UWI student guild election mired in controversy
A storm is brewing over the upcoming University of West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill student guild election, which is shrouded in controversy following the disqualification of three Barbadian candidates.
Vying for the positions of student guild president, treasurer and union committee chairman, the students were barred from participating in the election because two of the three were facing “university disciplinary proceedings” and the third had failed to attain the required grade point average (GPA).
Speaking on the behalf of the disqualified candidates, President of the Barbados Students’ Association (BSA) Kareem Smith argued the process was unconstitutional.
In relation to the two candidates facing disciplinary action, Smith questioned the legitimacy of Returning Officer Annika Bellot to exclude them from the election, contending that the constitution separated guild disciplinary proceedings from those of the university.
“We are challenging the section of the nomination code which says that if disciplinary proceedings were brought against a student by the administration of the university, they would not be able to contest in the guild elections.
“What we do know is that the repercussions arising from an administrative action against some persons are completely different from the repercussion of guild disciplinary actions being taken, and as such we really would like to have those sections interpreted so there would be clarity, so there would be no students who would be disbarred from the election,” Smith told Barbados TODAY.
In an address last night to both Barbadian and non-Barbadian students, the BSA president charged that the committee responsible for facilitating the election was not approved by the Student Guild Council, but was “appointed” instead by the returning officer.
He said this was contrary to the guild constitution, which stipulates that those who sit on the committee must be appointed by the Guild of Students.
“Today we have nothing to suggest that is so and . . .what they seem to be suggesting is that because of extraordinary circumstances, they needed to put together an RO [returning officer] committee because the election was pending and the previous RO had resigned,” he said.
“The Guild Council can appoint the RO, that was done but the persons who are appointed to assist her in the election process have to be approved by the Guild Council and that has not taken place, and because of that we are saying that the persons overseeing an election that will have the repercussions will be resonating with us for the next year or so, they have not been appointed in a way that is procedurally correct.”
Smith insisted the process was compromised and called for the election to be postponed “in the interest of fairness and the interest of clarity”.
“I believe the RO should resign, her committee should be dissolved and I am asking for the nomination period to be reopened. I am asking for the debates to be postponed and I am asking for the elections to be postponed as well until the matters are clarified,” the BSA president stated.
However, Deputy Returning Officer Zachary Phillips defended the process, stating that Bellot had discussed the issue with the Deputy Principal, Dean of the Faculty of Law and the Registrar and that the Registrar had made it clear in writing that “the disciplinary proceedings would relate to both the guild disciplinary proceedings as well as the university disciplinary proceedings” and that both were binding on the students.