|Ian Drummond, student activist|
'Now that term is starting again I feel I should let you all know about the current situation in ULU. Some of you may still think I am the Vice President; unfortunately I am not (despite winning the election). Instead a disqualified candidate has been re-instated without the allegations against her being quashed, or even investigated.
The article from the London Student newspaper below, written by Sean Rillo Raczka, Chair of Birkbeck Student Union, summarises the situation well. If you agree with me that this is a democratic outrage, please spread the word and pass this on:
The 2010 ULU Vice Presidential Election resulted in victory by Ian Drummond whilst the Returning Officer, an independent person who oversees elections, also disqualified a candidate for cheating. Sounds like a straightforward and understandable situation. However, the way the University has dealt with the matter is shameful and unfair, and I believe has resulted in the democratic process of ULU being perverted and the votes of students being discarded.
The disqualified candidate Viktoria Szmolar has now effectively been installed by the central University as ULU Vice President, despite the charges of cheating not having been overturned at any point. Her appeal against the decision of the RO (who was the longstanding Chaplain of the University), was upheld on a supposed technicality, not reversing the charges against her, that she had been farming votes (inappropriately pressuring people to vote in front of you, or giving a candidate their voting details).
Miss Szmolar with all other candidates had been rigorously told of election regulations and warned about cheating after complaints had been made. All candidates had also been rigorously told of election regulations. Complaints continued to come in regarding Ms Szmolar and she was thus disqualified from the election, and was informed at a meeting prior to the declaration of results.
The appeal was heard by various stages within ULU, eventually going to a University appointed person as the final arbiter. He did not find that Ms Szmolar innocent of cheating and limited himself to the narrowest of positions, ruling that the University’s responsibility for fairness under the Education Act meant that she had to be declared the winner of the race, regardless of the charges against her, as she has not been able to hear the names and testimony of those making complaints.
This is a perverse decision, contrary to the duty of fairness under the Education Act. Was it fair for a candidate who fought a clean campaign, and was declared the winner by the impeccable RO, to have his job taken away from him several months later? Or for those who voted in the election to have the election ‘won’ by someone not cleared of cheating?
I question the legitimacy of Ms Szmolar for this reason. It is, as far as I know, unprecedented for a Returning Officer’s findings to be overturned in this way.
In student elections we ensure that the RO is unconnected with student politics and is of good repute. This is so they can ensure the election runs fairly for all.
Their word is law and candidates would not be expected to hear the names of those complaining against them as the RO will have investigated the claims and ensured that they act appropriately to the scale and number of complaints. This stops repercussions and intimidation towards those complaining and also allows staff to complain about conduct in a way that would not compromise them.
That Ms Szmolar has overturned this democratic safeguard and had herself installed into office despite serious allegations against her is shocking and puts us into dangerous territory.'