By SALONEE MISTRY, ANDREA THIIS-EVENSEN and LAURA PLACELLA
The Monash University Student Union (MONSU) at the Caulfield campus has cancelled next week’s student election amid allegations of racism and dirty politics.
The student union came under fire for an 11th-hour policy change that meant international students were ineligible to be elected to certain positions.
Nominations to run closed on September 2, but on the same day the council adopted an increased minimum work requirement, which exceeded the hours international students are permitted to work under their visa arrangements.
The National Union of Students was quick to weigh into the debate, branding the decision "racist".
A joint statement from NUS General Secretary Michael Iroeche and NUS International Officer Alex Wang called on MONSU to void the regulations and call a new election.
"These regulation changes were made an hour and fifteen minutes before nominations for the 2019 annual election closed and six of the MONSU Council Members have seen material benefit due to these regulation changes," the joint statement read.
"The National Union of Students condemns the MONSU Student Council for making these racist regulation changes so close to the close of nominations."
MONSU this afternoon released a statement to MOJO News, saying the election would be postponed due to "unforeseen circumstances".
"Information regarding a minimum workload of 22 hours was unclear," the statement read.
"The increase of the weekly time commitment was never designed to make any student in-eligible, instead it was in recognition that being a member of MONSU Caulfield is a considerable weekly commitment.
"Prior to the new election the minimum weekly workload will be clarified the new rescheduled election will not be until week 12 of semester 2 2019."
MONSU President Anthony Eid said the change to the minimum workload has "nothing to do with international students".
"The aim was to communicate the hours expected for the roles in order to provide the best student experience," Mr Eid said.
In a decision made during the September 2 meeting, a minimum of 22 working hours was assigned to nine out of 13 portfolios of the council.
This new amendment disqualified six international students competing in the election, five of which were from the Go! ticket.
These included important positions like that of the Vice-President, Education Officer and Welfare Officer, among others.
Nidzam Shah Hussain, who stood for the Vice-President portfolio on the Go! ticket, said postponing the election to Week 12 resolved nothing.
"I feel like it's a distraction at this point, because Week 12 is the busiest period of the semester and it may be to reduce voter turnout," Mr Hussain said.
MONSU Returning Officer Glenn Donahoo, acknowledged the new date might reduce voter turn-out, but said it was necessary.
"There is a possibility that since the elections are held in Week 12 the voter turnout might be less, but it was not safe to hold the elections in the coming week," Mr Donahoo said.
"A five week notice has to be given before elections and so they can’t be held before then."
NUS General Secretary Michael Iroeche said he was pleased the election had been delayed, but the issue had not been resolved.
"We still need clarification as to the increase in the number of working hours and how exactly we will be able to see the work put into these extra hours," he said.