The three page document outlines the allegations and the investigation’s findingsVarsity

A Cambridge Union investigation panel has ruled that the original appointment process of the returning officers for Lent term was “procedurally irregular” and “improperly followed”, Varsity can reveal.

Following two complaints, the Union launched a “strictly private and confidential” investigation into the appointment process. The complainants alleged that the ballot papers for the selection of the returning officers, who oversee Union elections, were “pre prepared” by Union president Christopher George to omit the names of certain candidates.

In a document seen by Varsity, it was alleged that it was not made clear to members of the standing committee, the Union’s main decision-making body, that “they had the option of voting for any candidate that had been interviewed and not just those whose names appeared on the ballot papers.” It was claimed that because of this George had “impermissibly limited the choice of candidates for appointment as ROs”.

The complaints were brought against the appointments process and not against George himself, but the investigation panel gave him the opportunity to respond to the allegations. George said that the standing committee had agreed that the process for appointing returning officers would be “substantially delegated” to the returning officers from the previous Union election.

George said the ballots were prepared to include the names of the candidates suggested by the previous returning officers after interviews had been conducted. George said he was involved in producing the ballot papers but had not chosen the candidates. He was not present at all of the interviews.

George claimed it was clear that the standing committee was able to vote for any other candidate that had been interviewed.

By including the names of only some candidates, the panel ruled that the ballots constituted a “serious procedural irregularity”. The panel observed that the committee “should plainly have been offered the express opportunity to vote on all applicants”.

The appointments process for the returning officers was repeated after the panel declared the previous results void, to ensure that the officers were “appointed via a proper process which is, and is seen to be, procedurally fair.”  

The panel concluded: “In the circumstances, the purported appointments process was so procedurally irregular that it cannot be regarded as an appointments process properly understood at all”.


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The panel also investigated the claim that one of the ballot papers had been pre-marked to vote for a particular candidate. George strongly refuted this allegation and provided a ballot paper signed by members of the standing committee that said that they had not received pre-marked ballots. The panel concluded that they were not in a position to make findings into whether the ballot papers had been marked in this way.

The investigations panel also said they were “not in a position to make findings in relation to the motivations of any of the individuals involved in the events, nor is it necessary for us to do so.”

The panel agreed on its findings unanimously and the investigation was kept confidential and private as per one of the Union’s bylaws.

In a statement, the Cambridge Union said it “has full confidence in its returning officers and the integrity of its elections”.

When approached for comment, Christopher George told Varsity: “The appointment process of the Returning Officers is under the purview of the Vice-President, the last couple of terms the regular process outlined in the Constitution has not been followed, instead an emergency procedure has been utilised to appoint Returning Officers. This term, the Standing Committee unanimously agreed to a more open process that reflected other appointment procedures. Despite this, certain parties were unhappy with the outcome and so appealed. Voting on potential candidates for Returning Officers was then repeated with the exact same outcome. I did not vote or comment on any of the candidates.”