MSU Elections Executive Candidates – Alexander Mc Gill,VP for Welfare and Equality

What inspired you to run for VP Welfare and Equality?

A combination of my experiences, skills and qualities is what inspired me to run this year. Being an Resident Assistant on campus very much helped highlight the importance of student welfare, especially here in our community of students. I believe that I’m an approachable and easy going person who anyone would feel comfortable having a chat with, and I have a deep understanding and knowledge of a lot of the student services and supports that are available here in Maynooth, and from working for the University I have already helped many students find what they’re looking for by being their first point of contact on campus.
Additionally the issue of mental health is very close to my heart, and it’s something I am experienced and comfortable dealing with in a confidential and sensitive manner. Third level education is something of a minefield to try and navigate first time, and from living with first years this year I have also realised that a lot of the issues that they’ve experienced settling into university were very similar to the ones I experienced when I was in their position, however it was nice being there as a senior student to help them and to be there for them. To be elected VP Welfare and Equality would be an extension of the role I currently fulfil today.
How long have you been thinking about running ?
I’ve been thinking about running since around Christmas 2015 when I was in my first year here in MU. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with the MSU President 2015-16 Matt O’Boyle on a few media projects involving his music duo that some students may be familiar with, Tebi Rex. From talking to him about his work within the SU and the operation of the SU in general I became interested in the possibility of perhaps one day serving the students of Maynooth in an official capacity. Then over time I decided that VP Welfare & Equality was the position that suited me best so I printed off that nomination form and went looking for nominations.
You are an RA on campus, how has that influenced how you view the student body in terms of the topics welfare and equality?
As a team of Resident Assistants we work on campus with fellow students on a 24/7 basis throughout the academic year, and are almost always the first port of call for any issues they face, no matter how big or small. Being an RA given me an eye opening view into the stark reality of what goes on after dark and behind closed doors in students’ lives. In terms of Welfare there is a common trend of issues that crop up relating to alcohol consumption, relationships with housemates, relationships with friends, personal safety and security and settling into university, amongst a plethora of other things. Obviously I cannot go into too much detail as all of what we do relates to current students in the university, however being an RA has equipped me with the skills to handle pretty much anything that could be thrown at me.
If elected what positive differences would you make to the Student Union and Student body as a whole?

On the campaign trail when discussing my manifesto with other students, a large number of students approve of my proposition to establish an Equality Committee, which will operate as an open door council made up of representatives of each an every group of students on council. There is no limit to who can sit on the committee or how big or small the committee can be. I believe that this is the best way to be informed of and to solve the issues that present themselves to the diverse range of students we have in Maynooth. I can’t possibly raise my hand and say I fully understand the issues Mature, Trans, LGBTQ+ students etc. face in their daily lives in college, however this forum will foster the dialogue between the various  groups students, the SU and the University and hopefully going forward will pave the way for equality in Maynooth. There are a number of other great plans in my manifesto but the council really stands out.

Additionally I was very much taken aback by the other candidates reply at the hustings last Wednesday to the question regarding mens mental health, and their collective responses echoed a deep misunderstanding of the issue at hand. The issue was expressed as it being something as simple as reaching out to “the GAA lads” and just “talking about mental health” which is quite frankly a non solution to a very serious problem in our country today. The idea that men have to live up to and aspire to be a stone cold, emotionless masculine figure is a little old fashioned today, as I said on Wednesday men do talk, and men do cry. I have talked to and dealt with men going through rough patches with their mental health, and I have talked to and dealt with women going through rough patches with their mental health. In terms of differences between how you approach mental health based on gender, there are very few, if not none at all. You can’t box the issue off into men’s mental health and women’s mental health, the core issue is everyone should be able to recognise when something isn’t right, and that there is someone there they can talk to to help work through it together. Dialogue is a huge part of who I am and if elected I hope to make a positive impact on mental health as a whole and start the conversations we need to be having.

Welfare and Equality is the biggest race this year, what are your thoughts on this ?
My thoughts are very much mixed on the matter, I think it’s fantastic that there is so much interest in the role this year given the position was uncontested last year, it’s great that there’s a variety of candidates who have each brought their own qualities and experiences to the table. However I am disappointed with the fact that there are no candidates at all for a number of senate positions, such as LGBT+ and Gender Equality Senators. These positions would positively impact students’ Welfare and Equality as much as VP Welfare and Equality yet there’s no interest in them, and it’s sad to see this decline in the senate, so early into its lifespan. The number of candidates going for VP Welfare & Equality really highlights the importance of welfare to us as students but this definitely should be a source of inspiration as opposed to intimidation.

Finally, why should students vote for you ?

What it all boils down to at the end of the day is that this community needs a committed, experienced, driven and professional yet open and friendly Welfare and Equality officer who will be there for the students of Maynooth, who will push for what is needed and who will ask the questions and discuss the issues that need to be urgently addressed, and of course deliver an effective Welfare and Equality program throughout the academic year, and I believe the students of Maynooth can find that in me. I hope the students of Maynooth give me the great honour and privilege of serving as their VP Welfare & Equality and allowing me to be there in times of need and to fight for the causes we hold most dear.