Trinity College Dublin Graduate Students Union (GSU) passed a motion tonight to bring the subject of part-time graduate students running and serving as GSU President or Vice-President to a further meeting of the union. The motion was presented by the GSU Equality and Diversity Officer, Shaz Oye and by Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) Faculty Officer Gisèle Scanlon.
Both GSU President and Vice-President positions have only previously been open to full-time graduate students, and require these officers to withdraw from the College books for the duration of their time in office.
Oye stated that “inequality is enshrined in our constitution,” and that these inequalities need to be removed. Scanlon made the point that part-time students should not be excluded from the supports and positions in the GSU simply because they are not registered full time, and that, “you might be full time now, but there are times where people go off books, and you should still be able to throw your hat in the ring”.
GSU President Oisín Vince Coulter updated students on ongoing GSU projects. He noted that following complaints regarding the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration System (INIS) visa system, a restructuring of the system was expected for 2019. Additionally, Vince Coulter noted the GSU did not take a strong position either way on the Smoke-Free Trinity initiative at the last Council, and that Trinity will go forward with being smoke-free from March.
Vince Coulter outlined that the GSU has worked alongside Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) in discussions on third level places for students living in direct provision. He stated that undergraduate degrees are currently the focus of such discussions, but hopes to see efforts expanded to include postgraduate courses in the future. Furthermore, the GSU intends to petition College to review the “postgraduate experience” in Trinity’s next Strategic Plan.
Vince Coulter brought up multiple financial issues faced by post-graduates, including the fact that students are facing late payments of United States (US) loans without explanation.
A PhD student spoke up about the late US loans, stating that currently her loans are at the very least six weeks late and that there has been little communication from Academic Registry. Vince Coulter responded by stating the best bet at this point is to “make noise,” and that the GSU has not been able to get a legitimate response from these offices as to why the loans are so delayed. He believes the reasoning could include the recent United States government shutdown, or that this issue has not been given top priority by bodies like the Academic Registry.
Additionally, a proposal for the creation of a GSU Alumni Committee was passed by Council. The proposal aims to “involve alumni in overall planning and the strategic vision of the Union” by creating a committee that meets twice a year, consisting of GSU executives and previous representatives. The committee is tasked with building both short and long-term visions for the GSU.
Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Vice-President for the Dublin Region Colm O’Halloran, spoke on the fact that USI is currently working the GSU regarding national issues faced by post-graduates across Ireland. This includes the need for improved higher education funding and the possibility of a student walkout in March to call attention to the uncertain future of funding for higher education in Ireland. O’Halloran updated students on ongoing student accommodation issues and recent nurses and midwives strikes.