Wrong GU President announced?
‘Feckless and inconsequential’ – the Grad Union can’t count
This year’s unprecedented exciting Student Union elections just keep on giving.
Allegations of total chaos in the handling of the Graduate Union Presidential elections have emerged – chaos which may culminate in the election having to be rerun.
Eagle-eyed perusers of the CUSU website (we know you’re out there) may have noticed it is taking some time for the results – first announced over a week ago – to be finalised.
The page goes on to provide names and pictures of the “preliminary” winners of all elections… Except GU President. Why?
The GU Presidential race was notably tight this year. On Thursday 5th March, 1:27am, it was announced that Eric Lybeck beat Kate Crowhurst by four votes (291 to 287).
Gross incompetence was already much in evidence by this stage, given that 1,787 eligible Grads had been excluded from the main online ballot. This neglected group were unable to exercise their voting rights until a second ballot – ‘GU President Election 2015 (additional electoral roll)’ – was added a full 13 hours after the first.
Trying to get busy people to vote once is hard going. Getting them to try voting again having already been rejected by the system is much harder, and almost certainly affected the final turnout.
Only 33 of the forgotten 1,787 people (1.85 per cent) voted for anybody, compared with 614 out of the other 8,470 (7.25 per cent). This difference is highly likely to be a result of the shorter time available for this unlucky bunch to vote, and the lack of information given to them about the ad hoc arrangements. Given the 4 vote margin of victory that was announced, this could oh-so-easily have tipped the balance.
Even worse, sources close to the election have now given The Tab reason to believe the delay in declaring the final winner is a result of a further catastrophic error made at the count itself. The candidates’ unique identifiers, needed for the Single Transferable Vote system, were mixed up when tallying the multiple ballots. Consequently the ballots were combined incorrectly.
As a result, Lybeck was announced the winner by just 4 votes. It now appears that slightly more votes were in actual fact cast for Crowhurst.
Lybeck released a statement which said: “The GU cannot be allowed to crumble under yet another incompetent regime.
“Quite frankly, this is the last straw. I have been in regular contact with all levels of university and college administration about this matter and I am confident the university is considering the matter with the seriousness and respect graduate students deserve.
“I can only presume that I am president-elect until further public notice is issued.”
CUSU-GU Elections Committee also issued a statement.
It read: “Votes in the election for GU President remain as cast and the error identified relates only to how the votes were initially counted.
“A full recount has taken place for the GU President election, however, outstanding complaints regarding this election remain and so no formal announcement of results will be made until these have been resolved.”
It remains unclear why a preliminary announcement of the recount results can’t be made.
This latest blunder comes after a chaotic six months for the Graduate Union, which included the organisation’s scandalous deregistration by the Charities Commission in January. This was reported by TCS earlier this term, alongside suggestions of wider managerial disarray across the GU.
This all seems to have played a part in the electoral disaster. Minutes of a GU Council Meeting of the 20 January 2015 propose an election timetable, but no rules for its conduct (despite these being required by the Graduate Union’s own Constitution). It does not appear that any such rules were ever announced, raising further questions about the legitimacy of the whole process.
Furthermore, the current GU President, Evianne van Gijn, in her recent written report to GU Council stated that she took office on 22nd August 2014. It is normal for sabbatical officers to begin their terms on 1st July.
Minutes from a top-level GU meeting of 8th July 2014 (the same minutes used for the TCS report) show her even then not offering a clear arrival date. There is no suggestion that van Gijn claimed a salary prior to the 22nd August. However, it is likely that her absence left a rudderless GU unable to keep on top of business, as events since seem to have shown.
It seems that GU is winning no popularity competitions.
An executive of the St Edmunds CR said: “The GU is feckless and inconsequential, a disgrace to the concept of a Student’s Union. It seems to periodically vote itself out of existence, to the concern of precisely no-one.”
Thought CUSU the most farcical organisation in Cambridge? The GU is a whole new level. It is not yet clear how the mess surrounding the Presidential elections is going to be sorted out. A full-blown rerun looks increasingly necessary.