OUSU has come under criticism for incompetence and inefficiency this week following the delay of the presidential elections.
The OUSU elections have been delayed after a candidate’s manifesto was omitted from the Joint Manifesto Booklet (JMB).
Students were due to choose this week between presidential candidates Stefan Baskerville, John Maher, Luke Tryl and Aidan Simpson.
But the manifesto of John Maher was not printed in the JMB that was distributed with last week’s issue of The Oxford Student.
This broke OUSU’s standing orders, which mandates that all manifestos be distributed in the 5th week edition of the paper.
Madeline Stanley, OUSU’s Returning Officer in charge of organising the election, said in a letter sent to all Oxford students, “Unfortunately, due to an error at the printers, the JMB wasn’t printed in full.
“As soon as we became aware of the problems with the JMB we took all possible steps to recall any OxStus that had already been distributed and to clear the remainder before they could be sent out.
“Given that the point of the JMB is to help students make a fully informed decision we reasoned that the best course, out of a lot of bad options, was to postpone the election by a week.
“Obviously this is enormously frustrating for everyone involved, but we decided as an elections committee that it was better for the election to be free and fair, with a fully informed electorate, than to press ahead despite the problem.”
Stanley told Cherwell that OUSU’s efforts to remove the OxStus had been largely successful.
“Inevitably there will be some copies of the incomplete JMB out there, but we’ve accounted for roughly 95% of them,” she said.
John Maher has not personally received an apology for the omission of his manifesto, although Stanley did confirm that a general apology was made to OUSU Council and to the candidates as a whole.
OUSU’s general email to the students expressed their hope that “the extra week’s publicity will hopefully drive turnout up beyond our original hopes.”
However, not everybody agrees. Xanthippi Choraitis, a second-year biologist, said, “This doesn’t help portray OUSU as the professional or efficient student union that we are always promised by the Presidential candidates every year.
“So few people vote in these elections anyway. Nobody knows when they are, nobody knows who the candidates are, and I think even fewer will bother voting after this.”
Richard Hardiman, OUSU’s financial administration manager in charge of printing The OxStu said: “I checked the files and ftp upload records and I’m satisfied that the correct files were sent through.
“Whether they weren’t properly received, or whether an earlier version of the filename wasn’t properly purged from the machine before the paper was plated up and sent to press I don’t know, although I’m working with the printers to find out.
“It’s true that we have had some pretty bad luck with the paper this term. The earlier incident to which you refer was due to one of the presses breaking down. Obviously that’s annoying, but it would be unfair to blame it on the printers – I’m sure they didn’t go to the trouble and expense of breaking their own press just to cause problems for the OxStu.
“Likewise, there was another edition which had to be pulled and reprinted at the last moment because new information emerged about a story which could potentially have had an adverse effect on the paper, the business, and the Student Union. In that case the printers made every possible effort to squeeze us into their schedule and we got the paper reprinted at very short notice – so it’s far from all bad news that we’ve had from that quarter.
“The problems we have had with printing this term are regrettable, but it would be both inappropriate and pointless to start throwing blame around without having all the facts – regardless of whether that makes it a more interesting story.”
Trinity Mirror Printing, who print the OxStu, refused to comment on the specific problem, saying only that “What we print is what we’re given. We can’t change it. If there was an obvious error in the template they sent, we would have referred it back to them.”
Although OUSU will put out general publicity for the election in the extra week, Stanley will not allow an increase in advertising budgets for the candidates.
“The campaign expenditure budgets are limited to ensure all candidates have the same budgets and to ensure that no candidate has an advantage by having more money than another,” she said.
Last week, Cherwell found that fewer than 18% of students knew when the elections were originally scheduled.
Only 36% of students intended to vote in the elections, despite their being online for the first time, although even this may be an optimistic estimate. Last year, Lewis Iwu was elected President on a turnout of less than 19% of Oxford’s 18,000 strong student body.
OUSU have come under further scrutiny this week as the manifesto of Aidan Simpson, another Presidential candidate, was somehow lost on their website.
OUSU’s website hosts each candidates’ campaign literature, but the link to Simpson’s manifesto showed only a poster with a picture of him on it, and no writing, meaning anyone wanting to see his manifesto must go to his Facebook group.
A friend of Simpson, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he was upset with the mistake.
The blank manifesto has been up for over a week, despite Simpson repeatedly requesting it be replaced.
However the OUSU RO blamed Simpson, saying, “he sent it to us without putting it into a PDF correctly. We are attempting to remedy the situation and put one up so you can read it.”