A last minute protest against the candidates for International Officer has sparked controversy.
Some members of the university’s International Student Associations yesterday night initiated a protest just hours before voting for 2015’s YUSU elections were closed.
ISA Members posted on Facebook, urging students to re-open nominations for the post of international officer, citing the candidates’ lack of awareness of the ISA and the incompatibility of the roles of International officer and ISA President, which are constitutionally held by the same person, as reasons for the protest.
YN Gan, the vice president of the ISA, who took part in the appeal, believes that “the current arrangement is unsuitable.” He explains that this is part of a wider campaign by some members of the ISA to separate the position of YUSU International Officer and ISA President, of which they are currently in talks about with the Student Union.
According to the Vice President the reason for this last-ditch protest was that candidates attended an ISA event for the first time only yesterday, at their weekly Coffee Afternoon. “During that same afternoon, the international students who regularly attend told me that these same candidates had been announcing in lectures that the ISA had very poor outreach. This was very upsetting for me to hear”
Gan believes the solution is to have a “YUSU representative” on the ISA committee but the ISA President must be independent of the Student Union and should be elected separately.
Kingma Ma, Ex-President of the ISA, was even more scathing of the current situation, calling the constitution change that occurred three years ago “a disaster for the ISA”. He says that “people are running international rep but have no clue about ISA, then it means the role of president is effectively wasted”. He goes on to admit that part of the reason for the current situation was that the ISA committee could have done more to promote itself to non-internationals before the constitional changes were made, “they didn’t integrate international with UK students enough”.
Ma supports the campaign, considering the two positions that have merged incompatible. “The YUSU rep is a welfare role like the disability officer or women’s officer. The President is a society role like the head of History Society or the head of York Union.”
International student Proma Roy, who was also part of the protest, asserts that “this isn’t a protest against the international officer candidates, this is a protest against the fact that International Officers become the ISA President without having had any previous relationship with the ISA.” Summing up her argument that “we want the ISA to elect its own President”
It appears that many ISA members are dismayed about the alleged lack of experience that many International Officer candidates have with the association.
Current ISA President and YUSU International Officer Aashna Sehgal, was quick to reply that “I strongly believe this is a decision that the next International officer should be making with all correct facts and statistics in their hands.” Yet she does “understand”, “If some members do feel the strong need to make a change”. To the detractors of the current system she had these words to say “No matter how good someone’s work is, there will always be criticism and it really is so hurtful… if someone’s signed up to take such a big responsibility, it’s because they want to, and they can.”
Gan, although committed to his wider campaign, is pessimistic about this specific protest due to the current voting mechanisms in place. “I don’t think we can re-open the nominations, because the way the system works is that every time a candidate gets beaten, their votes get transferred to the next candidate on the voting card but most people don’t put RON on their voting card”.
Results for all positions for this year’s YUSU elections will be announced at a ceremony tomorrow, beginning at 8pm in the Roger Kirk Centre.