Bans and complaints overshadow elections
This year’s YUSU elections have seen numerous bans handed to candidates by the Returning Officer after complaints and rule breaking.
Union President candidate James Carney has been banned from campaigning on-line by any means after an email was sent out to over 400 students on Goodricke College’s mailing list detailing Carney’s policies and asking students to vote for him.
It is unclear who sent the email but the move breaks YUSU election rules, which state candidate mailing lists “must not contain data gained from any third party source” and that “Candidates may not be publicly endorsed by any third party groups or organisations (including but not limited to political parties, Union committees, societies, sports clubs, etc.)”.
Carney’s involvement in two other on-line incidents contributed to the ban, as he has posted on various Facebook group walls, which he believed were open groups, and used Facebook’s ‘chat to group’ option, which is considered mass-mailing and unavailable to all candidates.
His ban includes the removal of all social media campaigning sites and accounts and of any mailing lists gathered, as well as a ban on the sending of any electronic messages by himself or his campaigning team.
Carney told The Yorker: “I think the ban is very harsh. Surely the only outcome which would warrant such excessive measures would be if I had sent the mass mail myself, even then I would still think the punishment is very severe.”
Carney is now pressing for the resignation of the current Goodricke JCRC chair following the incident, which he said in an open letter to the college "highlighted a failure on the part of the committee to protect the data students have trusted them with".
He added that the rules are “just not clear enough” and that the ban is “highly disappointing and damaging to my campaign”.
Another Presidential candidate, Kallum Taylor, received a 24-hour campaigning ban after a third party promoted him on their Facebook group.
Taylor told The Yorker he was unaware of the support and posts from Councillor Dave Taylor, saying: “This was totally without my influence or consent and it was deleted within five minutes of my friend calling me when I was campaigning on campus, and myself then ringing the responsible party. Such party has emailed the returning officer to unreservedly apologize.
“Whilst I see the intention behind certain election laws to ensure 'fairness', some of them are ridiculous and fall under the fact that you just cannot police the internet,” he added.
“People who I don't know, and could never know to pre-warn beforehand about election rules, have promoted me in Facebook groups I didn't know even existed. It's breaking the rules, sure, but I've been punished for this and it's beyond my control.”
Cllr Taylor has also shown support for Student Activities candidate Hannah Brearley but The Yorker understands that no action has been taken against the current volunteering officer.
In further election disruption, Mature Students’ Officer candidate Minal Supri has revealed that an unnamed student has been posting on private Facebook groups to encourage others to vote for RON (re-open nominations) rather than Supri, who is otherwise uncontested.
Supri has not formally made a complaint as she said that the student “is not friends with and/or campaigning on behalf of anyone who is running for a YUSU position and I also think to myself what goes around comes around.”
She said, however, that she saw this as “a version of unprovoked cyber bullying” and added: “I also welcome any votes for RON because that's what democracy is about - of course I would prefer people to vote for me but at the end of the day I am not going to hold it against them if they don't.”
In another breech of YUSU election rules, LGBT Officer candidate Leon Morris received a warning after the University of York Conservatives openly endorsed him on their Facebook page.
After concerns were raised the Facebook post was altered to express support from an individual rather than the society, but it was then withdrawn altogether.
The York Tories have been also asked by the Returning Officer to explain disparities between their constitution and YUSU’s, as their documents state that “Association backing can and only will be given to SU candidates who have the support of the membership at a General Meeting”, which contravenes YUSU’s rules on no third party endorsement.
The York Tories’ press secretary Thomas Smith also resigned from the society after the Facebook posts, complaining that the entirety of the membership was not asked whether it supported the endorsement and no General Meeting was held.