Last night, Patricia Tao was elected the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) VP Events. Tao ran acclaimed, and achieved 90.1 per cent of votes in favour of her acclamation. Tao said she was “incredibly grateful” to be elected.
The election struggled to meet quorum, scraping by with 24 more votes cast than the requisite 574, or eight per cent of Arts students.
“It’s been quite the year for the AUS. It can only go up from here,” Tao added. Her acclamation was marked by controversy, however, as her only opponent, Joseph Stonehouse, was disqualified from the election for multiple breaches of AUS election by-laws.
AUS’s Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Sophie Goss announced Stonehouse’s disqualification just prior to the campaign debate, at 6:30 p.m. on Monday. Goss announced that Stonehouse had “received his third campaign infraction” for failing to turn up to the debate on time, and was disqualified. Goss added that Stonehouse was “fine with this.”
This disqualification also meant those who had already voted would have their votes reissued, and the question would be re-cast as a simple approval or disapproval of Tao’s acclamation.
In an email to The Daily, Stonehouse said that he “believed that Sophie Goss put the democratic process behind following [the] by-laws,” and that he had “no idea why [Goss] could not wait ten minutes” for him to show up to the debate.
“If she had looked beyond the context of the debate, and broadened her perspective, she might have seen reasons that would have allowed her to forgive my lateness,” Stonehouse continued.
“Frosh was almost ruined because a 19-year-old second-year student ran for VP Events unopposed,” he said, referring to the financial disorganization overseen by Tao’s predecessor, Nampande Londe.
A seperate email from Stonehouse to Goss and AUS President Dave Marshall, obtained by The Daily, revealed that he was not convinced that Goss was an “unbiased” adjudicator.
The email claims that Goss and the rest of the AUS council attended a thanksgiving dinner Tao hosted during the nomination period. He wrote that the attendance of the AUS executives did not “bother” him, as Tao was the interim VP Events at the time. “However,” Stonehouse continued, because the dinner was hosted by “a potential candidate for an election, [Goss] should have remained absent.”
Stonehouse also claimed in the email that he had “zero control over [his] tardiness” because he “needed to sign a commercial contract,” and that “a reasonable and unbiased CRO would have considered this, rather than giving a zero-sum ultimatum.”
Goss pointed out that this was Stonehouse’s third election infraction, and that AUS electoral by-laws stipulate that upon a third infraction, candidates should be disqualified by Elections AUS, unless disqualification is deemed too severe a penalty.
“It was crystal clear to me that because he wasn’t showing up for an important debate which he had known about since the release of the nomination kit [October 4], he had to incur an infraction,” Goss stated.
She acknowledged that Stonehouse did let AUS know at around 4:45 p.m. on the day of the debate that he may be late, and that the next they heard from him was a phone call at 6:25 p.m. letting them know he would be ten minutes late.
Stonehouse also sent an email to Goss at 6:12 p.m., but Goss did not check her inbox until after the phone call.
Stonehouse’s first infraction was for failing to notify Goss that he would not be attending a mandatory meeting on October 15. His second was for failing to supply Goss with a correctly formatted campaign images, despite Goss extending the deadline for him.
Stonehouse also made it known that he is unhappy with the first infraction, and thinks AUS should have reprimanded Goss for taking 36 hours to respond to an email prior to the mandatory meeting he was absent from. Goss claims to have not received the email.
The controversy has overshadowed Tao’s win, and will once again put AUS under the spotlight, as it comes less than two months after the organization recorded a $30,000 deficit from its Frosh. The controversy surrounding that financial loss caused several AUS councillors to consider impeaching the previous VP Events, Nampande Londe, before she resigned citing personal reasons.
In response to the new financial scrutiny AUS will be under, Tao promised to act responsibly with regard to finances, to “not spend where we don’t need to.” She said that “a new tradition” is needed within the AUS, so that lessons learnt could be passed on from council to council each year, something she hopes will prevent future financial disasters.
Stonehouse wished to make it clear that he considers Tao to be “more than qualified” for the job, but that “AUS should have hired a neutral party” because having Goss “working with [Tao] every day” opens up the possibility of electoral bias.
“More importantly,” he continued, “[Goss] should have weighed up ten minutes versus a one-person election. I think the latter is more important to students.”