UWI Guild scratches vote as on­line portal freezes

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Ju­dana Mur­phy/Gleaner Writer ju­dana.mur­phy@glean­erjm.com

SYS­TEMS GLITCHES doomed yes­ter­day’s his­toric on­line vote for the stu­dent govern­ment at The Univer­sity of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, forc­ing a post­pone­ment to June 2.

The de­ci­sion was made late yes­ter­day fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tion with the in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy tech­ni­cians.

All votes pre­vi­ously cast will be dis­carded.

Guild of Stu­dents Pres­i­dent Christina Wil­liams told The Gleaner that the plat­form had been tri­alled with two hall elec­tions and a num­ber of club polls.

She de­clined to di­vulge the ex­tent of the chal­lenges but hinted that the scale of the guild vote might have put pressure on the plat­form’s ca­pac­ity.

“Test­ing is fickle in that the elec­toral com­mit­tee tested halls through it and would have had their elec­tions suc­cess­fully, but a hall has a max­i­mum of 500 stu­dents. It is not equiv­a­lent in any shape or form to the school pop­u­la­tion,” Wil­liams said.

Up to 4 p.m. yes­ter­day, tech­ni­cians were work­ing to re­solve the is­sues.

Ow­ing to the im­pact of the COVID-19 pan­demic on ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, cam­paign­ing dragged on for three months, and the ten­ure of cur­rent guild rep­re­sen­ta­tives was ex­tended for a month and a half to fa­cil­i­tate the tran­si­tion.

Wil­liams likened the chal­lenges of on­line learn­ing to that of the vot­ing process, not­ing that some stu­dents may still have lim­ited ac­cess to ser­vices.

“I would hope that if not a higher voter turnout, that the turnout we usu­ally get, which is about 3,000 to 4,000 stu­dents, will at least be main­tained,” Wil­liams told The Gleaner.

Ap­prox­i­mately 20,000 stu­dents at­tend the Mona cam­pus.

SE­CURED VOT­ING PROCESS

A 24-hour vot­ing win­dow was al­lot­ted to fa­cil­i­tate ver­i­fied vot­ers with dif­fer­ent lev­els of ac­cess.

“It’s be­ing done through the univer­sity’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to en­sure se­cu­rity, and stu­dents are able to vote through a link that is sent to their email. It is a per­son­alised link, so no­body else can use that link as it is de­signed based on ID num­bers,” she said of anti-fraud con­tin­gen­cies.

In April, the Ja­maica Union of Ter­tiary Stu­dents (JUTS) is­sued an ad­vi­sory im­plor­ing ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions to host stu­dent govern­ment elec­tions on­line.

“The busi­ness of stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tion must go on and must be done through a demo­cratic process. Such an idea is not for­eign to us here in Ja­maica,” JUTS had said.

It cited North­ern Caribbean Univer­sity, which has hosted its elec­tions on­line for the last five years with a stu­dent pop­u­la­tion of more than 2,500 stu­dents.

In an in­ter­view yes­ter­day, JUTS Pres­i­dent Ever­ton Rat­tray said he hoped that the on­line pro­ce­dure would re­duce voter ap­a­thy.

Rat­tray said that the Elec­toral Of­fice of

Ja­maica did not pro­vide over­sight of the elec­tions as was cus­tom­ary be­cause of the for­mat.

“We reached out to Na­tional In­tegrity Ac­tion, and we asked them to en­gage with us in the process of creat­ing trans­parency in the ex­e­cu­tion of these on­line elec­tions,” he said.

Rat­tray added that ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions were also urged to in­te­grate vot­ing por­tals in e-learn­ing plat­forms that were given zero-rated status a few weeks af­ter on­line learn­ing com­menced.

A cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis of phys­i­cal ver­sus on­line elec­tions was not yet avail­able, but Rat­tray said it could be the way for­ward for stu­dent elec­tions.

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