By Saniya Saraf
A report into the SU elections has concluded that a re-run is not necessary because the dismissal of Re-Open Nominations (RON) was appropriate. The report nevertheless admitted that the disqualification of second preference votes by those who voted RON was “unsatisfactory”.
The report was commissioned in response to a series of complaints registered in light of the Durham Students’ Union Officer and Trustee Elections in February 2020, and was conducted by the supervising Trustee of the Students’ Union appointed by the University Council.
The report was foregrounded by upholding the SU’s decision to disqualify RON as a candidate. This is because the Returning Officer, in accordance to the standing orders, maintains the authority to remove any candidate “who does not follow the Rules, Guidance, or meet reasonable expectations of a Durham SU candidate”. According to Section C9 of the election standing orders, RON classifies as a candidate and thus may be subject to disqualification.
The report admits that “there is the possibility of debate regarding the nature of RON as a candidate”, but concludes that overturning the decision of the Returning Officer falls outside the remits of the report.
It also defended the way in which the results were announced, arguing that it would not be standard election practice to release the vote total for a candidate who had been disqualified due to misconduct.
However, the report criticised the SU’s failure to re-distribute second-preference votes from those who put RON as their first choice. The CIS system’s inability to allow for this was deemed “unsatisfactory”, even if it did not “directly contradict the standing orders.”
In response to the report, the Students’ Union told Palatinate that “Moving forwards, Durham SU plans to pursue all the recommendations made by the Supervising Trustee, and believes that they are reasonable and positive first steps.
“Some of the recommendations will require collaboration and partnership with student representatives across Durham – changes to elections governance must be decided by Assembly, and understanding Common Rooms necessarily requires their co-operation.
They added: “For all of us, the needs of students right now must be a priority – we are in the middle of a global health crisis.
“It’s clear we need to face these challenges democratically with all these different communities and interest groups that make up Durham, even as we reflect on the structures and ways of working we want to improve for students.”
For all of us, the needs of students must now be a priorityDurham Students’ Union
Commenting on the recommendations in the report to foster a healthier relationship between Common Rooms and the Students’ Union, Caragh Evans, Collingwood College JCR President and Chair of Presidents’ Committed, told Palatinate that “We encourage the SU to go above and beyond these recommendations in order to provide evidence of an SU our students can trust.
“It is essential that all concerns and issues with the SU, that have been highlighted by students and student leaders, are investigated and looked into.
“However, it is equally important that we start rebuilding our relationship so that we, as Common Room presidents and the Students’ Union, can better help our students through COVID-19 and all the challenges it brings.
“As always, our number one priority is providing Durham students with the best opportunity they can have, however they may choose to define that.”
Image by Maddie Flisher