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Colin Whitchurch wins Sydney University Senate election amid allegations of unfair campaigning

Andrew Bell and Victoria Zerbst report.

Photo: Harry Rogers Photo: Harry Rogers

Colin Whitchurch has been elected to be the next undergraduate fellow of the University of Sydney Senate.

Honi has previously reported that Colin, accompanied with previous Senate fellow James Flynn, stood over students while the voted. Statute requires the election to be conducted by secret ballot.

The result raises the prospect of a Supreme Court challenge to the result.

The result was emailed to all candidates by Executive Officer to Senate, Mark Smith. The vote count has not been released.

Colin never published a public electoral platform, but entirely campaigned individually to students in study areas.

The candidates were informed this afternoon at 2:43PM that there would be no scrutineering of the ballot.

Smith wrote to candidates, “The Returning Officer has requested I inform you regarding the procedures for the counting of votes in electronic elections to take place this afternoon as there are no paper ballots to scrutineer.”

“At 4.00 pm this afternoon the electronic voting system will close both the undergraduate and postgraduate elections. After 4.00 pm I will liaise with the University’s Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Unit to generate the tally and to run the vote counting.”

The decision to not allow scrutineering raises questions about the transparency of an election which has been tainted with allegations of racial profiling and intimidation. A police report was filed over a physical confrontation between a campaigner and student.

While the election is conducted via electronic ballot, scrutineering allows the candidates to confirm preference flow for anomalies before the results are released.

Section 38 of the University of Sydney By-Law 1999 provides that “Each candidate for election may appoint one person to be present as that candidate’s scrutineer at any counting of votes for that election.”

The nomination form provided to candidates allowed them to nominate a scrutineer.

Smith, and Returning Officer David Pacey, could not be contacted for comment.

Accusations revolved primarily around Colin Whitchurch and Francis Tamer.

Anecdotal evidence has suggested that Tamer has had the largest base of laptop-using campaigners. Both declined to be profiled by Honi, or to participate in the soapbox. Neither publicly advertised their campaigns on social media.

Little is known of Tamer other than his involvement with the Catholic Society. He is supported by current undergraduate fellow Dalton Fogarty.

Allegations of improper conduct were also raised against Fogarty. A New South Wales Supreme Court challenge was raised, but did not eventuate.
In addition, Honi has confirmed at least one case where electronic failure prohibited a student from voting.

Honi believes that there is a chance the result will be contested in the Supreme Court.