Chris Jarvis, Campaigns and Democracy Officer at the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS), heavily criticised a colleague’s election campaign on Twitter at last week’s National Union of Students’ (NUS) conference. Jarvis used the social media platform to campaign against Connor Rand’s bid for election to the NUS National Executive Committee (NEC); Rand is the Undergraduate Education Office of the UUEAS.
Jarvis accused Rand of: supporting redundancies at UUEAS; of speaking in favour of war; and of opposing free education. Jarvis’s tweets used the official “#NUSconference” hashtag, as well as Rand’s own campaign hashtag, “#GetRandy”, to gain exposure.
When asked for comment, Jarvis said: “This year’s NUS Conference saw some fantastic results. UEA delegates successfully submitted policy to conference for the first time in years, calling on NUS to campaign for better course organisation and management.
“What was also exciting was that the leadership of the NUS elected this year is much more progressive than in the past – we hope to see a more radical and fighting NUS now that will stop further education cuts and not compromise on tuition fees”. He did not wish to comment on the on the tweets specifically.
Rand’s campaign attracted further controversy when he was accused of sexual harrassment for using the slogan “Get Randy”. He also allegedly handed out condoms to delegates while campainging.
What seems to have started as a play on words has gotten Rand into hot water, as the slogan appears to have offended a small number of other delegates. On Twitter, ‘Sugilite’ said that it was “completely fucking inappropriate and potentially triggering for lots of people”, while Amelia Horgan tweeted that “#GetRandy is a deeply uncomfortable slogan”.
Regarding the use of condoms, Sugilite added that: “If some random man shoved a condom in my face and asked me to get randy I would be seriously unhappy”. It has been suggested to Concrete that this may break the NUS’s zero tolerance to sexual harassment policy, which UUEAS also follows. The policy states that “examples of unacceptable behaviour include […] unwelcome sexual invitations, innuendos and offensive gestures”.
On the topic of the NUS conference and the response on Twitter, Rand said: “I ran for election to the NUS executive on a platform of exactly the sort of student education issues I’ve been elected on twice to represent UEA students – like better teaching, learning resources and student funding. I’ve been delighted with the support I’ve received from people across the UK.
“I’ve always been open and honest about my politics and the fact that I belong to a political party. I won’t be bullied or intimidated in my fight for a more relevant movement and to be honest I think it’s negative comments that put students off politics in general. I’ll continue to work to make students’ unions and NUS more student focussed, whether that’s nationally or [at UEA]”.
Rand’s candidacy attracted further controversy when Chris Jarvis, both the union’s Campaigns and Democracy Officer and lead delegate at the conference, took to Twitter to campaign against Rand. The conference took place on 21st – 23rd April. According to NUS, it is the “sovereign policy-making body of NUS and bring together nearly a thousand delegates from students’ unions across the country to discuss, debate and vote on motions and elect the political leadership for the year ahead”.
Attending on behalf of UUEAS were Jarvis, Rand, Adam Curtis, Holly Staynor (Community, Welfare and Diversity Officer) and Amy Rust. These delegates were elected in November 2014. At the time, Concrete reported on the disappointing turnout in the election: just 228 votes were cast. As lead delegate, Jarvis was elected by the 2014-15 union officer team.
Rand was running for a position on the NEC’s Block of 15. This body is comprised of 15 individually elected members. Five are from ‘zone committees’, two are from the mature, part-time and postgraduate committees, and one member is drawn from each of the black, disabled and women’s liberation groups, the international students section and the three nations. With the other officers who sit on the NEC, they are responsible for setting policy and ensuring that it is properly implemented
Results for the election to the NEC are expected this week.