Last month's dismissal of LUSU President George Nuttall, who had been elected to a second term, caused a stir in the Lancaster student community. While there has been no public statement confirming this, Nuttall has likely appealed the decision and that process is underway. But on the chance that he is not reinstated, the business of governing the Students' Union must continue, and the institutionally-important position of President must be filled on 1st July when the sabbatical officer teams switch over.
There are eight candidates in the by-election in which voting is open from 10am 10th June to 4pm 12th June. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have already left campus, so candidates' campaigns are focused on social media, particularly Facebook.
Two incumbent sabbs are in the running for the position. Victoria Hatch, who replaced Ben Evans as VP Activities in January, and Lewis Marriott, who has served the whole year as VP Campaigns and Communications, are hoping their experience and name recognition will win them the day. Hatch used to work for Green Lancaster and led the organisation of Virtual Roses 2020, before being appointed Acting President following Nuttall's dismissal. Marriott has been one of the most visible sabbs this year, his work on the Corona Community Facebook group a prime example. Hatch, in her manifesto, highlights operational and financial difficulties that LUSU will face due to COVID-19. She proposes 'stable leadership and a clear agenda for reform.' Marriott pledges more transparency and communication; his ideas include celebrating Working Class History Month for the first time in 2021 and running a 'Dear, Vice Chancellor' campaign to lobby D Floor.
Voters may also recognise two candidates who stood but lost, in the LUSU elections earlier in the year. Oliver Robinson is a Labour councillor who represents the University on the City Council and Taylor Donoughue-Smith is Music Editor for SCAN and a former member of the Lib Dem society exec. In the last election, Robinson stood for VP Union Development but lost to Atree Ghosh. He has pledged to re-establish Union Council, 'stop destructive cultural practices and behaviours' in LUSU, and save College bars. Donoughue-Smith stood for VP Media and Communications on a 'stand up for student media' platform but lost to Shannon McCaul. He wants to establish a Student Representative Council, improve communication, and 'empower' student media. Both say they want to re-assess LUSU's affiliation to the NUS.
One candidate that appears to have captured the imagination of the voters is Timothy Lloyd-Judson. His campaign video transposing himself as Harold Saxon was quite funny. He wants to focus on improving the image of the Students' Union and emphasises the importance of the student experience in pandemic conditions. As a Belgian student, he is the only international student in the race. His manifesto is a little light but he has set out his policies in more detail in the campaign videos on his Facebook page.
The three other candidates are John Parker, Chloe Wilmot, and Joe Fundrey. Wilmot, a former Hustle employee, wants to see recreational and college sports teams reinstated and to 'foster a positive working environment.' Parker, who has been President of Edible Campus, wants to hold the University and the Trustee Board accountable and wants to remove the 'bullying culture' from within the Students' Union. He outlines in his manifesto all the issues he wants to tackle by order of priority. Fundrey, formerly of Furness College JCR, wants a majority-elected Trustee Board and to establish a COVID-19 Council to examine all the adjustments necessary as a result of the pandemic. His full manifesto can be read here.
Though not a candidate, you can also vote for Re-Open Nominations (RON) in the election. Earlier in the year, 29% voted RON in favour of George Nuttall during his re-election, without any concerted campaign. This time, some supporters of Nuttall have launched a concerted RON campaign under the slogan 'Send A Message, Vote RON'. The campaign argues that the President position is 'near powerless' and that any attempt to democratise LUSU will be vetoed by the unelected Trustees, so in order to send a message, voters should Re-Open Nominations.
LUSU is an institution with a myriad of failings, which we have outlined in detail in this publication since the beginning of January. However, the Presidential position, other than being Chair of the Trustee Board, is also a director of LUSU's two subsidiary companies, sits on University Council and Senate, on a number of Council and Senate committees, and is also a member of University Management Advisory Group (UMAG), which directly advises the vice-chancellor. The President is the most powerful position that a student could be elected to at Lancaster University. While in theory, unelected Trustees comprise a majority of the Trustee Board, for a good portion of the last academic year the sabbs had a majority. These unelected Trustees are also the ones that, despite pissing and moaning over the Sugarhouse, voted for a comprehensive governance and democracy review. The RON campaign mostly appears to be making excuses for inaction over the term of the last President.
Current students can vote in the by-election from 10am 10th June to 4pm 12th June at the following link: lancastersu.co.uk/vote. International students can also vote in the by-election for International Students' Officer.