Gisèle Scanlon to run unopposed for GSU presidency

Abhisweta Bhattacharjee and Joseph Keegan to vie for GSU vice-president

Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) Vice-President Gisèle Scanlon is to run unopposed for the union’s presidency in its upcoming sabbatical officer elections, which are set to take place online due to College’s closure amid the outbreak of Covid-19 in Ireland.

As the sole candidate for vice-president in 2019, Scanlon was elected to her current position with 82% of the vote. She holds two masters degrees from Trinity in English literature and creative writing and is working towards a third in art history. She previously served as the union’s Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) Officer. 

Speaking to Trinity News, Scanlon described her experience of listening to postgraduate students and working to solve their problems during her time as vice-president as “really valuable.”

“Working with and for students has shown me that there is space to develop a caring, listening and progressive Union,” she outlined.

“More recently, I have worked for and with the students during this Covid-19 time as vice-president and my job is to find different daily solutions. I’ve had to analyse and adapt in real time to keep students safe.”

Scanlon ran on a joint platform with current GSU President Shaz Oye, who was elected on the third vote following a race against two other candidates. In February, Oye and Scanlon diverged on the union’s engagement with PhD students who were concerned by pay cuts to laboratory demonstrators. At a town hall meeting on February 7, Scanlon questioned why Oye, as graduate students’ “representative”, did not know the hourly rate of pay for casual staff, and the two took different stances on motions put to GSU Council the following week on whether the union should support the TCD PhD Workers Rights campaign group, and whether it should take a stance to engage in no more direct action to oppose pay cuts until after the next meeting of College’s finance committee. Scanlon voted in favour of supporting the PhD workers’ rights group and against the idea of refraining from direct action.

Scanlon stated that she was running for president to help “allay” students’ fears in the current situation caused by the coronavirus. “I will offer care and progression, new perspectives to represent all voices both abroad and at home in Ireland, because we’re all operating remotely now so the GSU will have to innovate,” she said.

“If elected, I’ll be working with the new realities around remote working, but I will work to ensure that students receive the essential supports that they need and that the GSU responds to their challenges with clever, creative solutions and continuation of care.”

Scanlon is a former editor of the College Green Literary Journal and won the Spirit of Trinity award in 2018.

In the second race of the elections, Abhisweta Bhattacharjee and Joseph Keegan are vying for the role of vice-president.

Bhattacharjee, whose undergraduate degree is in psychology, is currently undertaking a masters in applied psychology and is a research assistant at Trinity’s Centre for Innovative Human Systems (CIHS). She is an applied behaviour analyst tutor at the ABA Preschool Academy in Tallaght.

While at Trinity, Bhattacharjee has participated in the Psychology, Science and Fiction, and Karate societies.

Speaking to Trinity News, Bhattacharjee said that she was “excited” for the elections, which she described as seeing not as a race but as “opportunity for a dedicated human to be able to serve and build a harmonious relationship with one of the most diverse graduate student communities in the world”.

“I believe tasks will be more unprecedented and challenging in a post-pandemic world, and hence a more rigorous administration will be required, which I am sure the most loved candidate will be able to carry out,” Bhattacharjee continued, mentioning the importance of “taking care of the welfare of the student community”.

Keegan, who most recently studied for Trinity’s postgraduate certificate in creative thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship, holds a BSc in Management Information Systems from Trinity and has completed other courses in science and finance in Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin), University College Dublin (UCD) and the Dublin Business School.

Keegan is currently a class representative, an incubator ambassador for the Trinity Entrepreneurial Society, and works as an IT consultant for JMK Computer Support Services.

Keegan told Trinity News that he was “delighted to be afforded this opportunity to demonstrate how [he] can represent postgraduate students”, who he described as the “cornerstone” of college, through “active discussion and debate”.

He outlined that his key goals would be to address the impact of Covid-10 on postgraduate students, including by maintaining “our close ties with the university establishment” and to “set up new processes for dealing with issues until we can get back to a sense of normality”, continuing the “trojan work” of former vice-presidents, and promoting diversity within college.

The GSU elections are to happen “completely online” this year as a consequence of College being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An independent online elections company, Mi-Voice, is set to facilitate the elections. Speaking to Trinity News earlier this month, a spokesperson for GSU Electoral Commission said that Mi-Voice’s involvement was to “ensure that the election is completely secure and fair in these unprecedented times”.

Nominations for both races opened on May 11, with campaigning set to begin on May 18. Two hustings are to take place during the campaign period; one over video, and a second one with a write-in format to replace the union’s traditional physical hustings. The campaign period is to be followed by voting on May 27, 28, and 29.

The GSU annually elects two paid sabbatical officers; a president and a vice-president. The sabbatical officers sit on the union’s executive committee, which also includes part-time officers.

The GSU sabbatical officer elections are overseen by the GSU’s Electoral Commission, which is separate to the Electoral Commission of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) that oversees undergraduate union elections.

This article was updated at 11:48am, May 16, to include statements from the candidates.

A former version of this article incorrectly stated that Scanlon holds a masters in art history when she is in fact currently pursuing a masters in art history. The article has been updated to reflect this.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.