An Improved Democratic Process at the University of Southampton #JusticeForHen

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This morning the unjust news that Henry Hill was disqualified from the university of Southampton Presidential elections was reported. Henry’s ‘fair trial’ was conducted without the chance to represent himself. Henry asked for a meeting the day after the decision, on the final day the election took place. He was only able to meet with a few members of the Union who had been involved with the process.

Any issue the Union has had with his campaign, Henry has been extremely compliant. The Union asked him to remove “in association with the University of Southampton” in one of his campaign videos on the 1st of March. Henry replied that same day with an email, and also another follow up email. The Union took 4 days to reply and on the 5th asked him to remove it. He once again was eager to reply and reconciliate the issue and replied the same day and proceeded to make the requested changes.

Henry edited the title to include the statement “**NOT in association with the University of Southampton**” and also blurred out the statement on the video on Youtube. Facebook does not allow you to edit the video, so he removed the video which had garnered over 98% of it’s views based off of organic (not via paid means) methods. He then replaced the video with one which included “NOT in association with the University of Southampton.” In his trial, which he was not present in, they used this re-upload as evidence of his lack of compliance with the process, despite the issue they used a screenshot of the half a second before the “NOT” appeared on the screen. The evidence was eagerly presented to Henry who asked them to play the video for another half second to prove he had indeed complied. There was no apology for the misinformation, and no acceptance of the issue this could have influenced the Senate’s vote the day prior.

The other main issue regarding his campaign was due to the issue of overspending. We provided evidence of the 98% of interactions were based off of organic methods any other candidate had the opportunity to use, and appealed that the miniscule 2% who were reached via the paid advertising would not have been significant enough for him to be completely removed from the process without him being allowed to defend himself. Furthermore, we have been informed that other candidates have been reported for overspending amongst other issues such as bullying and the removal of other candidates’ posters. Instead of allowing the now evidently slightly corrupt democratic process to continue, Henry was instead encouraged to report other people who had acted against the by-laws, people who have also already been reported but no action has been taken. Henry didn’t want to just diminish the efforts of the other candidates because they didn’t declare that they bought a bedsheet to paint on, or because they printed off some more posters. If someone’s vote is based off of a bedsheet with a crudely drawn message, then Henry was not deserving of the vote as much as the other person who overspent.

After working tirelessly and creating some of the best visual content the university has seen in years, Henry and his team feel hard done by, exhausted, and let down by their university. Henry has been used to be made an example out of, largely based on a less traditional campaign which appealed the masses, rather than the usual rhetoric repeated by all the presidents in the university prior.

Not only was the evidence used in the Senate meeting proved to be inaccurate, they did not even apologise. Rather they decided to shift the focus to the overspending. The issues with overspending are well known for years, and furthermore the person who handled Henry’s democratic appeal is a Sabbatical officer with another one of the candidates who reported Henry.

Henry did not request any special treatment, but simply asked to be allowed to continue his campaign and remain on the ballot for the last 6 hours and then have a meeting with the Senate regarding the issues. Instead he was asked to write a letter of complaint, which was done within 30 minutes of the request, which wasn’t replied to until voting was near closing. The whole process exemplifies the constant shortcomings of the University of Southampton’s student union, and it’s attempts to pick and choose when it wishes to exert it’s power and control.