The president of the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) could lose their voting powers at Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union’s (TCDSU) Union Forum from next year, if a referendum on wording changes to the union’s constitution passes.
The amendment – one of 78 wording changes proposed as part of an effort to “clean up” TCDSU’s constitution and remove typos and conflicting passages – will change the GSU president’s current position of “ex-officio” in union forum to “ex-officio; non-voting”, removing their voting powers.
Union Forum consists of part-time officers, faculty convenors and sabbatical officers as well as the chair and secretary of council, who are both non-voting members.
Union Forum has considerable influence over the direction of the union’s policies and campaigns, as well as having the power to accept or reject the budget for The University Times and set up sub-committees of the union.
Council voted over email in favour of a motion to hold the referendum alongside the class representative elections early next year.
The motion, proposed by Engineering, Mathematics and Science Convenor Daniel O’Reilly and seconded by TCDSU President Laura Beston, says that wording issues in the constitution make it “a confusing and unwieldy document for the Union to operate under”.
A spreadsheet explaining the changes, circulated to some members of council before they voted, says the “GSU President and VP still have a vote on council; so it’s not like we’re kicking them out the door”.
As well as stripping the GSU president of voting rights, the motion proposes the expansion of the Oversight Commission – the body responsible for managing and maintaining the union’s policy – from two to four members.
Another proposed change could mean the union’s education officer can no longer dismiss part-time officers and faculty convenors guilty of absenteeism. Members of union bodies who miss three consecutive meetings will instead be investigated by the Oversight Commission.
The motion suggests another change that could mean only students with experience on the Oversight Commission can run to be the secretary of the union’s council.
Another section seeks to make ad hoc part-time officers full members of council.
In an email statement to The University Times, O’Reilly said the change to the GSU president’s voting rights “was proposed because the GSU president having a vote on Union Forum doesn’t reflect the independence of the two organisations”.
“TCDSU still welcomes the advice of the GSU and will continue to endeavour to cooperate on issues as outlined in our memorandum of agreement, but we are separate unions with separate decision making structures”, he said.
O’Reilly wrote that “the President and VP of the GSU both are voting members of Student Council, TCDSU’s decision making body. Union Forum really there to execute the orders of Council. We wouldn’t expect the TCDSU president to be given a vote in the GSU executive”.
Beston wrote in an email statement to The University Times that “the decision was brought forward as Union Forum and TCDSU benefit from their advice and insight but feel due to the fact that both TCDSU and TCD GSU are separate entities that this should be reflected in voting procedures”.
“The SU GSU Memorandum”, she added, “is the basis of the working relationship between the SU and GSU and ensures that both Undergraduates and Postgraduates are represented fairly and effectively”.
At the time of publication, GSU President Shaz Oye could not be reached for comment.