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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

'I felt unsafe:' VP for Education’s Campaign Team kicked out of Hillhead for alleged harassment

Updated: Jan 20

Multiple allegations of voter harassment and intimidation have surfaced against AUSA incumbent and their team

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

The Gaudie can confirm that members of the campaign team for the current VP for Education, Akua Serwaa Agyeman, were removed from Hillhead Student Village on Monday evening after a resident reported their behavior to security.

Speaking exclusively to The Gaudie, the first year student said she was "harassed by a campaign member for Akua whilst at Hillhead."

"Her team made me feel intimidated and as if I had to decide then and there- they also handled my phone," the student added.

"I was unaware that the [sabbatical officers] were paid for their roles so I did not know the extent of what I was voting for.

"I contacted security because one of her team members made inappropriate remarks about my relationship status and attempted to set up a time to come over to my room later on.

"I felt unsafe as he knew where I lived."

The student subsequently informed Hillhead’s SRA (Student Residence Assistants) Team, which resulted in the canvassers being escorted from the premises.

An email sent to the student by UoA’s Head of Residential Services confirmed the student's report that that campigners had been removed from Hillhead and that AUSA had been informed about the incident.

The email stated: ‘Thank you for making the accommodation team aware of the individuals who were in Wavell House last night, the University takes the security and wellbeing of our residents very seriously, the individuals were escorted from the site and asked not to return. I apologise for any distress this has caused and if you require any further support, please do not hesitate to contact the team either by email or in person at the reception.’

"All candidates were advised by AUSA that they were not permitted to enter private properties or indeed any accommodation buildings…"

The University confirmed they knew about the incident on Thursday afternoon. A spokesperson stated: ‘We are aware of an alleged incident and that AUSA are investigating.’

Questions raised over tactics of VP Education candidate

The incident is just one of a number of issues students have raised about the campaign tactics of Ms Agyeman’s team.

Speaking to The Gaudie, a student named George said that Ms Agyeman and a member of her team approached him and his girlfriend while studying in the Taylor Library.

He commented that Ms Agyeman "proceeded to try and convince us to vote on the spot in front of her, telling me to get my phone out and she would walk me through the process and her friend would help my girlfriend."

While George said he did not feel "particularly intimidated," he did express concerns about Ms Agyeman’s behaviour.

He continued: "I don’t think it's right to have candidates pressuring students to vote in front of them and by extension, probably expecting them to vote for the candidate in question. A younger student could have felt highly pressured to do so as they might not understand fully how the elections work.

"I also didn’t think it was right to be bothering students in a library, creating noise and going around every table and person in the room, disturbing them and others around them who are incredibly busy this time of year."

Another student told The Gaudie: "Myself and a friend were leaving class when we were approached by Akua's team, who had positioned themselves at the exit of the building and were talking to all the students who passed by. They didn't tell us about any of her policies - just that we should vote for her.

"They got into our personal space and touched our phones to make sure we were voting for Akua; I felt quite uncomfortable.

"I felt that we were being pushed into voting for a candidate we didn't know anything about. I do wish I had had the chance to find out about all the different candidates before casting my vote."

While students have raised concerns to The Gaudie about several other candidates, most of the complaints received have related to the conduct of Ms Agyeman's campaign.

Gaudie report criticised by candidate

Responding to questions by The Gaudie asking if she and her team had engaged in voter intimidation, Ms Agyeman asked for specific allegations, commenting: ‘I haven’t received any complaints from my students and none of my teammates have breached any of the election rules.’

When provided with multiple examples of alleged harassment, Ms Agyeman did not adress the specific claims. Instead, she labelled The Gaudie's reporting as "an assassination of character" and threatened a lawsuit.

Ms Agyeman was elected to the role of VP for Education last March. She ran for re-election as part of the ‘All Hands on Deck’ team, which also includes current Student President Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo and VP for Welfare Sai Shraddha S Viswanathan.

AUSA's election rules prohibit:

"the use of or threatening to make use of any intimidation or force, violence, or restraint toward anyone in relation to the election, either by a candidate or someone acting on the candidate’s behalf."

Vote count delayed pending investigation

Graeme Kirkpatrick, Deputy Returning Officer, commented that AUSA was aware of complaints and as such, had delayed the count of the VP for Education race.

He said: "We can confirm that we have received complaints regarding the Vice President for Education election. As a result of this, the count and announcement of this election will be delayed in order to allow all complaints to be fully investigated. All other positions being elected within the Student Officer Elections will be announced at 1pm as planned."

UPDATE- After a months-long investigation, Ms Agyeman was removed from the ballot in mid May after being found to have breached election rules.


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