UMSU Election Overview8 December 2020
After a successful online campaign, Community for UMSU has won a majority of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) offices for 2021. Winning every office except for President and Education Public Affairs, the ticket appears to have survived a difficult postal election.
Stand Up!, a long-standing ticket that dominated office bearer positions this year, won just two offices. Jack Buksh, the 2020 General Secretary, will become the union’s president in 2021, promising to continue fighting for student voices through accessibility, unionist and fee reduction campaigns. The only other office the ticket secured was Education Public Affairs (Tejas Gandhi and Hannah Krasovec).
Community, a brand new ticket this year, took the general secretariat (Ciara O’Sullivan) and the academic arm of the education office (Jennisha Arnanta and Planning Jay Vynn Saw). It also won almost all of the autonomous departments, which include Women’s (Mickhaella Ermita & Srishti Chatterjee), Queer (Amy Bright & Laura Ehrensperger), Disabilities (Brigit Doyle and Lindsay Tupper-Creed) and People of Colour (Emily AlRamadhan & Mohamed Hadi). Other offices secured by Community include Welfare (Allen Xiao and Hue Man Dang), Creative Arts (Merryn Hughes & Vaishnavi Ravikrishna) and Environment (Ann Nguyen & James Park).
Community successfully took the Activities office (Christos Preovolos & Phoebe Chen) and the Clubs and Societies office (Kalyana Vania & Muskaan Hakhu), despite opposition from independent ticket Just Clubs Just Activities (JCJA). It also won all coordinator positions for the Southbank campus—Campus Coordinator (Will Hall), Activities and Events Coordinator (Jungwoo Kim), and Campaigns Coordinator (Leyla Moxham).
Independent tickets and candidates that found success during this election were elected unopposed. Kaitlyn Hammond has retained the campus coordinator position for the Burnley campus, and the Indigenous office was retained by independents Hope Kuchel and Shanysa McConville. Independent Media once again took the Media office (Ailish Hallinan, Elmira Cheung, Lauren Berry and Pavani Athukorala).
Results for committees and Students’ Council were dominated by Community’s candidates as well. After a year of a Stand Up! majority on Council, Community won its own majority, securing almost all of the special representative positions. Smaller tickets like JCJA and Student Resistance, despite not winning any offices even after making deals with Stand Up!, each took one seat on Students’ Council. Independent Media has returned to Council with one candidate as well, after failing to secure a seat in the 2019 elections. Independent candidate Brittney Hendersen also won a spot on Council as the Indigenous representative.
Despite this overwhelming win, Community appealed to the electoral tribunal to demand a recount of the votes for the presidential office. International ballots received on or before November 16 were included in another recount. The margin between Buksh and Community’s candidate Archit Agrawal did not change substantially.
This year, the election struggled more than ever with turnout, as the pandemic suppressed any chances of in-person voting. Since 2016, engagement in the UMSU election week has continued to decline. While 3,700 postal vote applications were recorded in late September, a vote tally after the election period from September 7 to 11 found fewer than 2,000 of those votes had been returned.
Deputy returning officer Stephen Luntz told Farrago that a 100 per cent return was unlikely.
“We’ve had quite a few come back [as] return-to-sender because people have moved, or they gave us the address incorrectly. We’ve tried contacting these people and sending to the correct address when they gave them to us, but many have not replied and a few told us they were no longer interested. It seems some people were persuaded to lodge applications at the time, but have since lost enthusiasm for one reason or another,” he said.
Frustration from earlier in the year about the postal vote has lingered. Several international students voiced their concerns on UMSU-affiliated Facebook groups in July. The postal vote was the only option available during the UMSU Elections with online voting prohibited in the constitution and requiring an Annual General Meeting of at least 400 students for the decision to be overturned. This has previously only been achievable during Tuesday’s free event ‘Bands ‘n’ Bevs.’
Online, President Hannah Buchan informed students that legalities and public health safety restrictions were significant components in this.
“These regulations show that UMSU was unprepared for this to happen and I will make sure to pass this information onto those who make the electoral regulations. All of your concerns are valid and can be used to change the constitution when UMSU is legally able to do so.”
International students were primarily concerned that their votes would not be received, relying heavily on postal delivery efficiency that has varied across the globe during the pandemic. Only five votes from overseas were included after Community’s appeal.