The Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) AGM on Wednesday gave an insight into what the future may hold for postgraduate politics in Trinity.
The divide was clear between the GSU and the TCD PhD Workers’ Rights Group before the meeting even began.
In an article on GSU President Gisele Scanlon’s shock decision to release survey data that she had previously withheld, chair of the TCD PhD Workers’ Rights Group Thomas Dinneen said that questions would need to be answered at the GSU AGM.
However, it appears that the meeting has raised more questions than it answered. The GSU was clearly keen to avoid too many questions: an email sent to postgraduate students said that a question and answers session would be postponed until the next council meeting.
This was despite the fact that the GSU had not a council meeting until this week’s AGM – a breach of its constitution – and clearly students had a lot of questions to ask about the release of the survey data.
When students did put questions to Scanlon, they were unhappy with the clarity of her responses – ultimately leading to the president’s report being voted down in frustration. The lack of clarity was exacerbated by GSU Chair Daire Tully’s decision to mute one of the speakers, Shaakya Anand Vembar, when she tried to challenge Scanlon on one of her responses.
The GSU now clearly has a challenger to its authority among postgraduate students. The TCD PhD Workers’ Rights Group has proven to be a bloc capable of voting down GSU-backed motions at council.
If postgraduate students are to be represented effectively, the two groups need to work together in harmony and that will likely require compromise on both sides. However, the times they are a-changin, and if the GSU is going to continue to have influence in College it will need to try to bring the TCD PhD Workers’ Rights Group under its umbrella and heal the divisions in postgraduate politics in Trinity.
Whether the next meeting of the GSU is as fraught as the last one depends on what the union learns from the past week.