A candidate for OUSU International Students’ Officer has been urged to step down one day before polls close after the Returning Officer realised that she was a visiting student. Lauren McKarus, an independent running for the International Students’ Officer was asked to withdraw from the race by RO Nick Cooper after it was realised that she would be leaving Oxford in Trinity and be unable to complete her term of office.
Despite mentioning the fact that she was a Visiting Student regularly in her campaign material and hustings, Cooper only became aware of this when McKarus contacted him asking why she had not been issued with a Unique Voter Code. Despite being asked to withdraw her candidacy by both Cooper and an OUSU Junior Tribunal, the Wadham PPL student has refused to back down.
Until the matter has been considered by University officials, her name will remain on the ballot.
Unlike OUSU President and VPs, part-time executive positions such as International Officer begin their year-long appointment in January. This means that McKarus would be able to complete two terms in the position before returning to Sarah Lawrence College, New York.
Cooper was, however, keen to stress that the tribunal’s complaint was centred on the fact that the University does not officially consider McKarus to be an Oxford student, leaving her ineligible to run or vote in OUSU elections.
Announcing her decision to continue fighting any attempt to disqualify her, she claimed that she was no longer fighting for herself but for the rights of all visiting students:
“I hope to stand in front of the tribunal and address the underlying issue, and that is an 800 year old definition of ‘student member.’
“To declare hundreds of students of this fine and upstanding university second class citizens – mere chattel of their proctors is a slap in the face to democracy and freedom loving men and women throughout this great Island nation.”
McKarus also expressed her amazement that the RO was, “as shocked as [she] was that visiting student have no greater form of representation in the University.”
In a statement issued after taking the matter to the Junior Tribunal, Cooper stated that he didn’t spot the fact that a candidate was running illicitly because it was not a concept he had ever considered:
“Unfortunately when you aren’t looking specifically for something, you sometimes don’t see it.”
“We have, to our knowledge, never had a visiting student run in an OUSU election before, and when validating nominations, I checked that all students had a Bod card […] We will now ensure that future Nomination Packs make the definition of “student” – which is governed by the university and not us at OUSU – very clear, and how visiting students sadly do not fall under this.”
Cooper declined to comment on Ms McKarus’ decision to appeal the Tribunal’s decision.
Should the University also decide that she should be disqualified, only one candidate would be left running for International Students’ Officer. This would all but guarantee the election of Yajing Xu, a member of the ‘Jane4Change’ slate.