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LUSU will be left without a Sabbatical Education & Welfare officer for part of Michaelmas Term due to the officer-elect, Dan Ratcliffe, having failed his degree. The Union Code of Practice does not allow failed students to take up office, and LUSU has no intention of implementing any special measures. The position will remain vacant until a replacement can be elected in a byelection.
“This year Dan is one of 22 students who have failed their final year,” a statement from the Union explained. “All of these students find themselves in an extremely difficult and challenging position. It would be immensely unfair for any elected officer to receive any special treatment with regards to their degree, indeed the University would not allow it to happen.”
A byelection will be held in Week 4 of Michaelmas term in order to elect a replacement, and the position has been widely advertised in an effort to fill it as quickly as possible. Although this approach will leave students without an Education & Welfare officer for half a term, it is, it would seem, the only democratic option available.
Dan has openly criticised both the University’s handling of the situation and what he sees as fatalism on the part of the Students Union. “Apparently there was no way for me to officially challenge the decision,” he said. “As soon as it was discovered I had definitely failed that was it, game over… The attitude from the day after I found out my case was going to Senate was very much ‘We’re very sorry for you Dan, but you’re not part of this team.’
“I have to say I do think something else could have happened. Michael and his team could have fought to have the rule changed… but there was no talk anywhere within LUSU itself about trying to fight the University over their decision.”
While there was popular support for Dan being allowed to hold the position, LUSU stated unequivocally that no weight of student support will make his reinstatement possible – even if he were granted the opportunity, after appeal, to resit his exams:
“Though many students would be keen to see Dan in a position where he could take up his Sabbatical position… the opportunity if granted to take external re-sits would not alter the current situation because those external re-sits would not take place until next Summer.”
Eager to put the ordeal behind him, Dan has decided not to appeal University Senate’s decision about his degree. He remains hopeful that the next Education & Welfare officer will be as concerned as he was with the issues that formed the backbone of his campaign.
“I pray that student officers will take up the cause I was most passionate about and make the University take mental health issues seriously. These issues, in large part, cost me my role and my degree, and there are plenty more students still there who are struggling every day. If nothing else comes from this débâcle, I hope that there is serious action and support for those suffering for mental health issues.”