OUSU election slate ‘Jane4Change’ has been disciplined by the Returning Officer in the wake of this week’s revelation that their campaign website had been plagiarised.
In a judgement made just after 11:00 last night, RO Nick Cooper announced that a ninth of all Jane4Change election material was to be confiscated and that the team was forbidden from using the website design again. The matter was brought to his attention on Friday morning after an official complaint was made by ‘Team Alex’ campaign agent David Bagg.
It was announced earlier this week that the design of jane4change.com had been copied from that of web design company www.mixd.co.uk. Despite being given 48 hours to appeal, Jane Cahill announced that the slate would:
“accept the RO’s decision and had already taken down the website and apologised to the company.”
The slate now have until five o’clock on Monday to submit the material to Cooper at the OUSU offices, which is likely to include posters, flyers and stickers.
The scale of the punishment was limited by the fact that Jane4Change failed to submit a confirmation that their website had been designed only by members of their team.
Had they done so as required at the close of nominations, the slate would now be facing harsher penalties, including fines.
When confirming his judgement, Cooper added:
“It is an egregious irony that by not submitting this statement, which it could be argued (but is, for now, irrelevant) would be false or misleading by saying that the website design was carried out solely by candidates on Jane4Change, Jane4Change have not made any false or misleading statement.”
Cahill responded by stating that:
“There was no active decision not to submit the required declaration; this isn’t some kind of conspiracy, as the team did not know are website was in fact problematic in some way. We checked through everything with RO with regards to the website at the point of nominations and believed everything was in good order.”
“If we knew of any of the problems with the website, we would never have put it up in the first place.”
The judgement has drawn cutting comments from the other presidential candidates, including Alex Bartram of the ‘Team Alex’ slate:
“I suppose you could say that Jane4Change’s incompetence means that they don’t have to suffer the worst consequences of their unfair practices. Are candidates who have shown themselves not competent enough to run a campaign of under £250, and not even competent enough to have followed correct electoral procedure, the right choice for a student union whose budget runs into the hundreds of thousands? I’ll let students answer that question.”
Bartram added that his campaign spent a large portion of their budget on their website.
“It’s not stunning, but it does the job – and it wasn’t plagiarized from a professional designer in a day and on a 99p budget.”
Referring to his own slate’s glitchy web launch, Nathan Akehurst said, “I’m glad that our own internet mess-up was a harmless prank rather than plagiarism.” He continued by saying that he nonetheless hoped that the election would be run as a result of policies, rather than, “the personality politics, petting zoos and strange political software offered by our opponents.”