Lancaster students and colleges outraged as LUSU disqualifies RON from by-election

LUSU caught up in yet another controversy

After the long-awaited by-election to fulfil ex-LUSU President George Nuttall‘s spot on the Full Time Officer (FTO) team, many Lancs students have spoken out against the Students’ Union over its handling of the election. Several Colleges have also released statements condemning the Union.

In every election held at the university – JCR, society, sports, or Students’ Union – there must be an option to vote for reopen nominations (RON) as a candidate. In the period leading to the LUSU by-election, there had been steady traction gained by the “Send a Message, Vote RON” Campaign, urging students to vote RON in order to show LUSU their dissatisfaction.

When announcing the results of the by-election, LUSU also announced it had disqualified the RON candidate, stating: “This decision was taken after multiple breaches of the regulations governing elections were reported regarding the Reopen Nominations campaign. The NUS Returning Officer confirmed that there were multiple breaches of the rules outside the spirit of a fair and open election.

“This decision was based on evidence which the students’ union received from complaints made by student members which we are unable to share. We ask our members to recognise that this is to uphold the rights of privacy and confidentiality to the individuals involved.”

Grizedale College were first to condemn LUSU with their statement, wherein they threatened to withhold participation in Freshers’ Week 2020:

Students took to anonymous Facebook confession pages to voice their outrage with the Students’ Union, with many claiming that LUSU is now an undemocratic body:

One second year  politics student told the Tab Lancaster: “It’s really shady. If the decision’s been made for legitimate reasons, and not just to avoid the Union’s embarrassment at RON winning, then they should tell us why they made the decision. It’s in their name – STUDENTS’ Union – they work for us; they should be accountable.”

Alongside Grizedale, Pendle and Cartmel Colleges also condemned the Students’ Union:

County College’s JCR said that they were listening to student concerns, and are having “serious discussions” on the matter:

A final year student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “It’s horrific to see how much our union is lacking transparency in the presidential by-election, only goes to second what the RON campaign was all about. I would appreciate, like many others, evidence of why RON was disqualified and a complete count sheet.”

Bella, an English Literature and Creative Writing student, told us: “I think the decision to disqualify RON is totally unfair. It’s taken away an entire cohort of student wants, and why? Because they can’t be arsed to re-open. If we don’t feel represented by the candidates, we don’t want ’em.”

Furness College is the latest to blast the Students’ Union:

The “Send A Message, Vote RON” Campaign released this statement in response to LUSU’s decision to disqualify the votes to reopen nominations: “This week the students of Lancaster University sent a message. It was a clear one, that LUSU was broken, it acted against their interests instead of for them, and that it simply does not have their confidence. The students’ union received this message loud and clear, and they did with it what comes naturally to them.

“What has happened today has shown exactly why the student body has the opinion of LUSU that it does. Unfortunately, most of us were not surprised by the course of events.

“The statement issued by LUSU today states that votes for RON were disqualified after there were multiple breaches of election rules by the Vote RON Campaign.  The RON campaign did not receive any communication from LUSU about any breaches of the rules.

“Perhaps why it was not stated which rules were broken, is because none were.

“We, along with many students at the university, demand that LUSU releases the full voting figures including RON votes, and clearly states what rules were broken by the RON campaign. We call on the University to carry out its role under the 1994 Education act to make sure the election was “fairly and properly conducted.” It is also only right that the other candidates, college JCRs, FTOs and PTOs, and all students call out this election as illegitimate and support our demands for transparency.

“The events today are perhaps the greatest evidence of how broken LUSU is. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

The “Send a Message, Vote RON” campaign’s full statement can be found here.

Oliver Robinson, LUSU President-elect following the by-election has also called for the “unmodified” election results to be released to the student body.

Lancaster University Students’ Union and Lancaster University Press Office have both been contacted for comment.