Words: Ellen Desmond
Traditionally, a student editor in UCC will use their last editorial to call for better facilities for their suffering successors. The student media in this University, for those of you who don’t know, work with absolutely nothing. I myself have a desk: an empty one, with no phone and no computer. I’ve had no training or instruction whatsoever in journalism or editing; let alone how to put together a magazine. If a member of the team is to interview someone who is abroad, over the phone, then they cover the cost themselves or we don’t run the interview. We provide our own Dictaphones, have no access to a printer and teach ourselves to use Photoshop, inDesign and WordPress.
On other campuses, student-run publications have late night newsrooms and MACS, and editors on Sabbatical leave. It’s very important to call for a better student media equipment but for once there’s actually a glimmer of (very distant) hope in the Student Hub Project which plans to turn the Windle Building into a less creepy, more useful, place. I’ll leave that there though because I think its due time to call on the University for more important services elsewhere.
Some weeks ago, my Facebook newsfeed exploded with angry statuses written by disappointed students. These people had just learned that UCC was about to invest up to €120 million in a new “state of the art” business school. This is because UCD have one and UCC is jealous. My angry Facebook friends couldn’t help but notice that we appear to have a fairly well functioning business degree program, or two, at the moment. While I’m sure any BIS, Finance or Commerce student will be able to point out some flaw, or many, in their school, ultimately, it’s a massive non-necessity to grow a University before tidying up some pivotal loose ends elsewhere.
By this I refer to the counselling service in UCC, which is fantastic but exhausted and underfunded. There’s about a four week wait at the moment for a person to get the counselling they need and we’re currently entering the most stressful time of year for many. This is down to a lack of funding; they don’t have the resources, optimal space or facilities that they, or those who require their services, truly deserve. Mental wellbeing is vital for any student; no one can be expected to put themselves through college without the support they deserve. If the University can consider investing €60 million of its own money and finding €60 million from elsewhere to put together a top notch new business school, then there is money somewhere for more student counselling.
I don’t know for sure the reasons that this money hasn’t, or can’t, be invested in students’ mental health and wellbeing but I’m certainly disheartened that it is the case. A business degree means nothing to someone who can’t get out of bed in the morning. Perhaps there is a valid reason the money must be channelled in one direction and not the other, and we don’t know what goes on in the background, so maybe we can hope the University are doing their best to tackle the situation, but if not, then the powers that be within UCC should be disappointed with themselves.
While this news for me, and for many others, was upsetting, the most proactive thing we can do at the moment is educate each other about the many supportive facilities that are currently available for free. UCC runs Niteline, a confidential listening service, has a hardworking SU Welfare Officer, and friendly staff in a counselling service who want to do nothing but help. There’s also the very useful PleaseTalk.org and many helpful services outside of UCC, for free, and most of their contact details are available on the UCC SÁMH Society’s website. Even better still, we can remind ourselves that we always have each other; UCC is a big community and a big opportunity to make change. No one need feel alone in the journey through these gates. I’ll leave you on the same note with which I began my first ever editorial back in August 2013: “happiness can always be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.”