else you can slot into your wallet — your bank card, your driving licence, your student card — why? It could save someone’s life. You’ll never know when you might need it, but whether it’s for your sake, a friend or a stranger, make sure you keep one of these cards in your wallet.
Next up was LOVE week! Over the course of the week we gave out an inordinate number of condoms, USB pens and sexual health info. There is a lot of sexual health misinformation and myths that permeate our society — we wanted to quash some of these myths over the week. We also hosted a Big Fat Sexy Quiz in the Union bar in Coleraine, which attracted over 80 students. Teams battled it out to see who had the best sexual health knowledge, with the victors trotting home with a bunch of Amazon Echo Dots!
We also had sexual consent workshops across our four campuses. I went with one of our UUSU student staffers, Ben Sharkey, to local bars distributing posters about the Ask Angela initiative (see picture) and PSNI Sexual Consent posters. The crux of Ask Angela is: if you’re out at a bar and you’re receiving unwanted or awkward advances, you can alert the bar staff in a discreet way by simply asking if Angela is behind the bar. The bar staff will then act accordingly. Local bars have been very welcoming and supportive of this initiative, and hopefully it will go a great way to making our students feel more emboldened and safe on nights out.
UUSU Sabbatical Elections
Our election season this year shows how much we’ve improved our election process. We ended up increasing our voter turnout from 1,741 last year to 2,315 this year — that’s a great achievement, so thanks to everyone who turned out to vote! I’m delighted to say that I was re-elected, but this year I’ll be switching roles from VP Coleraine to VP Campaigns & Communications (with the redoubtable Owen McCloskey poised to take up the mantel in Coleraine.)
We have a strong team heading into next year and I’m so excited work with the team and to spearhead our campaigns!
For three weeks in a row I was happy to be part of the UUSU delegation at all three national conferences. Each conference was my first time representing UUSU on a national stage. At the USI conference I attended the launch of the STUDENTS FOR CH8ICE national campaign. I am more determined than ever before to drive this campaign forward on our campus, and over the coming months I’ll be encouraging our students from the south of Ireland to get REGISTERED to vote in the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.
This referendum will be a crucial moment in modern Irish politics. This movement has been fronted primarily by students and is being driven forward by passionate student activates who’ve realised enough is enough — in this day and age it is an absurdity that women do not have full autonomy over their own bodies. If you want more information of how you can get involved in the campaign, please see click here.
What to look forward to in the next few weeks?
· GO GREEN campaign week is coming up NEXT WEEK — featuring the launch of Meat Free Mondays. Do your bit for the planet and be sure to pop into any UUSU or university catering this Monday and pick yourself up a delicious vegan meal!
· RETRO REWIND // Dance the Decades is happening NEXT MONDAY in the Union bar. Great prizes to be won and the last big party of the year!
· UUSU will be launching our Period Toolkits trial very soon. Students who have periods should not have to pay for products for a bodily function they have no control of. We look to provide period toolkits in our UUSU bathrooms. If we can hand out free condoms for an entirely voluntary sexual act, this service is the very least your union can do for you.
· DE-STRESS FEST is your chance to get rid of any stresses you have, as we’ll have a bunch of puppies in the union for you to meet! It’s all for a great cause too, as the dogs are brought to us by Causeway Coast Dog Rescue. The event is free, but we’ll be collecting for their charity, so they can continue to do the great work they do ensuring stray & abandoned dogs get the loving homes they deserve!