Laurie Taylor Column

March 2, 2007

From: The University and College Union. To: All UCU members. As you will be aware, this union recently decided not to include photographs of the candidates who are contesting a variety of union posts in case voters were inappropriately influenced by the candidates' looks (see The Times Higher , February 23).

Since taking that decision, we have been contacted by a number of union members who feel that there are other possible sources of bias.

Will members, therefore, please note the following additional arrangements for the forthcoming union elections:


All candidates will be known by alphabetical symbols ("a", "b", "c" and so on) to ensure that their first names (for example, Wayne, Sharon, Sebastian) do not provide inappropriate indications of social class and that their surnames (for example, O'Callaghan, MacDougall and Patel) do not provide evidence of ethnic background.


Any possibility that voters will be inappropriately attracted by the alphabetical ordering of the candidates ("a" before "d" and "f" before "s") will be countered by randomising the allocation of such symbols.


To counter any possibility of inappropriate gender discrimination, candidates will not appear on voting forms as Miss "a" or Mr "b" but simply as "a" or "b".


All ages and indications of age (for example, "y" is "mature" or "precocious" or "experienced") will be excluded from the candidates' details to reduce the possibility of inappropriate ageist bias.


It was agreed that candidates should not make personal manifestos and statements of intent available to voters on the grounds that such manifestos might provide indications of literacy that could have an inappropriate effect on voter choice.


It was also decided that this letter should not be signed in case its writer became the subject of inappropriate hilarity.

I hope this clarifies the situation.


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