University Hall’s committee has been riven by accusations of bullying, electoral foul-play, and “suspicious behaviour” after a routine election to replace the committee secretary went awry this past Saturday. Several members of the committee have agreed to speak to The Stand on condition of anonymity.
The resignation of the previous secretary on 3 February automatically triggered an election under the rules of the Uni Hall constitution. According to those same rules, the election as to be run by the senior student, Nicholas Thornton.
In this case, however, Thornton was unable to run the election due to a job interview, leaving the treasurer, Christopher Martin, in charge. Thornton did however set out clear rules for how long the election as to be carried out in his absence.
Martin stands accused of a litany of rules violations by some of his colleagues. They point to several instances in which Mr Martin attempted to change or bend the rules. Nicholas Kroon, one of the three candidates who stood for secretary in the election, highlighted three main concerns in an interview with The Stand: “the issues of absentee votes being sent last minute (after the official election meeting was underway) by email, something that was not agreed on beforehand, the issue of in-person votes being taken after the election meeting had been adjourned”, and “the issue of a tie break vote being accepted after the results had been announced”.
“Those that attended the meeting”, Kroon continued, “will be able to confirm that [Martin] was frantically messaging absent committee members to get their votes by email” in direct contravention to Thornton’s guidelines. “This was an indefensible abuse of his position of power”, Kroon said: he and others believe Martin manipulated the rules of the election to favour another candidate, Daniel Pišt’ák. (The Stand has reached out to Martin.)
When several committee members complained of these irregularities to Mr Thornton, he said that he was “worried that certain parties took advantage of [his] absence”, invalidated the results of the vote pending an investigation and suggested that the routine committee meeting scheduled for 15:00 that day go on as planned without any mention of the election.
More chaos ensued at that meeting when Pišt’ák attempted to act as secretary, taking minutes and even voting on motions, even though the senior student had invalidated the vote which supposedly elected him. (Pišt’ák declined to comment.) When members of the committee raised this point with martin, the meeting grew heated. At one point Martin asked Joseph Ehrlich, the Head of Events, to leave the room, accusing him of bullying behaviour.
The election has been described as “the botched job of an inept megalomaniac” by one committee member, with at least two decrying the “toxic culture” at Uni Hall and calling for the removal of Martin, at whose door they lay the lion’s share of the blame.
On Saturday 16 February a majority of the committee voted to confirm the result of the election despite the accusations of misconduct, officially securing Daniel Pišt’ák as secretary.
“I feel that most people were just sick of all the talk and division,” said Andrew Prylowski, an events rep on the committee. He continued: “[They] were willing just to accept the result and ignore the claims [of election tampering], just to have it over with and continue the running of the committee.” Prylowski felt additionally that many in the committee were perhaps too ready to dismiss clear violations of election rules in order to move past the issue.
Prylowski and some of his committee colleagues still feel that the only fair solution to the problem is to run another election or to disregard many of the votes, but with this recent decision it seems likely if not inevitable that Pišt’ák will remain secretary.