In a night filled with emotion and controversy, the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union has elected its first ever all international roots executive officer team.
All eight roles were filled by either international or Black And Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates, including two Chinese students for the first time. Seven winners were new candidates, with General Secretary Kwame Kwarteng being the only incumbent to retain his position.
Just under 7,000 votes were cast in total, with Manchester SU’s decision to remain affiliated with the National Union of Students (NUS) and Part Time Officer (PTO) results announced alongside the exec vote.
However, the night was marred by allegations of cheating against Kwarteng and newly elected Postgraduate Officer Nana Agyeman, both of whom refused to comment. The allegations are currently being investigated by the SU.
In a Facebook status, Kwarteng wrote: “It’s yet to sink in that for the first time in Manchester Union’s history we have eight (8) international roots duly elected as Uni of Manchester Students’ Union executives for the 2020/21 academic year.
“We were voted for by students who believed in us not by the colour of our skin or English proficiency but by the impeccable manifesto each of us had.”
Some candidates who failed to win positions reached out to The Mancunion over electoral misconduct concerns which they have raised with the Students Union. This is the second year running that cheating allegations have surrounded the elections, with Kwarteng once again among those accused of breaking rule five, which states that “Campaigners must allow voters to cast their ballot freely and must not communicate with voters in any way once they have begun to complete their ballot.”
“People should come forward if they were forced to vote or had anybody watch over them,” one candidate said.
“It’s important that people are aware of the election guidelines and that complaint forms are available – at the moment this isn’t common knowledge. We will start the fight for fairer elections, starting with getting all the information.”
Several of the winning candidates used their speeches and interviews to address issues of inclusivity and racism on campus, with incoming Welfare and Community Officer Junior Usina accusing the Union of “fail[ing] to build an inclusive and very very open community,” and incoming Liberation and Access Officer Yueru Du telling Fuse TV she would “try and work very hard [to] equip the students with the skills and the resources to tackle the institutional racism.”
In his victory speech, Kwarteng vowed to “make sure every student has the experience that they were promised before they came here”, and said he would “to still represent the voice of the diverse students that we have on campus”.
In an interview with Fuse TV, he said: “I’m representing students and usually the underrepresented students is really key for me because I’m a black person, we are the minority here, so I think maybe…people may not see exactly what our needs are.
“Re-running was to just champion this and to ensure that the underrepresented groups are well represented and that their needs are being addressed.”
The night also saw students vote for the Union to remain affiliated with the NUS, with 88% in favour. Hatty Ruddick, the current part-time Women’s officer at Manchester SU who sits on the NUS Women’s Committee, called the result “important”:
“Manchester was one of the Students’ Unions that founded the NUS – so it’s really important that we’ve stayed in, it means we can continue having national representation, we’ve still got a seat at the national table.”
The full incoming exec team is as follows: Yueru Du, Liberation and Access Officer; Chenze Ma, Women’s Officer; Laetitia Alexandratos, Education Officer; Ecem Yalcin, International Students’ Officer; Nana Agyeman, Postgraduate Officer; Carol Tiriongo, Activities and Development Officer; Junior Usina, Welfare and Community Officer; and Kwame Kwarteng, General Secretary.
The new team will take office August 2020.