There has been a shocking admission by the LUSU Trustee Board vice-chair Graeme Osborn that LUSU election rules have been broken.
Under the Education Act 1994, Lancaster University has a legal duty to ensure LUSU elections are 'fairly and property conducted.' However, Mr Osborn has admitted that LUSU is, in fact, breaching several key rules regarding the conduct of its elections. Approached for a statement, Lancaster University has refused to respond.
In his lengthy response to the vote of no confidence petition against him, Mr Osborn does not dispute the facts the petition raises regarding LUSU's election misgovernance. Contrary to LUSU bye-laws, the rules governing elections and campaigning have not been annually approved by the Board. Mr Osborn admitted:
There does appear to have been a failure by the Deputy Returning Officer to submit the rules to the Board for approval on an annual basis. However, the campaigning rules have been in place for several years and have not required significant amendments in this time.
However, as Spineless reported last month, the campaigning rules have actually been subject to a recent significant amendment, without being subject to due scrutiny, in an apparent breach of LUSU's bye-laws.
Mr Osborn's statement then responds to the petition's claim that a Returning Officer has never been appointed by the Board:
Similarly, the Union has a long-standing arrangement with the NUS under which they provide the Returning Officer for our elections. This is a system used by a number of other students’ unions across the country.
The Trustee Board is required to annually appoint a 'suitably qualified person external to the University' to the position of Returning Officer. Mr Osborn's statements confirms that this rule has been violated. Not only has there not been an annual appointment, but an amorphous national institution is by no definition a 'person'.
The lack of a properly-appointed Returning Officer is perhaps the reason why the election results from the Week 8 elections have yet to be published, several weeks after taking place. The bye-laws require the results to be published within two working days of the polls closing, however it has been 43 working days since the election. Previously, the Chief Returning Officer of LUSU was a student elected by, and accountable to, the membership. Perhaps the re-establishment of this position will be considered by the Constitutional Convention we are told is ever-round-the-corner.
With the sabbatical officer elections fast approaching, students may rightly be concerned that they are apparently going to yet again be expected to vote in elections that are clearly not compliant with LUSU's own rules, and potentially also the Education Act 1994. The students' union only have about a fortnight to address this situation before nominations open. We know they all read Spineless, so they cannot claim ignorance as an excuse for inaction.