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Winners of 2023 Student Officer Elections Announced

Announcement of Vice President for Education Delayed Amidst Controversy

By Clive Davies

Photos from AUSA

The results of the 2023 student officer elections were announced today at Union Brew, the event was attended by candidates and supporters alike eager to learn who would lead the Student Union in the 2023-24 academic year.

The elections saw 29 candidates in total vying for the five elected positions, 2,568 students are reported to have voted by AUSA, an increase of 156.8% on the previous year, with 8,381 votes cast in total, itself a 104% rise from last year.

Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo, the incumbent Student President, was re-elected. Nzolo is a graduate in Anthropology and International Relations and ran on a platform of cost-of-living support and increasing professional experience and mentorship opportunities for students.

When asked to describe the campaign experience, Nzolo said: ‘It was fun, exhausting, it was challenging because there were a lot more candidates but it was good because of that. I think seeing how everyone engaged with us, it was definitely on a different level.’

Sai Shraddha S Viswanathan, the current Vice President for Welfare, was also returned. Viswanathan has a background in Engineering and Psychology and listed mental health and cost-of-living support as her biggest priorities.

She told The Gaudie: ‘The campaign was really intense, because we’ve shifted from COVID times and everything is in person now. So it was very very different, I think we’ve forgotten that sense of normalcy that we had in life before, so getting out there and speaking to students and actually asking for votes was very different.’

Ainhoa Burgos Aguilera will be the new Vice President for Communities. Aguilera is a fourth-year Biology student who is currently serving as the President of the Photography Society and Vice President of the Secret Garden Society. Aguilera ran on a platform of fostering inclusivity, increasing sustainability and promoting biodiversity on campus.

In describing the campaign, Aguilera said: ‘It’s been very competitive, it’s been very tiring; the election, everything, but I’m really happy to be where I am right now. And honestly even if I didn’t get the role, I’d have been happy just to run for the position.’

Tõnis Tilk will be assuming the role of Vice President for Activities. Tilk is a fourth-year Chemistry student who currently serves as Secretary of the Volleyball Club. During the campaign Tilk pledged to start a recurring cooking class and renovate unused sporting areas.

Tilk appeared relieved that the campaign was over, stating: ‘The campaign was horrible! Honestly! Very tiring, very hard to campaign. I had a lot of people helping me to spread the word, and honestly that’s why I won this. [It’s not all about] what you write in the manifesto, if people see you around and know you, that’s more important in my opinion.’

The outgoing Vice President for Communities, Camilo Torres Barragán, appeared pleased with the way the elections had gone, stating: ‘ I’m still impressed and I can’t believe the turnout. I’ve been involved in the student union for almost three years now and I’ve seen how it went from 5% participation to 13.4% participation, I haven’t known of many student unions able to make that kind of improvement. And also I’m even more proud of the diversity of the candidates, I may be leaving in three months, but I’ll be leaving very happy because I know the composition of the people engaging with the student union has changed.’

The excitement of the announcements was tempered by the controversy surrounding the election of the Vice President for Education. With multiple allegations of voter harassment and intimidation made toward the incumbent Akua Serwaa Agyemen.

As previously reported by The Gaudie, the count and announcement of the election for the Vice President for Education will be delayed to allow an AUSA investigation to take place.

When asked for comment, Torres Barragán said: ‘We are taking the case very seriously, as is needed. We decided to give ourselves and everyone some time to investigate it and make sure we make the right call. We’re gonna make sure that investigation is carried out in the most neutral and fair way for everyone involved. That’s all I can say right now, we’re working very hard on it, when we have an update we’ll definitely share it with students, we’re trying to be as transparent as we can.’

Torres Barragán’s successor, Ainhoa Burgos Aguilera, had this to say: ‘It still has to be investigated, and I don’t know which parts are true or not, but obviously if this is true I am very disappointed that this happened. I hope the investigation is carried out and the results come out soon.’


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