Lincoln JCR has banned OUSU candidates from entering college property to door-knock.
The motion, passed on Sunday of 5th, has been strongly opposed by both Jane Cahill, one of this year’s presidential candidates, and Tom Rutland, current OUSU president.
The proposal, put forward by Kristin Lampe, a second year Law student, was designed to protect Lincolnites from the traditional campaigning practice, which involves directly canvassing students in their rooms.
The motion stated: “Students should not have to tolerate unwanted solicitation from campaigners”. Those flouting the ban will be blacklisted.
Lampe explained her reasons for bringing forward the motion: “There were some complaints […] made by freshers to the JCR Exec committee, at which point the Exec decided it would be best to publicly take a stand against canvassing in private halls.”
Cahill, who was formerly JCR President of Queen’s College, disagreed with Lincoln’s plans. She said: “Door-knocking is the only way for many candidates to reach voters and try to speak to them. This motion will advantage big slates who are running against independents, who won’t have the same number of personal connections or amazingly flashy websites that they can reach people with.”
Rutland echoed Cahill’s concerns. He said: “The ability to meet candidates face-to-face through door-knocking provides students with a chance to meet and question the people who want to represent them and continue to improve our student union and make it more relevant to Oxford students’ lives.
“The hardest questions I got asked whilst campaigning last year were on students’ doorsteps.”
Nathan Akehurst, OUSU presidential candidate for the ReclaimOUSU slate and a Lincoln undergraduate, said: “I assisted with the motion because it reflected the will of my common room. I am not necessarily completely opposed to door-knocking – it’s a common way of having political conversations – but I appreciate there are privacy issues.”
Akehurst added: “The issue speaks to the wider issue of our student union’s lack of engagement, which to me is largely due to its utter lack of genuine democracy.”
Alex Bartram, another presidential candidate seeking election, took a similar line. He said: “I think this kind of motion speaks volumes about how disengaged students are right now with the student union. My campaign will respect JCRs’ right to request that door-knocking doesn’t happen.”
Presidential candidate Louis Trup, whose OUSU election manifesto promises a monorail to St Hugh’s and LMH along with “double beds for all”, was whole-hearted in his support of Lincoln’s move. He commented: “If you have to knock on doors to get people’s attention, you probz got shitt ideas…I back Lincoln on this one.”
The reaction in Lincoln to the passage of the motion was not, however, unanimously enthusiastic. Aaron Briggs, a second year Physicist, said: “To be honest, the likelihood of me turning up to vote at the OUSU elections are lower than the possibility of Manchester United winning the premiership without Sir Alex, so door-knockers are frankly irrelevant to me.”
The motion proposed that there should be “alternative hustings” for campaigners seeking to appeal to the Lincoln student body.
The official OUSU election regulations contain no guidance regarding door-knocking as a means of canvassing voters, but it does stipulate that there must be a central hustings for candidates.
The Returning Officer also has the power to organise hustings in colleges. All candidates noted, however, that all college hustings, including one held at Lincoln, have been very poorly attended.
The OUSU elections will be held over a three-day period from Tuesday to Thursday of 6th week.