‘Students have put their trust in me’
Martina Chukwuma-Ezike elected Rector with less than 3% turnout
By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco
Martina Chukwuma-Ezike. Courtesy of the University of Aberdeen.
University of Aberdeen students have elected a new rector.
The University announced Thursday evening that Martina Chukwuma-Ezike had been elected to the position by a wide margin over her competitors, Blair Imani and Radeen Moncrieffe.
Although Chukwuma-Ezike received nearly 60% of the vote, the turnout was minimal and considerably lower than past elections. The 2018 Rectorial Election saw the winning candidate, Maggie Chapman, receive 1248 votes with 15.9% student turnout overall.
In this election, however, less than 3% of students voted with a total of only 405 votes cast.*
This depression in turnout likely stems from a variety of issues, including procedural concerns with the electoral system and student involvement as previously reported by The Gaudie.
She will begin her three-year term as Rector on 1 January 2022. The Rector, who serves as the primary student representative to the University Court, is a position that goes back centuries and has been held by the likes of Winston Churchill, Clarissa Dickson Wright, and Andrew Carnegie.
Chukwuma-Ezike ran on a platform that emphasised her experience in conflict mediation and her ties to Aberdeen. A 2009 graduate, she has made her home in the city, routinely visiting campus and helping students gain work experience through her role as Chief Executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.
Speaking on Tuesday 16th, she told The Gaudie that she viewed the Rectorship as an extension of the work she is already doing with students.
She said: ‘I love my university. I'm proud of it. And being a Rector will just help me do the things I've been doing at the background, helping the university become a better university… and working towards the vision 2040 that the management has [set] for it, and most importantly, ensuring that our students have [a] good experience.’
Chukwuma-Ezike holds no illusions about the lack of student political involvement, however, as she told the Gaudie on Tuesday,
‘… I was here yesterday, and I spoke with… about 40 to 50 students. And just about… one [knew what the Rector was.]
The rest was like, is that a church position? Is that a political position? Is that a student union? So what are you talking about? So I think one thing I would like to change [is] to build engagement with students.’
Nonetheless, Chukwuma-Ezike says she has a plan to rectify this problem.
She has committed to being an approachable and available Rector, telling the Gaudie prior to the election, ‘… If I'm elected the Rector, I'll be here once every week to run my [Rector] surgery in person, we're gonna engage… students. I have already set up a website, and our website is going to be there. So the students can email me… they can call me…’
She maintains that she is more than capable of being an effective advocate for the students of the University. ‘Students have called for leadership in terms of mental health, in terms of employability skills, in terms of safety as they return to face to face learning, amongst other things,’ she said 'and I have worked within organisations in management positions of over 15 years experience of working in leadership… So I understand how board levels work, I have a little bit of influencing skills. I know how to mediate between different factions and different interest groups…’
Prof. Ruth Taylor, the Returning Officer for the Election, announced the results in an email to students Thursday evening. ‘I am sure you will join me in congratulating Martina on their election as Rector,’ she said, ‘an ancient post dating back to the foundation of the University in 1495. My thanks and gratitude also go to the other candidates, and all involved in the election process.’
Taylor’s position as Returning Officer was questioned as it appeared she was on leave during the election period.
Alisa Koester, AUSA Student President also congratulated Chukwuma-Ezike, commenting: ‘we are very happy to have an elected Rector again to ensure that students are represented accordingly. We are looking forward to working with Martina to ensure the students’ voice is heard.’
Finally, Chukwuma-Ezike herself commented on the victory, saying, ‘I would like to say a massive thank you to my campaign team who have worked tirelessly, and to all those who voted for me. Students have put their trust in me… and I look forward to working with them in the next three years to provide mental health support, student safety and welfare, employability skills, and to deliver all the other key issues raised in my manifesto.’
*Percentage calculated using (most recent available) 2018/19 figures of 14,775 students.