Controversy in elections for SIPA’s Women in Leadership group

Illustration by Alessandra Felloni

TMP Staff Reporter | December 10, 2016

Like most other student groups within SIPA, the SIPA Women in Leadership group held elections last fortnight, to change its current board and hand over the responsibilities of management of WIL to students in their first year at SIPA. Elections for all board positions were held on November 30, 2016 and earlier in the day, WIL had organised a debate where all the candidates introduced themselves and spoke about their ideas and plans for WIL. Given the popularity of WIL, there were four candidates for the post of President, three for the Vice President post and one each for the posts of Treasurer, Skills-Building Chair and External Relations Chair. WIL enabled elections on the OrgSync platform for all the posts at 2pm on November 30th and voting was allowed till 11.59pm on the same day.

Controversy began at 10:30 PM

Everything was fine till about 10.30pm, when one of the current board members of WIL sent an e-mail saying that votes from only those who were members on OrgSync as of 2pm will be counted and the votes of those who joined after the deadline would not count. The WIL board justified the decision saying that they did not think it fair that people who have never attended a WIL event before should be allowed to choose the leadership of the group.

TMP spoke to some SIPA students, who have shared their disappointment with the decision of the current WIL board after elections for the new board were already live. Students that TMP spoke with said that while they agreed with the spirit of the decision of the WIL board, it should have been communicated before. Some students also said that given that there was no prior communication, ideally, WIL should have held elections again, so as to be fair to all the candidates.

WIL hopes to learn from this error

TMP spoke to two representative of WIL and in all fairness to the leadership of WIL, they agreed that they should have communicated all rules related to the election earlier, and they will make sure that such errors do not reoccur. However, WIL was not willing to call for elections again or share the results of the elections just concluded with the new eligibility criteria. The representatives also said that SIPASA stands by the decision of the WIL board.

A learning moment for all organizations

Tinkering with the election process after elections have been initiated is never a good idea, especially when this involves denying members their voting rights. This was an avoidable error, which did hurt some of the candidates who stood for the elections. All SIPA student organisations can learn from this error and make sure that eligibility criteria for membership and voting are communicated well in advance to the SIPA community.