OUSA Election Report Details Complaints of Discounted Chocolates, Harassment, and Media Bias

The OUSA Executive Elections had their fair share of controversy, and although Critic promised that we’d stopped talking about it, we lied.

That’s because Kyla Mullen, OUSA’s Returning Officer for the election, has released her report, detailing the complaints she received and whether they were upheld, along with her suggestions for future elections.

The main complaint was for the president’s race and saw President-elect Caitlin Barlow-Groome docked 3 percent of her total vote share for having “sourced food items at a discounted price not available to members of the public”. Doing so put her in breach of Rule 7.1, which states, “your total campaign expenditure shall not exceed $200 as an individual,” and is measured at market value as opposed to the discounted rate.

As a result of that breach, her total votes dropped to 1395, meaning that she still defeated presidential candidate for the now disbanded ‘Unity’ ticket, Finn Shewell, but by just 48 votes. It is unclear whether there was a further dispute from the person who lodged the complaint.

Three complaints were submitted in relation to Critic’s coverage and involvement in the election. Allegations of “undermining the integrity of the election” and of “undue influence” were made, but the complainant(s) was told that “Critic has full media independence” and that they were able to take the matter to the Press Council if they so wished.

According to the report, “a couple of concerns were raised about media independence. Candidates were aware that OUSA owned Critic and therefore felt that articles in Critic supporting candidates would be viewed by voters as OUSA endorsement.”

These complaints were likely made by members of the Unity ticket, as Shewell initially blamed the result on Critic’s coverage, and came to speak on Critic’s ‘Monday Morning Spectrum’ on 25th September to discuss the coverage.

Mullen’s advice was that the Executive might want to consider informing candidates and also the general student body about media independence.

Another complaint, that was not investigated or upheld as it “did not meet the threshold,” was laid in regard to “harassing behaviour from another candidate - following and telling complainant they could not place posters at specific sites.” Critic is not sure who the complaint was laid by or against.

This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2017.
Posted 11:04am Sunday 8th October 2017 by Joe Higham.