Graduate Students’ Union elects Sophia Gonsalves-Brown as its new chairperson

The AGM also saw various faculty reps, officers, and electoral commissioners elected

The Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) has elected Sophia Gonsalves-Brown as its new chairperson. The election of a new chairperson saw two candidates speak for three minutes on their proposals and plans for election. The elections took place in the Ed Burke theatre this evening.

The position was contested by Gonsalves-Brown, and Michael O’Brien. Gonsalves-Brown, a political science graduate, noted that the most important part of the role was to maintain her neutrality throughout discussion. However, O’Brien announced his candidacy as he “did not like uncontested elections”, and he had “no intention of running”.

The event was opened by GSU President, Oisín Vince Coulter, who recognised that in the early stages of his GSU career, he was the union’s chairperson. Various officers were also absent from the meeting, with Coulter citing the completion of their degree programmes for their absence.

The AGM also elected members for its electoral commission. While the committee can hold up to five electoral commissioners, only three students put their names forward for the position.

Gisele Scanlon was re-elected to the position of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Officer. She noted the “huge concern” for mental health issues impacting on postgraduate work time. Uncontested for this position, Scanlon was immediately confirmed as the officer for the coming year.

The meeting then saw members running for the position of AHSS representative. This was again uncontested, with Michael Sonne, a philosophy student with prior experience in the area, accepting the position.

The elections for Health Science (HS), and Engineering, Mathematics and Science (EMS) both initially saw no candidates for the positions, with only three EMS students in attendance at the meeting.

Daniel Joseph Ringis, an engineering student then put his name forward for the role of EMS Officer. The student from Trinidad and Tobago, noted that this lack of enthusiasm was not a sensible position for the faculty to take, where he believed that attitudes being that EMS students “simply were not there”.

Aishwarya Vishwanathan put her name forward for the position of HS Officer, with no contest for the role. She thought it would be good to represent those who are “like minded” and she would “love to take on the responsibility”.

Shaz Oye was then re-elected as Equality and Diversity Officer, running against four other candidates. Unsuccessful candidates, Patrick McDonagh, Anushka Ghosh, Yewa Zhang, and Valerie Oyiki, also spoke at the meeting. Oye wanted to make sure that the voice of the postgraduate was both “recognised and heard”. She also pointed out that she has sat on various public boards. Patrick McDonagh, who intended to increase work alongside Trinity Access Programme, followed last year’s officer in speaking.

Oyiki noted the importance of representing all members of the union, in whatever their needs are. Ghosh also shared her personal experiences of racial differences and subtle differences “which she did not want to accept”. Yewa Zhang pointed out that she “was not shy” and is very “talkative”, and that this would aid her in her position.

The election for the position of Research Officer candidate initially saw no candidates put their names forward. Oisín Vince Coulter noted that they represent the least known group of students within the university, and that “it would set out a bad message to the university” should this role fail to be filled. Vice President Falia also noted that despite being the oldest students on campus, “when trouble starts, they are the most vulnerable”.

As a result of this, elections which were intended to be announced at the GSU “after party” were announced immediately, in order to free up candidates to run for the various vacant positions.

Patrick McDonagh, defeated equality and diversity Officer candidate, then also ran uncontested for the position of Research Officer. He stated that he “looked forward to the year to come”, and accepted his position.

Oisín Vince Coulter also read out a draft report of the GSU’s year. He noted the primary achievements of the union, specifically recalling that “the graduate students’ union led the way” in fee protesting against the college in the Take Back Trinity campaign. He praised former President Shane Collins, who he pointed out played an “admirable role” in the protests.

Coulter also noted that the financial situation of the union is “very good”, and has returned from the deficit of past years. He pointed out that the union’s bloc grant of €30,000 had ended last year, but had acquired alternative funding for the coming year.

Vice President of the GSU, Gogoal Falia also noted the postgraduate mental health survey, which was circulated last year. He also recalled the cycling fundraiser for the postgraduate hardship fund, which saw many students, and Dean of Postgraduate Studies Neville Cox cycle to raise money for the union, and praised the success.

Communications Officer, Xander Cosgrave, noted the various successful events ran by the union. He noted the development of a GSU communications booklet, physical branding, which he believed “used to be very ugly”, and promotions for each GSU event, including the successful postgrad ball.

GSU Diversity and Equality Officer Shaz Oye also spoke at the meeting. They noted their involvement in the Repeal campaign, and the postgrad weekend. They also announced their intention to draft policy fact sheets to inform students on their various rights while attending and working in the university.

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly is a current Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. He is a Senior Fresh Law student, and a former Senior Reporter.