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KCL Professor Alleges UCU Election Misconduct

Dr Jo Grady (left), Professor Ewan McGaughey (middle) and Jeremy Corbyn (right).

King’s College London (KCL) Professor and candidate for Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) General Secretary Ewan McGaughey has alleged that the incumbent, Dr Jo Grady, breached election rules in the recent UCU election.

In a video posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) on 4 March, Professor McGaughey said, “there were really big problems with the way that the process has happened”, citing the “illegitimate” use of union social media by Dr Grady’s campaign.

In addition, he alleged that rules were breached with the distribution of “campaign-style” emails to the UCU mailing list and the holding of what were “in effect” solo-hustings, to which the other candidates were not invited. Professor McGaughey told Roar that “all of this gains [the incumbent] an unfair advantage, against union rules, which could swing the tiny margin to win.”

Professor McGaughey called for a recount of the vote, which Dr Grady won by 182 votes. He cited low turnout in the election at just 15.1% of UCU members and the relatively high number of invalid votes at 148.

Roar obtained a screenshot showing that the UCU’s official X account reposted an X post by Dr Grady which included “#Grady4GS” – her campaign slogan. This could represent a violation of the UCU’s Election Guidance Notes, of which Guidance Rule 7 states that “candidates are not permitted the use of UCU funds and resources for the purposes of campaigning”. Professor McGaughey said the UCU deleted the repost in mid-January after he and other candidates lodged a complaint. However, a spokesperson from the UCU said that the X repost was deleted the same day it was reposted, before any complaint was received. They continued:

“The retweet of a single campaign tweet by UCU’s main account was an isolated error, corrected as swifty as possible. It was not a matter in which Jo Grady was involved.”

Roar has also seen eight emails sent in Dr Grady’s own name, potentially breaking the UCU’s election Guidance Rule 8, which states that “email lists which are held by UCU’s head offices and regional offices are a resource of the union and cannot be used for campaigning by General Secretary or NEC candidates”. All candidates were allowed to send four campaign emails to all members during the election period, including Dr Grady (Guidance Rule 6). However, Professor McGaughey claims that Dr Grady “could send as much as frequently as she wanted” in her role as General Secretary.

None of the emails seen by Roar mention Dr Grady’s election campaign. Nonetheless, Professor McGaughey argues that such emails regarding normal General Secretary duties, sent in Dr Grady’s name, gave her campaign an advantage as they are on “clearly contested issues”.

Professor McGaughey further asserted that Dr Grady may have breached Guidance Rule 13, which states that “any branch organising a hustings event” must make “every effort to make the event accessible to all candidates”. Professor McGaughey said that Bristol UCU’s chair “refused” to hold a hustings with all of the candidates, but then invited Dr Grady to speak to branch members.

However, Jamie Melrose, president of Bristol UCU, told Roar:

“No hustings was ‘refused’. Bristol UCU members, in the weekly email to members, for example, were directed to the General Secretary & VP(FE) Online Hustings, Saturday 17th February, organised by UCU Cymru, at which all GS [General Secretary] candidates participated. The UK-wide GS hustings was also advertised.”

Professor McGaughey also asserted that Bristol branch members were invited using branch email lists, in a potential breach of Guidance Rule 9 which states that their use in election “must be decision of the branch, not of an individual who has access to such a list because of their role within the branch”. However, Jamie Melrose asserted:

“Jo Grady, the UCU General Secretary and UCU General Secretary elect, visited the University of Bristol campus on 23rd February. As a member of Jo’s campaign, I texted a branch reps’ list of which I am a member, in a personal capacity, to note that Jo was visiting campus, a point I underlined. There was no branch-wide advertised event using branch email lists.”

While Roar could not independently verify the content of the meeting, Dr Grady’s X post on the day of the Bristol meeting implies that its content was related to her election campaign, especially considering the use of her campaign hashtag.

Dr Grady also addressed several other branches in the latter weeks of the election period, including UCU Northumbria and UCU Aberdeen. X posts by Dr Grady regarding these meetings suggest they were unrelated to her election campaign.

A spokesperson from UCU told Roar:

“No complaints have been upheld in respect of hustings or other meetings. An incumbent general secretary continues to carry out their role during the election period, including communicating with members on union matters.”

Roar also contacted Dr Jo Grady personally for comment, but have received no response by the time of publication. The article will be updated if and when comment is received.

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