The Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) Board has said it could not make any “substantive findings” on the union’s controversial April EGM as it did not receive “adequate engagement” from the GSU president and vice president.
The Board received two complaints about the events of the EGM – a meeting that provoked outrage among members of the GSU.
Following the meeting, petitions to impeach President Gisèle Scanlon and Vice President Abhisweta Bhattacharjee – who were both re-elected to their positions last month – were circulated among postgraduates. The petition to impeach Scanlon reached the requisite 60 signatures.
The GSU Board’s summary of conclusions, seen by The University Times, said that “the Board communicated with the GSU Vice President in her capacity as Secretary to the Executive (on 1 May 2021) and the GSU President (on 17 May, 2 June and 23 June) to seek their response to issues raised in these submissions”.
“No such submission was received by the Board by the designated and extended deadline (Friday 25 June) following interaction over a period of seven weeks.”
The report has been sent to the Senior Dean to be reviewed by the Capitations Committee, which gives the GSU funding.
The Board’s summary said: “Consequently, the Board is unable to make any substantive findings or offer strategic advice to the GSU in relation to the EGM.”
“It is our view that the Board has not received adequate engagement from the GSU and that in future the GSU should engage constructively with the Board. We are disappointed at the lack of adequate engagement in this matter.”
Neither Scanlon nor Bhattacharjee responded to a request for comment.
In an email statement to The University Times, Chair of the GSU Board John Walsh said: “The report of the GSU Board was submitted on 20 July to the relevant parties and to the Senior Dean for the attention of the Capitation Committee. The Board is an independent body within the GSU Constitution which has the functions of exercising oversight and offering strategic advice to the GSU.”
“The Board is dependent on the trust and co-operation of all parties to exercise its functions effectively – unfortunately, co-operation from one of the parties was not adequate”, Walsh said.
“The Board therefore indicated to the Senior Dean that it was unable to make substantive recommendations due to the lack of adequate engagement from the GSU. This is a disappointing outcome for the Board as we had hoped to offer oversight which would assist the GSU.”
“We have concluded this process in a timely way to indicate that the internal oversight process available from the GSU Board on this issue has now been exhausted”, he concluded.
Issues raised by members at the April EGM included the use of a voting system that did not verify whether those using it were actually entitled to vote. Several attendees reported that they were unable to vote, while others said that the voting link allowed users to vote several times.
The amendments that were passed during the meeting included a major overhaul of the constitution. However, one of the most contentious amendments relating to the constitution did not receive a two-thirds majority, as specified by the old constitution.
Two of the most controversial parts of the amendment – one which changed the procedure for removing members of the executive committee and another to limit the focus of elected members to their mandated issue or cohort – were then voted down in a subsequent motion at the end of the meeting. However, it did not receive a two-thirds majority.
No vote has been held on Scanlon’s impeachment. When quizzed on this at election hustings, she claimed that further actions on the topic were tied to the deliberations of the Board.
However, there is nothing in the GSU constitution to support Scanlon’s assertion that impeachment proceedings could not go ahead until the Board concluded its investigation into the April EGM.
In an email statement to The University Times last month, Walsh said: “The GSU Board is currently exercising its oversight function under Article 20 (c) (i) of the GSU Constitution in relation to proceedings at the GSU EGM. The Board has not considered any other matter and has not offered any advice to the GSU as the process of gathering information and fact-finding is still ongoing.”
Scanlon confirmed to this newspaper this week that she will be contesting the Seanad bye-election.