Andrew McIlwraith, a Welfare Officer candidate in this year’s YUSU elections, has been condemned by students and opponents for his undermining of the Welfare position.
McIlwraith, who failed to attend both the candidates’ briefing on Monday and last night’s hustings, told Nouse that he “isn’t taking the process very seriously”, and that the position is “more of a fall back if the job I really want doesn’t come through.”
He continued to say that the role wasn’t very important, commenting: “It’s only student welfare.”
McIlwraith’s opponent, Peter Warner-Medley, has criticised McIlwraith’s mockery of the Welfare role, saying: “Student welfare does matter… The job involves important decisions, too important for someone to just be using as a fall-back.”
McIlwraith replied: “I’m in my third year on the Hockey team… that’s really important to me.”
He argued that being in third year “with course commitments” prevented him from going to the candidates’ briefing and hustings.
He continued: “For example, I have a presentation this week.” However, he admitted: “These are just excuses really.”
McIlwraith’s actions have angered a number of students. Rachel Stafford, a Langwith College first-year student, said: “How can someone who openly admits that he is only using the position as a fall-back and can’t even be bothered to turn up to meetings expect to be elected by his peers? It seems ridiculous to enter yourself for a supposedly ‘caring’ role, and then behave in a manner which could be detrimental to student welfare.”
Candidates who miss the candidates’ briefing are not allowed to campaign until they have been briefed by the returning officer. As Lewis Bretts, YUSU Democracy and Services Officer, is currently ill, the National Student’s Union (NUS) has sent in a replacement Officer. This Officer is not based in York, she is just “overseeing” the elections.
Last night, hustings had to be postponed for up to half an hour as the NUS Officer was travelling from Manchester.
If McIlwraith intends to campaign for the position, the returning Officer will be forced to come back to York for the purpose of briefing him. In response to this information, McIlwraith stated: “Oh right… I didn’t know that. I must contact her.”
Questions have been raised over whether Mcllawaith merely entered as a joke candidate, however, he claims: “I entered myself.”
This potential joke candidacy comes after controversy at last night’s hustings.
Peter Saul and Mark Pickard, two candidates running jointly for Women’s Officer, sparked disgust from the audience after promising to introduce policies such as “banning fat women on campus” and making comments such as “women find it hard to succeed in the career market, so we plan to open up more opportunities as housewives.”
Warner-Medley said: “This is a wholly repugnant campaign… I find this extraordinarily offensive even though I am not a woman. As someone who attends women’s committee every week, the issues raised are very serious and it’s unacceptable to diminish them in this way.”
After receiving heckles from the crowd, Saul and Pickard responded by saying that the audience were far too “uptight and left-wing”.
Janey Stephenson, one of Saul and Pickard’s opponents, commented that, if the boys were to be elected, they “should not be on such a high position of responsibility on campus.”
A joke candidacy was also introduced this year by David Hansen in the role of President. He said in his hustings speech that he was “the Dave from your nightmares” and that he was brought up by “a wild pack of wolves in the Irish rainforest”. He left half-way through the questions round.
McIlwraith’s failure to turn up to last night’s hustings has led many to disregard his candidacy. A second-year student who asked to remain anonymous, said: “He’s hardly going to be elected if he can’t even be bothered to turn up to hustings. This is more serious than any joke candidate; if his ‘real job’ offer doesn’t pull through there’s a danger he might actually try and campaign to win this position. We, as students, may be left with an apathetic Welfare Officer who would rather be in a ‘real job’ for the rest of the year.”
Warner-Medley added: “If he didn’t attend the meeting that’s a concern. You can only really go for [the welfare role] if you really want it. I thought about it for a very long time before I made the decision to run.”