Oxford SU Council delegates voted to approve a ban on electoral slates in Student Union elections at their meeting in Mansfield College on Wednesday. The motion to change the SU’s rules was proposed by VP Welfare and Equal Opportunities Ellie MacDonald and seconded by President-Elect Anisha Faruk.
Ms Faruk opened the debate in favour of banning slates, referring to her experiences running for election in Hilary term as part of the largely successful ‘Impact Oxford’ slate. She described the experience as “emotionally draining”, with the management of slates requiring “a disproportionate amount of work” on the part of their sabbatical officer candidates and led to an environment characterised by “tribal mentalities”.
Ms Faruk went on to quote a statement provided to her by VP-Elect Welfare and Equal Opportunities, Roisin McCallion, which detailed a number of uncomfortable incidents she had experienced during Hilary’s election. These included harassment in the street by people ‘highly invested in the slate’ and an attempt by an unnamed individual to have what she referred to as a “slanderous article” published in the student press. Ms McCallion was elected as part of the ‘Aspire’ slate.
Another issue raised was the possibility of tensions in the sabbatical officer team. Ms Walton noted that “genuine animosity” and an “unwillingness to work together” on the part of officers elected from different slates had caused difficulties for the SU in the past. Allison D’ambrosia, VP graduates, said that staff members had told her they felt “like they have to pick sides” when officers from different slates came into conflict.
Delegate Olly Besley spoke against the motion, noting that the ability for candidates to stand on a “common platform” could be beneficial and saying that it should be up to individual voters to judge the validity of slates by choosing whether or not to vote for independent candidates. Trustee Matthew Judson, who ran in Hilary as an independent, noted that he may have found the experience easier as part of a slate, but also argued that the board might provide better oversight if Student Trustees were elected on separate platforms to Sabbatical Officers.
The motion passed by 31 votes to 2, with 3 delegates abstaining. To take effect the motion will have to be passed again by a two-thirds majority at the next meeting of Oxford SU Council, in fifth week.