Petition launched to call vote of no confidence in GSU President

Postgraduate students have raised serious concerns over the handling of a GSU meeting last night

A petition has been launched to call for a vote of no confidence in Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Gisèle Scanlon. 

The petition follows the union’s Executive General Meeting (EGM) yesterday, which saw an unprecedented turnout with around 540 members in attendance on a Zoom call.

The petition’s description, which is collecting signatures from postgraduate students through a Google form, says that “based on the events of the recent GSU EMC, we hold the president unfit to continue in their present role”.

It continues: “Therefore, we see fit that they should be removed from their current position.”

The petition requires an individual to give their name, declare whether they are a graduate student, provide their Trinity email for verification, and indicate whether or not they support a vote of no confidence.

Trinity News has contacted Scanlon with a request for comment.

The new GSU Constitution, which was deemed to have passed yesterday, stipulates in Article 15a that “any representative of the union may be removed from office by way of a motion brought by at least 51% of the total number of individuals who initially appointed them”. 

Scanlon was elected GSU President in May, with 85% of voters casting a ballot in her favour.

547 students voted to elect Scanlon, who ran unopposed, and 93 voted for the option to re-open nominations.

Before changes to the constitution were voted on at last night’s meeting, Article 23 of the constitution covered removal from office.

Article 23 said: “Any member of the Executive Committee may be removed from office by a vote of no confidence which may be effected by a simple majority of the members at a General Meeting. The charges brought against the member of the Executive Committee must be signed by at least sixty members of the Union and posted in a conspicuous place in the Common Room and circulated via email to Union members only at least fourteen days before the meeting at which the resolution will be considered.”

With the passing of a motion last night to amend Article 15a to reflect the same rule as Article 23 of the old constitution, the GSU are required to update the new constitution. This would allow a member of the union to be removed “more easily.” This means that old constitution stipulation on removal from office still holds.

The GSU deemed to have passed three motions yesterday evening that have introduced a series of changes to the union’s constitution, despite members raising serious concerns over the structure of the meeting and its voting process.

The meeting was scheduled for 7pm, and initially had a maximum capacity of 300 attendees, which left a large number of other union members unable to access the video call.

PhD student Tenaya Jorgensen raised concerns over members being unable to join the Zoom, saying that “not letting the GSU members vote is unconstitutional”.

GSU Vice President Abhisweta Bhattacharjee, who was chairing the meeting, said that it would need to proceed with the members who were in attendance because the Zoom room had met its maximum capacity. Scanlon suggested pausing the meeting and sending a fresh link that would allow a higher number of attendees. The meeting was suspended and resumed around 7.25pm.

The constitutional amendments were voted on through three motions. 

During discussions on the motions, where one speaker was allowed to speak on each side, the Zoom chat was disabled. 

Members used handwritten notes held up to their screens to raise concerns that some were unable to vote; that the voting platform allowed users to vote multiple times; and that there was no verification process to check that voters were members of the union, which went unresolved.

Bhattacharjee repeatedly asked members to remove the handwritten notes, describing them as a distraction, and said that she would remove students from the call if they did not cease to show the notes.

A separate motion on divestment from Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) was initially said to have passed, but later failed by a wide margin when the vote was reran.

In the second round of voting, 180 total votes were cast. 115 voters, or 65%, were against divestment from the TCDSU, whereas 65 voters, or 35%, voted in favour of the motion. 

The GSU is one of Trinity’s five capitated bodies alongside TCDSU, the Central Societies Committee (CSC), Dublin University Central Athletics Club (DUCAC) and Trinity Publications.

This article was updated at 8:40pm to reflect the amendments to be made to Article 15a.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.