The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) has taken action to create new rules regarding the Rectorial Elections.
As it stands, if a nominee for the position of Rector stands unopposed, there is not an option to re-open nominations (commonly referred to as RON). The only candidate for rector is automatically appointed. This process is set out in clause 19 of the Rectorial Elections rules and recently led to the appointment of Catherine Stihler to the position without election.
On 18 November 2014, the SRC voted to have the student representatives on the Academic Council (the Students’ Association President Pat Mathewson, Postgraduate Convenor Tania Struzel, and the two faculty presidents Charlotte Potter and Katy Rae) ask the Academic Council to re-evaluate the way Rectorial Elections are held. Under the SRC proposal, which did pass, the Academic Council would make certain that RON is a candidate in all future Rectorial Elections.
The Academic Council will also discuss whether there can be a clause allowing for the election to be re-run if RON is indeed the more popular choice. As it stands currently, Rectorial Elections can only be held during a six week window beginning in October. This means that if RON is chosen in two rounds of voting, there would not be enough time to hold another election and the University would have to wait until the next year to re-run elections (since Rectorial Elections are University, not Students’ Union, run).
The bureaucracy in place to change the rules about when elections can be held is immense, as they are set down in law. The Academic Council must consent, then ask the University Court, which must consent, which must ask the Education Secretary of Scotland, who must then ask Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council to change the ordinances concerned. Ondrej Hajda, Director of Representation, pointed out that the enormous structure involved in this change is why he is asking for it now: he wants it fixed for the elections in 2017 and navigating this bureaucracy could take as long as 3 years.
There is also concern that the request could be stalled by the Higher Education Governance Bill, which is currently being debated. The consultation paper written for legislators suggested several steps, including eliminating the Privy Council’s role in education and scaling it down to a Scotland-based council that would take control of what is currently under the Privy Council.
The Privy Council is made up of 600 legislators, cabinet members and heads of political parties. It typically has 9 meetings a year.