Candidates set out their manifestos at GSU hustings

Voting is set to take place on April 11 and 12

Hustings took place this evening for the roles of President and Vice-President of the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), with each of the candidates delivering a short speech before being questioned by a moderator and members of the audience.

First to speak was Gisèle Scanlon, the sole candidate for Vice-President. In her speech, she cited her role in a number of campaigns “against racism and against the eighth amendment”. She said she wanted to take the energy from these campaigns and “build on what others have created in the GSU”. Scanlon said that when it comes to advocating for students, she “won’t stay quiet” and that she would promote “policies that recognise equality and care.” She noted that the main issues she would focus on would be “affordable accommodation, mental health supports and decent conditions for postgraduate teachers”.

Scanlon said that that GSU “need to be working with all universities to be working to increase research funding”, she said she would provide “not just representation for campus postgraduates” and added: “I’ll bring care and long-term thinking into the GSU.”

Asked how she would handle student welfare cases, Scanlon stressed that “anyone who comes to us would do so in complete privacy” and added that she “would be looking to improve the bridge between us and the Postgraduate Advisory Service and the Counselling Service”.

Questioned on how she would balance the welfare and education responsibilities of the role, Scanlon said that “it’s all about time management” and tried to reassure people that she has “the experience from outside of Trinity” and the “skill set”.

A member of the audience asked how she would include those students who study off- campus. Scanlon outlined that she would meet with them in person “to ask them ‘what are your needs?’ and to try and find a better solution”.

The first of the candidates for President to speak was Gogoal Falia, the current GSU Vice-President. In his speech, Falia promised to lobby for “an expansion of the Postgraduate Advisory Service to at least two more officers”.  Falia admitted that “student outreach is something we have been lacking in in the last two years” and said he plans to organise a “student outreach programme” as well as coffee mornings “for people who need an excuse to come out of their rooms and meet people”.

Asked what he thought the biggest challenge of the role would be, Falia circled back to the issue of engagement, saying “we have been focused too much on digital outreach”.  Asked if he would be capable of upholding the mandates of the union regardless of his personal views. he said “I’ve never taken a decision on my own, I always take into account everyone’s point of view”, adding that “there are always differences, it’s about how you work together for students”.

Falia was challenged by a member of the audience that his policies seemed to focus more on his current role of the vice-presidency. He responded that most issues are a matter of “teamwork between the VP and the {resident” and that particularly welfare “cannot be done by the VP working alone”.

The next candidate to speak was Shaz Oye, who opened by stating: “I am running because I am the best candidate.” Oye said that her campaign was based on “engagement, vision and inclusion”. She explained that she and Scanlon were running on a joint platform and said that with their “three years combined experience on the GSU” they were “ideally placed” to lead the union. She spoke about her current role as the GSU Equality Officer and said that she wanted to continue her fight for “equality of esteem for men and women and people of all genders” so that “all of us are safe to express our gender identity”. She said many postgraduates had told her they feel isolated and she stated: “I think of the GSU as a family, lots of people are looking for their tribe, we are your tribe.”

Like Falia, Oye believes the biggest challenge of the role will be engagement, saying she wants to “engage with the student population across all Trinity campuses”. On the question of respecting the mandates of the union, Oye said she has “a track record of doing that” adding that “as the Equality Officer of the GSU I don’t get to choose what issues to lobby on”.

Asked how she would approach the union’s relationship with the Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI), Oye said she had “spoken to a number of officers at USI” and would look to “consolidate the relationship with Andrew Forde”, USI’s Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs. Questioned on her plan to create a sense of community Oye said she would “be very hands on” and would make sure to “be visible on campus”.

The final candidate to speak was Michael Sonne, who said his presidency would focus on “accountability and practicality”. He said that the President sits on a lot of committees and he would “update people on what those committees are and what they do and how I’m representing your interests on them”. Sonne restated his manifesto promise to create “open-ended surveys of postgraduate students” in order to get feedback on the union.

Sonne said he would like to “set in motion” work on the national issues of “housing and higher-education funding” but would focus more on smaller local issues that are “a bit more practical”.

Sonne said that he believes the biggest challenge of the role would be that “most people don’t know what the GSU does” and said he would like this “information to be known more.” Asked if he would uphold the mandates of the union, he said: “Of course, I am a Christian but I don’t expect everyone else to be a Christian.” He added when it came to personal belief verses the representational role, he “could separate the two”.

Campaigning for the GSU elections began last Friday and voting is set to take place on April 11 and 12.

Finn Purdy

Finn Purdy is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister English Studies student, and a former News Editor and Assistant News Editor.