Student election disqualifications disappointing
UOW compelled to uphold WUSA regulations to preserve student democracy
University of Wollongong (UOW) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE has described as disappointing the disqualification of two presidential candidates in the 2018 Wollongong Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) elections.
“Student democracy is a valuable part of student life at any university. The university is very supportive of a democratically elected student representative body playing an important role in student representation at UOW.
“Any democracy relies on all candidates accepting and abiding by clearly stated laws or rules, and on respecting transparent processes to address any breaches of those rules.
“This principle applies to student democracy just as it does to our local, state and federal government elections,” Professor Wellings said.
The 2018 WUSA elections were undertaken according to the WUSA Regulations and Code of Conduct, which provide clear rules and a transparent appeals process to address any alleged breaches. Although they may differ in some aspects from other universities, they are the rules that apply at the University of Wollongong.
“All candidates signed declarations acknowledging they had received, understood and accepted those rules at the outset of the campaign.
“To see any candidate’s own conduct cause them to be disqualified and prevented from taking up a position for which they would have otherwise been duly elected is disappointing,” Professor Wellings said.
The Vice-Chancellor noted that both the ‘Revolution’ and the ‘Save Our Union’ groups recognised the authority of the appeals process and Appeals Panel under WUSA’s Regulations by lodging appeals after votes were counted, but before the election was formally declared by the Returning Officer.
“The WUSA regulations clearly state that the Appeals Panel decision is final. The University of Wollongong’s Constitution does not grant the Vice-Chancellor, University Council, Academic Senate, or any Officer of the University the authority to overturn the Appeals Panel’s decision.
“The University would have been quite happy to work with Ms Rafferty had she been duly elected, so it is disappointing to hear her blame University management for the Appeals Panel’s decision, claim political bias, seek to dispense with the rules or ignore the Panel’s decision because the outcome was not in her Party’s favour.
“Dispensing with the laws governing a democracy never strengthens it – it only destroys it.
“The only way to preserve student democracy—as with any democracy— is to uphold the integrity of the electoral process, which is what the Appeals Panel has done,” Professor Wellings said.
The Vice-Chancellor confirmed the University would respect the outcome of the democratic process and remain committed to working constructively with its students’ duly elected representatives.