The Students’ Association has approved a proposal to affirm the voting rights of students who are on a leave of absence.

Currently, the Association’s rules do not stipulate whether or not students on a leave of absence have the right to vote and stand in elections for student officers and the issue is handled year-on-year by the elections committee.

The proposal, which was passed unanimously by both the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and Student Services Council (SSC) resolves to allow all students on a leave of absence to campaign in Students’ Association elections and allow all those students who are expected to return at the start of the next semester to vote and stand in those elections.

The motion passed with no objections, though some student officers questioned how the policy would be fully implemented. For example, some asked how it would affect students who do not confirm with the University that they are returning for the next semester until elections have already begun.

Speaking at a meeting of the SSC on 14 April Pat Mathewson, president of the Students Association, said that the Association should take the proposal as an opportunity to discuss how best to support those students returning from a leave of absence who wish to campaign and take up a role. He raised the issue of whether “enabling them to run poses any personal risk” to those who may suffer from health problems relating to stress and workload.

The motion also aims to “encourage Sabbatical Officers and staff in the Students’ Association to provide appropriate support to all candidates in the Students’ Association Elections.”

How the University handles and supports students who take a leave of absence was one of the most prominent issues during the recent Students’ Association Elections. Many candidates proposed measures to make the University more effective at dealing with the problems of students who take a leave of absence, including establishing peer groups to make students feel more included and provide extra mental health training for students who have contact with a large proportion of the student population.

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