The deadline for the elections of the University of Manchester NUS delegates was extended over the weekend, after allegations were made that Harriet Pugh, Education Officer of the University of Manchester Students’ Union (UMSU), had deliberately used her weekly email to promote her campaign platform to students.
The email, sent out to the entire student body, discussed the SU’s campaigns for free education in the UK, and provided a link to vote in the elections.
After it emerged that the allegations had been made, the decision was taken by the Students’ Union on Thursday night to extend the deadline to midday on Monday.
The Mancunion was approached late last week by Josh Woolas and Andrea Campos-Vigouroux, who are running as part of a collective known as ‘the power rangers’, and are also prominent members of Manchester Labour Students.
They outlined their grievances against the education officer’s campaign.
Woolas also supplied copies of the complaints sent to both the NUS and the Students’ Union. In an email to the National Union of Students, Woolas said,
“I’ve been running in the NUS Delegate elections at UMSU this year and was really disappointed to receive this all-student email—attached below—from one of the other candidates, who is currently a Sabb Officer at our SU.
“Not only is this obviously a resource I don’t have access to as an ordinary student, but the email is a blatant plug for free education—the slate that she is running on. I was wondering what the appropriate avenues are for lodging a formal complaint?
“Being able to send an email to all students whilst the voting for an election she is actively running in is open gives her a huge platform for self-promotion, as well as giving the entire slate an unfair advantage in these elections. It’s really disheartening to see that this was allowed to occur: If this kind of thing can be allowed to happen, then there isn’t really much point in anyone else running in these elections.”
Woolas also emailed the Returning Officer of the Students’ Union, who is responsible for ensuring that all elections are free and fair.
In it, he said he could not “understand why the General Secretary, who was also present at the Demo and isn’t standing in these elections, couldn’t have sent the email. The rules surrounding current student officers standing in elections don’t seem to do enough to protect the fairness of the vote.”
He added further, “I am really disappointed with Harriet’s behaviour, as I thought she held student politics in the same high regard as I do.”
The internal inquiry by the Students’ Union however ruled that Pugh was not in breach of the rules, despite also deciding to extend the deadline until Monday.
A spokesperson for the Union said, “The Returning Officer (RO) recognises that the Students’ Union may have inadvertently raised the profile of one candidate during an election period with the all student email. The RO has therefore recommended that the Union compensate coverage of other candidates by sending out a bespoke communication and extending the ballot box until Monday 1st Dec 12 noon to ensure that no candidates are disadvantaged.”
The Mancunion also contacted Pugh for a response to the allegations made against her.
In a statement, she explained that “As the executive leader and primary organiser among our leadership of the free education campaign, I had been scheduled to write that week’s weekly student email.
“Although the timing was unfortunate, this was an internal oversight and the deadline has been extended for that reason.”
She added further, “I think it is a great injustice that their complaints assume that students do not think for themselves and hence would blindly vote for me in an election on the basis that they had seen my name and opinion [in the email] and agreed with it.”
Voting has now closed and the results will be announced shortly.
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