TCDSU to rerun postgraduate committee elections over alleged “election interference” by PWO

The two organisations have come into conflict over the voting system used for TCDSU’s postgraduate committee elections

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has said that it will rerun postgraduate committee elections next week due to “election interference” by members of the Postgraduate Workers’ Organisation (PWO).

In a statement to Trinity News, the union said that it had been made aware of an email sent out by the PWO endorsing its own candidates over others, “in violation of [TCDSU’s] long-standing electoral regulations”.

“Due to this, following intense deliberation, TCDSU had no choice but to pull the ballots in order to uphold the rules which protect the integrity of all Union elections.”

“TCDSU is extremely disappointed by the behaviour of some PWO members who harassed polling clerks in-person. TCDSU strongly condemns this.”

TCD PWO today claimed that TCDSU is “disenfranchising PhDs en masse” with its voting system, sparking a dispute with the union.

In a statement posted to Twitter, TCD PWO complained that voters have been turned away from ballot boxes, that stands have run out of ballots, that there was “no online voting option”, and that there had been no postgraduate consultation on the running of elections, which it branded “unacceptable”.

In its statement, TCD PWO said that its president Jeffrey Seathrún Sardina “was denied a ballot” due to the stand at the Arts Building having run out of paper.

According to TCDSU, “ballots were pulled because of election interference” by the PWO.

TCD PWO also claimed that “no online option was available”, a claim which TCDSU has highlighted as false.

“There was an accessible voting form which was circulated on September 25 via the weekly email to the entire student body, which is for both postgrads and undergrads.”

The union also pointed out that the locations of ballot boxes were advertised on September 26, as well as the accessible online voter form once again, in response to a claim by TCD PWO that ballot times and locations were announced only two days before voting began on Tuesday, October 3.

PWO strongly criticised TCDSU on Twitter, saying that the EC “at no point consulted any PhDs or postgraduate researchers in determining how to run this vote, what their accessibility needs were, or any other critical considerations they might bring”.

“We are extremely disappointed in this disenfranchisement of our members, and will ensure that TCDSU never lets this happen to our members again. We are already underrepresented in college. TCDSU has a mandate to support us, and must do better.”

TCDSU said that the PWO had not contacted TCDSU with these complaints prior to today, the final day of voting in the postgraduate committee election.

It noted that it had previously extended the deadline for nominations to the postgraduate committee by a week after concerns were expressed about a lack of advertisement regarding nominations. 

“We have shown that we are happy to work with the PWO when they voice their concerns, and we hope they can reevaluate how they go about these issues in a way that does not involve negatively affecting other Union members.”

TCDSU President László Molnárfi asked Trinity News to note his dissent and said that he had not signed off on the statement given by TCDSU, but did not elaborate.

Later in a statement to Trinity News, Molnárfi called for “unity against the common enemy – College and the Government”. 

“Postgraduate researchers marched on October 5th, and have expressed their demands and stated that they are willing and ready to escalate as far as strikes. We, the TCDSU, now have a crucial responsibility to support their struggle and spread words of solidarity amongst students, not to fight with each other.”

“It would be a shame if our solidarity were to be damaged. We should not lose sight of the bigger picture”, he added.

This article was updated on October 6 to include a statement from TCDSU President László Molnárfi. 

David Wolfe

David Wolfe is a Junior Sophister student of History and Political Science. He is the current Social Media and Managing Editor of Trinity News, having previously served as News Editor, Assistant News Editor and copyeditor.