The Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) said last year that some members of its executive wanted their contact details to be removed from the GSU website to protect them from being “targeted” by “toxicity” from reporters of The University Times.
A confidential internal report carried out by the GSU, a copy of which was obtained by this newspaper, said that the newspaper had published “a long series of negative articles” about the GSU.
The purpose of the report was to investigate the now-notorious EGM, which prompted outrage from many GSU members.
In her testimony, GSU President Gisèle Scanlon said: “Many GSU officers wished not to be listed [on the GSU website] this year as a privacy measure as The University Times started targeting them for comment about a PHDWRG driven agenda.”
“Similarly, many of our School Convenors wished to avoid the toxicity.”
The PhD Workers’ Rights Group – now called the Postgraduate Workers’ Alliance – spearheaded criticism of Scanlon and her Vice President Abhisweta Bhattacharjee. The GSU’s report is highly critical of the Alliance, accusing it of attempting to hijack the EGM. The Alliance has strongly rebuked this.
Speaking to The University Times, the paper’s Editor Emer Moreau said: “Requests for comment are a standard part of any elected role. I reject any suggestion that The University Times harassed any member of the GSU executive.”
“Our coverage of the GSU has always been impartial and, as per our Editorial and Ethics Policy, we will always offer right of reply to any individuals or groups if an article makes allegations of wrongdoing, dishonesty or ineptitude.”
Scanlon’s criticism of The University Times was in response to claims that the GSU website had not been updated all year. She said: “There is no timeframe nor specifications in the constitution stating how and when the website had to be updated. The Twitter feed runs through it daily, therefore it is updated with a newsfeed along the right hand side.”
In a statement to The University Times for this story, Scanlon said: “I have given no public statement on this to date, and as someome who has supported many students through difficult situations, I believe that when any student speaks about their experience in confidence I believe it should be treated as such.”
In a testimony, PhD candidate Mark Berney said: “I think it’s likely that some of the staff of The University Times were disgruntled about the announcement of the previous day of the motion proposing divestment of the GSU from the SU. The editor of The University Times is a sabbatical officer of [TCDSU].”
Constitutionally, the editor of The University Times is not a sabbatical officer of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU). The newspaper is editorially independent of the union.
Berney said that the newspaper had “given favourable coverage to PGWA’s events”.
After the EGM, he said, “a long series of negative articles about the GSU began to appear in The University Times”.
Berney did not respond to a request for comment.
The Postgraduate Workers’ Alliance and the GSU first clashed over the results of a survey designed by the Alliance and distributed by the GSU which asked PhD students about how the coronavirus pandemic had impacted their work.
The report also claims that, following Scanlon’s refusal to allow the findings of the survey to be published, “a number of PGWA members developed a personal animosity towards the GSU President”.