‘They will all be unable to make any changes to LUSU’: the ‘Vote RON’ campaign speaks out

They want to reopen nominations – do you?

Following the dismissal of George Nuttall as the President of Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU), and the appointment of Victoria Hatch as Interim President, the time has come for a by-election in order to decide who is to take on the role of President in the 2020/21 academic year.

Though there are several candidates (candidates and their manifestos can be found here), one campaign that is causing a stir is “Send a message, Vote RON.” The campaign is actively encouraging students to place “reopen nominations” as their first choice when voting in this election. They have also “fact-checked” each candidate’s manifesto, too, though the Tab cannot confirm the accuracy of this.

So the Tab Lancaster sat down with the RON campaign team to talk about the election, and what’s really going on.

Can you explain, simply, the motivations behind starting the RON campaign?

“We are a group of students who, like most, are fed up with LUSU not acting in our interests. The past year has been a terrible one with the attempted sale of sugar and the decimation of college sports being two of the ‘highlights’. And LUSU cannot be changed by a president so, when we came to the end of our tether with the Student’s Union, we decided to do the only thing we could and start a RON campaign.”

Why should students vote RON?

“We all already know that LUSU is broken, we don’t need to persuade any students about that! But what everyone might not be fully aware of is just how little power the President has, and how the Board of Trustees really makes all the decisions. A president has no power to make any decisions, such as saving college sports, it’s all down to the unelected majority on the Board. And to change how LUSU works, which requires amending the Articles of Association, the Board has to vote 75 per cent in favour. Simply put LUSU is a mess and no president can change it, contrary to the manifesto pledges of several candidates. Therefore, our only option is to make our voices heard in protest about this state of affairs, and vote RON.”

What can you tell us about the allegations that the campaign has only been created so that a member of the campaign can stand in the following election, should “Vote RON” win this one?

“This fake rumour, spread anonymously, is completely untrue. None of us behind the campaign have any desire to run. The whole reason we believe in voting RON is because the President is powerless to do anything. If one of us did want to run, why wouldn’t we have done it during this election, or at the previous election in spring term when there was only one candidate who ran?”

Was it ever considered by the team to put forward their own candidate, with a “drain the swamp” style manifesto?

“We are campaigning for RON because no President can change LUSU, no matter how good they are. They simply do not have the power. There are several candidates in this election who have made promises to make LUSU better and more democratic, however they just cannot deliver what they say. Ideas such as making all Trustees elected may be good ones, but the unelected Trustees on the Board will never vote to sack themselves. The Board has always ignored what elected Presidents want, or what has been passed by students at AGMs, that isn’t going to change.”

What do you have to say to the candidates who already lost their FTO election earlier this year, yet want us to vote for them in a more senior position?

“Anyone has a right to run and campaign, just as we are doing with RON. But no president will be able to change anything, no matter their previous election successes or failures. In that regard those candidates who recently ran and failed are no different to the others, they will all be unable to make any changes to LUSU.”

Would you agree that the RON campaign has contributed to the over-politicisation of our Students’ Union?

“As the RON campaign has only existed since Thursday, it’s unlikely we have caused any such ‘over-politicisation’. If there has been an increase in tension surrounding Union politics, we only have the terrible actions of LUSU to blame, such as the attempt to sell Sugar, meaning students rightly don’t think it works for them.”

Have you got anything else to add?

“LUSU is broken. Not only does it fail to work in our interests as students, it actively works against them. Electing a new president can’t do anything, they don’t make the real decisions and they are unable to make any changes to how the Union works. The only option us students have is to protest, and make our voices heard. Show LUSU, the new Vice Chancellor, and the world, that the Students’ Union isn’t acting in your interests by voting RON.”

Former LUSU VP Welfare and Community, Grishma Bijukumar, voiced her thoughts on the RON campaign on Facebook, saying: “Voting RON literally won’t change anything as they’ll just carry on having elections till someone is elected. The Trustee Board doesn’t care. Trust me, you’d rather have someone in than have that position vacant for the sake of having it vacant. If you wanna vote RON, vote RON if you feel none of the candidates have students are their No.1 priority. But then again I don’t really care so do whatever you wanna do. All I’m trying to say is you can vote RON but they’ll just carry on having elections.”

Voting in the LUSU by-election is now open. Votes can be cast here, and voting closes at 4pm on Friday 12th June.

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