Ropek Hewson confirmed as GU President as EC rejects Cotton appeal

Image credit: Cambridge University Graduate Union Facebook

Sofia Ropek Hewson was confirmed as the Graduate Union (GU) President yesterday following the decision of the Elections Committee (EC) to reject candidate Joe Cotton’s appeal against his disqualification.

In a statement released online, the EC sent their congratulations to Ropek Hewson, adding that they “wish her the best of luck in the year ahead.” The Committee also sent their congratulations to Mrittunjoy Guhar Majumdar and Joe Cotton, the two other candidates in the race, highlighting their “passion and committment” to the GU.

The EC’s initial decision to disqualify Cotton from the GU presidential race, made earlier this month, was credited to Cotton’s breach of the CUSU Standing Orders. The EC felt that disqualification was the best course of action due to the “severity and importance of the rule breached,” as Cotton had not sufficiently ensured voters felt free to cast their votes as they saw fit.

Following this decision, Cotton issued a statement saying that he would challenge the decision and take it to the Junior Proctor of the University, stating that “at no point in the campaign did I do anything that I felt was in breach of any democratic principles and as soon as I was made aware that there was a possibility that my actions were problematic, I immediately complied.”

“In hindsight, I understand how the three-metre provision in Article G.10.viii is a guarantee that neither the secrecy of the ballot will be broken, nor undue influence will be exerted on voters, however I argue that even without this ‘three-metre guarantee’, democratic principles were at all times upheld by my campaign.”

In a Facebook post yesterday, Cotton apologised to those involved in the incident, calling it “an honest mistake”. Cotton also explained his side of the story, stating his use of an iPad to facilitate voting amongst graduates was recommended to him by a former Vice President of the GU.

Only a few hours before voting ended, the EC informed Cotton that the use of iPads, defined as mobile polling stations, contravened Article G.10.viii, which reads: “No candidate or member of their campaign team, or any other person attempting to influence a voter may approach within three metres of the polling station except when they themselves are voting”.

His statement, made on a personal blog, credited his “mistake” as failing to ask a current EC member in case of doubt. Cotton had asked for clarification, however this came from a former EC member who had used a similar tactic with smartphones in their own GU election campaign.


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