Lauren McKarus was asked to withdraw her candidacy when the realisation was made that visiting students are not currently eligible to vote in or run for positions in OUSU electoral campaigns.
It appears that McKarus was only allowed to run for the position of International Student Officer in the first place because Cooper did not realise that she was a visiting student. This is despite the fact that the process of submitting a nomination form involved McKarus presenting her Bod card, an enlarged copy of her Bod card and her manifesto to Cooper, all of which clearly stated that she was a visiting student.
McKarus explained, “All [the documents] were accepted by the Returning Officer, Nick Cooper. I was told by him that I was officially a candidate and in the running for International Student’s Officer.
“Since then, I have made copies of my manifesto and have distributed them around all of Oxford. I was also involved in the central hustings held at Corpus Christi on Wednesday 13 November (at which Nick Cooper was present) and told the Oxford students that I am a visiting student and presented my manifesto in the time allotted.”
However, upon noticing on Monday that she had not received a voter code, as had none of her visiting student friends, McKarus emailed Cooper to discover why. In return, she received a “very apologetic email” which stated that a far greater issue than voter codes was coming to light, and asked her to withdraw her candidacy.
As McKarus said in an email to Cherwell, “Not only are visiting students not allowed to vote (hence no codes) but we are also not allowed to run in OUSU elections. In his e-mail he [Cooper] admitted that it was an oversight on his part claiming that he didn’t even think to check if I was an actual student of Oxford because no visiting student has ever tried to run before. After being informed of this, I was asked to withdraw my candidacy.”
McKarus has since refused to do so, and her case will be discussed in a Junior Tribunal which will meet to decide her eligibility. She said, “I refused to withdraw my candidacy because I did not believe that I would be honouring the very reasons for which I ran if I backed down for not being considered a “real student” of Oxford and did not stand by my manifesto in that I want to represent ALL international students.
“The greater issue here is the lack of University wide representation of visiting students and hopefully this is only the beginning and will spark a change in the involvement and representation of visiting students at Oxford.”
Officers at visiting student programmes at Oxford have said that they were unaware that OUSU’s claim to represent “all Oxford students” did not extend to visiting students.
Nick Cooper told Cherwell, “We have, to our knowledge, never had a visiting student nominate themselves for election, and although it is indeed on Lauren’s Bod card, it is sometimes possible to miss things when you aren’t explicitly looking for them, which is what happened here.
“Our definition of ‘student’ comes from the university’s, and this excludes visiting students because they are not matriculated. I have a duty to make sure the election is properly conducted, and both called a meeting of Junior Tribunal and apologised to Lauren accordingly as soon as I became aware of this problem.
“Junior Tribunal will decide whether to remove Lauren from the ballot paper as this is beyond what I am permitted to do at this stage. This restriction will be made clear in next year’s Nominations Pack for candidates, as eligibility for running and voting is subject to the University’s definition of ‘student’.”
McKarus, who is originally from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, is studying Politics, Philosophy and Linguistics at Wadham College for this academic year. She decided to stand for the role of International Students Officer two weeks before the election nominees were announced.