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Integrity of election proceedings brought into question

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

‘It’s the Senate who has the responsibility’

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Courtesy of Aberdeen Student Parliament

The University Senate is facing scrutiny as procedures meant to run the Rectorial Election have been challenged by an anonymous whistleblower.

The source, whom The Gaudie spoke with multiple times throughout the week, maintains that the University Senate broke the rules of the Rectorial Election by not confirming the Student Elections Committee (SEC) during its last meeting on 27 October.

The SEC, which is meant to consist of 4 Student councillors and 1 AUSA Sabbatical officer, is responsible for organising student involvement in the Election, as well as resolving minor infringements of the Election Rules, providing fair campaign opportunities for the candidates, and hosting Election hustings.

The source, who has an intimate knowledge of the electoral process, told The Gaudie that the SEC currently has 3 members, but only added the third member on Tuesday as voting in the election began. This has also been verified by The Gaudie.

On Monday, however, when election hustings were held, the source contends that there were only 2 members. This would be less than the number needed for a quorum, thus potentially placing the SEC in violation of the rules.

As of the time of publishing, according to the Rectorial Election website, the SEC consists of two student council members and one sabbatical officer.

Furthermore, the source expressed concerns that Vice-Principal Ruth Taylor, the Returning Officer for the Election (as appointed in section 11.1 of the Senate Agenda), appears to be on leave, raising questions as to how she can do her job of safeguarding the election.

When contacted by The Gaudie on Wednesday afternoon, her email responded with an automated message saying she would be out of the office until Monday 22 November.

A University of Aberdeen spokesperson confirmed that the SEC was under-staffed, stating: “There are currently three members of the Student Elections Committee (SEC), meaning that it is quorate. However, we continue to encourage any members of the Student Council who may be interested in joining the SEC to contact AUSA.”

The spokesperson also responded to claims that the Senate had not confirmed the SEC, stating that the Senate authorised AUSA to make the necessary appointments. He stated: “Senate confirmed that membership of a Students Elections Committee could be overseen by AUSA, as the competent body in determining student memberships.”

However, the rules of the Election state that the Senate should take a more thorough role in confirming the members of the SEC, rather than passing that responsibility to AUSA. Per Section 3.2 of the official Rectorial Election guidelines: ‘The Senate will confirm the membership of a Student Elections Committee (SEC) composed of four members of the Student Council (appointed by the members of the Student Council) and one Sabbatical Officer (nominated by AUSA).’

While the Senate Agenda, published 11 October, says that AUSA ‘will [approve] the membership of the Student Elections Committee at their meeting on 14 October 2021,’ our source indicated that AUSA did not hold a meeting to appoint the committee on the 14th.

Rather, the process took place over a period of a month.

While the rules specify that the SEC must be confirmed by 25 October, our source also contends that only one member of the SEC was appointed by this deadline and that the Chair was not appointed until 3 days later, which would contradict the rules set out in the Election guidelines.

Finally, the spokesperson responded to concerns that Prof Ruth Taylor, the officer in charge of safeguarding the election, was out of the office. He said: ‘The Returning Officer will attend Thursday’s election count and result announcement virtually, and is fulfilling the responsibilities of the role in line with electoral guidelines.’

In response, the source told the Gaudie, ‘… they can shift the blame … but at the end its [the Senate] who has the responsibility…’

Meanwhile, AUSA’s VP Welfare and Chair of SEC, Ivana Drdakova echoed the University’s statement, saying: "We understand that the Student Elections Committee is quorate but there are still vacancies. We’d encourage any member of the Student Council who may be interested to get in touch. We are not aware of any concerns of Senate."

In a joint election husting held Monday afternoon candidates Blair Imani, Radeen Moncrieffe, and Martina Ezike answered questions from the audience and put forth their plans to represent and serve the student body. Agreeing on many issues, the candidates nevertheless pitched themselves as distinct from the rest in the field, with Imani focusing on her love of learning and activist background, Moncrieffe on his familiarity with AUSA and other student groups, and Ezike on her local proximity and prior experience in supporting students.

The Rectorial Election was meant to be held in February 2021 but was postponed due to an absence of candidates.


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