My Student’s Union headache

Firstly, I do not usually use this blog for these kind of rambles but since I intend for this to be a one off kind of statement I felt it would be pointless creating a whole new blog for what I want to say.

26 days ago the Union of Brunel Students elected a number of students into part and full-time Officer positions to serve the students for the academic year of 2012/2013. I was hoping to be one of the lucky few elected to an officer role as well but, sadly, I still sit here 26 days after the polls closed compeltely clueless about whether I am elected or not. The reason for this is something completely out of my hands. I have had so many people coming up to me with the kindest of words and I feel it is unfair, not just on me, but them to be left in the dark over what happened or what isn’t happening. Many of these people had never voted in a Student Union election before and had taken their time out to do just that. Many had done this time and time before but were still very much interested in the proceedings of their Union which they pay into and all help succeed in many ways whether it be through the Student Union bars, Student Activities, using Academic services it provides or by simply admiring the Costcutter Kiosk (now open from 1PM to 1:01PM!..I kid, of course).

So what actually happened? If I knew the whole story then that would put me in a much clearer position and would have my mind at greater rest. But to cut a long story short the incumbent President was accused of breaking many rules and regulations which had been set and then passed by UBS’ Student Assembly (which I happen to Chair). I say accused because I do not think it would do me any favours by trying to second guess the actions of individuals for who I am not responsible. I ran a clean campaign and that was and is my primary concern. The problems with this began at the end of the election. I was informed a few hours before the results that I was not to find out the Presidential result that night. I was not phased as I was well aware that issues had arisen so I merely took comfort in the fact that it was all to be resolved in a matter of days (or at least I thought). The Elections & Referenda Committee, who deal with any complaints and issues during the election period, had made a decision based upon the complaints received and evidence compiled to eject the incumbent President from the election. This is what I found out a few days after the results night and it did not help with what was going around my head and the fact that every few hours I had to explain the situation to many of my friends and people who recognised me from the election. I was unsure of what this meant but it became clear soon enough that the incumbent was now in a position to appeal that position, which as far as I’m aware, they did do just that.

The responsibility was then passed to the Returning Officer and out of the Union’s hands. The Returning Officer is supposed to be an individual who oversees the election and has the power to make decisions that rule over that made by the Union in an election. As far as we are aware the Returning Officer has not made a formal decision as of yet and neither has the incumbent President who is expected to appeal to the Returning Officer. We brought in our Returning Officer from the NUS, who has a lot of experience with SU elections, with the expectation that he would be able to make big decisions like this. Either we were wrong or something is going on that we don’t know about.

Now this may seem all a bit silly and I may look rather impatient but this is a huge thing for me. Not only do I now not know my fate for next year but the Union is currently without a President for 2012/13. I will uphold and respect any ultimate conclusion that is reached but I will not accept the fact that myself and the other candidates have been very much been kept in the dark. This is not a criticism of the Union and its staff as they have acted within their powers and have done a sterling job but what of the Returning Officer? What of the current President? What the hell is actually going on?!

Another question is being raised in light of this election and that is what do you actually have to do to get kicked out? We have Regulations and we have our Constitution with accompanying By-laws but they are clearly powerless in such a process that gets to this point. We are not even sure of a time limit for a decision to be made on this issue and students are, as expected, getting restless. I had friends who took hours out of their own time to assist myself and others did the same for other candidates. I skipped lectures, damn nearly missed deadlines for this because it matters. Not just to me, but to the 15,000 students who will be represented by the Union’s nominal head. Me and the other are now in a state of limbo. We’re either to be elevated to Presidency or dropped back to where we were over a month ago. I should be revising as I write this or even applying for Placement positions (a prospect I’ve since ditched due to the sheer uncertainty this process has brought) but instead I sit here re-assuring people that a decision will be made and re-assuring them that justice (whatever justice even is in this situation) will win the day but am I being truthful? I don’t know if I am because I am just as in the dark as everyone else.

Win or lose we need to move forward from this and make sure a position like this is never reached again in future SU elections. We need a stable and strong system to ensure we are clear on what won’t and will get you chucked out of the election. I don’t envy the position others, including the current President, are in as this has well and truly messed with my head. What is most worrying is that after all this we could either be left with the status quo or a situation where people question the validity of a new President’s victory. Whoever ends up winning is being given the hardest of starts. I intend to keep you all updated to the best of my ability but for now this is all I have to offer.