Online society elections will now be opt-out

Tonight at an Emergency Council Meeting, the debate over whether President and Treasurer elections for societies should go online finally came to a boil. 

The two protagonists of the night were former Sustainability, Engagement and Operations Officer, Zakariya Mohran and this year’s Activities officer Ilyas Morrison.

The whole saga began in December when Morrison sent an email to all society Presidents and Treasurers informing them of the changes to how the elections would be run this year.

The changes would force all societies to have their President and Treasurer elections conducted online instead of via the traditional AGM. At the time at least, the changes would have forced potential candidates for such roles to declare their interest by mid February (whereas traditionally no student would have had to do so till their society’s AGM in mid to late March).

On return to university this year, Morrison wrote a 3,600 word essay to the Presidents and Treasurers in which he outlined that there would now be two online election cycles, with the second cycle running at the same time that the old AGMs would have been held.

However in tonight’s meeting, Mohran proposed the motion that the decision to move these elections online should be reversed (the motion was later amended to giving the option to societies to opt out from online democracy), arguing that smaller societies could be vulnerable to entryism and that the decision was made without consultation.

Morrison stated that online democracy ensured that everyone would be able to vote, and that arguing against this was in fact non-democratic. Both accused the other of dishonesty and misinformation.

Prominent members of Islamic Society and Union Council which had backed Morrison as a candidate last year, did not say anything to support Morrison (or much at all to be honest). Of the current sabbatical officers in the room, Mark Crawford, Ayo Olatunji, Hamza Jamshaid and Aiysha Qureshi, only Qureshi said anything vaguely supportive. 

Morrison was in essence, left to fend for himself. Only Freddie Lynch, the Arts Officer, was vocal in his backing for online democracy.

Morrison was also accused of being under the influence of Alex McKee and Carl Salton-Cox, who are both staff members of the Union.

He alleged that Imperial Union, the students’ union from which both McKee and Salton-Cox had arrived last year, had inflated Imperial’s election turnout numbers by using the same trick of including society election numbers in voter turnout statistics (usually reserved for sabbatical officers and part-time officers). The Union’s marketing team had already printed and distributed hundreds of leaflets advertising these new “Leadership Elections”.

Though Morrison contended vociferously that “staff had no influence” and that the decision was made “under my discretion”.

At the end of the hastily run meeting, the votes were tallied out.

15 voted for the online elections for Presidents and Treasurers to be made opt-out, while 9 voted against. There were two abstentions.

The votes will need to be ratified by the Union’s Trustee Board next week (which The Cheese Grater has been told is “99% likely”).

Jason Murugesu