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July 26, 2010 | by  | in News |
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OUSA Survivor contest turns nasty

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A referendum last week looks set to result in a significant change to the governing structure of the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA). Student General Meetings (SGMs) will also now be held online.

When Critic went to print last week the results were still provisional, due to then-unresolved complaints regarding possible breaches of constitutional procedure, however, there was a clear signal for change from those who voted.

1399 people voted on the motion to reduce the size of the exec, with 72 per cent voting for the change, 22 per cent against and five percent abstaining. 1391 people voted on the motion to “supersize your say” and move SGMs online, with 87 per cent for online SGMs, ten per cent against, and only two per cent abstaining.

Tension was rife in the OUSA office as the exec gathered late Thursday afternoon to hear the results. As the results were read, OUSA President Harriet Geoghegan looked ecstatic. “I’m happy all the work we have put in won’t go to waste.”

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the outcome. There have been formal complaints lodged regarding how the election was conducted, including the wording of the referendum question, the overall advertisement of the referendum, and the impartiality of OUSA during the referendum period. One formal complaint that was leaked to Critic stated that President Harriet Geoghegan did not remain impartial, and pushed her stance on her personal Facebook page.

The complaint also alleges that exec members on polling booths encouraged students to vote “yes” on the referendum. Another major complaint concerns the period of time students were warned of the referendum, which arguably did not comply with the requisite ten working days.

Some people have claimed that the whole process was incredibly rushed.

Despite the uproar, Geoghegan contends that the election was unbiased. “We talked to lawyers, and the claims about bias were unfounded,” she says.

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