The union’s student voice module has been victim of a loophole with students creating a number of fake accounts to cast votes on ideas put on the student voice.
This year, the Students’ Union introduced a new online system in order to promote the student voice and student’s ideas. Recently, the system has detected a number of bogus votes cast from newly created guest accounts, using the names of an abundance of celebrities.
The Student Voice module is part of the union’s website and expanding on ‘The Big Vote’ the elected Campaigns Officer previously took a lead on. Under the new online system, it means that at any point in the year a student can submit an idea such as; a new policy, a campaign for change or an issue to lobby the university on. Each idea must reach the required 50 votes, with a majority in favour, to be taken to the relevant meeting to be discussed.
Each student gets one vote for each of the ideas, as well as the opportunity to comment or join in with debate. So far the student voice module had been a success, with the new system creating many new changes across campus such as; Refugees Welcome, Sex Positivity campaigns on campus and to save Mintel.
Over the last few weeks the union has detected over 30 guest accounts registered to the website using a 10-minute email account, which were generated from a variety of internet providers. The majority of the guest accounts were created using celebrity ID’s including; all members of The Beatles (including the deceased ones), British icon Bruce Forsyth, Marvel hero Captain America and even ‘Let’s Get It On’ singer Marvin Gaye all have recently cast a vote and shared their opinion in favour of a number of ideas.
With the nature of the names and emails used, it suggested that someone was deliberately going out of their way to discredit the system. The union spotted the false emails before the situation escalated and have identified and eliminated any bogus emails.
The union are currently in discussions with NUS Digital to permanently fix the loophole meaning that all future votes cast will be closed to the student ID accounts.
The following ideas have been affected by the suspicious votes and the new results are as followed:
Dear cis straight academics stop erasing my identity: 44 votes cast with 40 in favour and 4 against
Housing for All LGBT: 40 votes cast 20 in favour and 20 against
More Gluten Free Food on Campus: 50 votes 46 in favour and 4 against
No to the New Logo: 97 votes cast 86 in favour 11 against
Save the NHS Bursary: 58 votes cast 57 in favour 1 against
Reintroduce the ability for Students Council Members to propose policy: 135 votes cast 50 in favour and 85 against
The change to the votes means that the dear cis straight academics stop erasing my identity lost 5 for votes and the housing for all LGBT lost 13 for votes, meaning both of these ideas no longer meet the required minimum number of votes. The other ideas were affect by a loss of votes but still managed to reach the required number of votes to be taken forward with more gluten free food losing 5 for votes, no to the new logo losing 11 for votes and save the NHS bursary with a loss of 9 votes.
The most noticeable difference was for the idea to Reintroduce the ability for Students Council Members to propose policy. Over the last month this had been one of the most debated ideas put online and had been a close call to whether students would be in favour or against the idea. After the results have been corrected it meant that 29 for votes and 1 against vote have been removed. Even though the idea always lost out in being taken forward for discussion, the sheer number of invalid votes is still a concern and proves this idea was the one the hackers wanted to have the most influence on.
Pluto spoke to Students’ Union President, Josie Linsel, for her thoughts on the voting scandal.
“It’s really disappointing to see a system made for democracy, where students are able to directly have an impact on an idea, being misused to take the power out of students’ hands by falsifying results. Fortunately, the people behind it very much underestimated the system. Of course the Union always makes sure the votes counted are from genuine student accounts and will continue to do so.”
The Students’ Union’s Deputy Returning Officer, the person responsible for fair and honest elections, had this to say, “at one point it was alleged that staff had fixed the vote. The way in which staff have acted quickly and decisively is testimony to their integrity.”
At the moment it’s unsure exactly who is behind the falsified votes but the Students’ Union are currently working with NUS Digital and LIS (UCLan’s Learning Information Services) to identify anybody involved in the bogus votes.