Voting for the QUT Student Guild’s Clubs and Societies Committee (CSC) was suspended and then relaunched last week, after the initial vote was shutdown by concerns of voter fraud due to lack of security.
The CSC is a Guild subcommittee that makes funding decisions for Guild-affiliated clubs and societies—along with other decisions involving discipline and dissolution of affiliated clubs. Committee members include four Presidents from Guild affiliated clubs who are elected by their peers each year.
The recent voting saga has raised concerns about the administration of the Guild’s Clubs & Societies programme among some students, especially as the CSC is set to manage up to $250K in club funding in 2023.
The original voting form was posted as a Jotform to the ‘QUT Guild Clubs Hub’ Facebook group (‘Clubs Hub’) on 12 December 2022.
Clubs Hub is a public Facebook group with more than 1,200 members made up of QUT Guild-affiliated club executives (including non-presidents).
Only current club presidents are allowed to vote in the CSC elections, but the initial voting form was set up in a manner that meant the identity of voters could not be verified, and the form itself acknowledged this flaw.
Glass spoke to a current club executive who said that the insecurity of the CSC elections made them ‘mad’, especially in light of the CSC committee handling such a significant portion of student money each year and when the Guild had admitted themselves in the Jotform that the they could not verify voters’ identities.
“Anyone with low technical know-how and a bit of time could [have] easily [rigged] the election,” said the club executive.
This club executive asked not to be identified for fear of the Guild “targeting” them or the clubs they are associated with.
Less than 24 hours after voting initially opened, a post by Clubs & Societies Officer Madison Shepherd in Clubs Hubs announced that voting had been suspended “due to evidence of voter misconduct”. On 14 December 2022, a new voting form was made available on Clubs Hub, which required voters to input their name and which club they were president of to cast a valid vote.
Discussion about whether this was a suitable solution to preventing voter fraud continued on Clubs Hub following the relaunch of voting, however.
One Clubs Hub commenter asked, “So what happens if someone else uses another club president’s name [to vote]?” There were also suggestions by students of the Guild using a voting system that requires Presidents to log in or emailing out a one-time link to eligible voters.
QUT Guild President Zoe Davidson said the decision to use Jotform for the CSC elections was made because the Guild believed it provided the best support and most sensible use of student money.
“To ensure a fair and democratic election, the platform used for the CSC elections allowed for limited voter-identification to ensure 100% anonymity, while still considering our not-for-profit, student-run status.”
“Platforms that use single-sign on verification, cost thousands of dollars,” said Davidson.
Under the relaunched CSC voting form, Davidson assured that “[Club Presidents’] details are then manually checked by [the QUT Guild] Clubs team against the most recent compliance confirmation files, and any concerns flagged appropriately.”
Davison also insisted that misconduct that occurred during the first round of voting was addressed quickly and only impacted a small portion of voters.
“Evidence of misconduct was flagged directly to myself within 10 minutes of its occurrence, verified within another five, and a plan implemented and enacted within an hour. We have never had such an instance occur before, and pleased that this was corrected in the time where it has only impacted 3% of presidents who had already cast a vote.
“[The QUT Guild] is actively looking into other options moving forward, including one-time-use links,” said Davidson.
Davidson, who also acted at the Guild’s Clubs and Societies Officer in a previous term, stated that she was “saddened” to hear reports of club executives not feeling comfortable raising concerns about the Clubs and Societies program to them directly, and insisted that “Any questions/concerns [raised with the Guild] will never result in negative effects to QUT club, only greater assistance being offered.”
“For those wanting to provide feedback, we encourage you to always start the conversation, and look out for the anonymous Climate Surveys released around every 3-6 months.”
Following the relaunch of voting, four club Presidents were elected: Christopher Sim (Football Club); Zac Hyde (Get Psyched!); Judah Adams (Anime & Manga); and Seth Bishop (Tennis) and the first funding round for Clubs has already begun.
This article was written by Ben Steele and Ciaran Greig.