Union bans candidates' photos to aid facially challenged

February 23, 2007

Officials have banned photographs of all candidates standing for election to posts at the University and College Union amid concerns that voters may be swayed by a candidate's looks instead of their policies.

In a move described this week as "complete nonsense" and an illustration of oversensitive union officials "getting out of touch with reality", the UCU agreed not to include pictures with the official details of about 100 candidates who are contesting dozens of posts at the UCU, from its first sole general secretary and first president to members of its board of trustees and special committees.

A spokesman for UCU would say only that it "wanted members to make up their mind based on the information available".

Fawzi Ibrahim, a lecturer at the College of North West London who is standing for election as a trustee of UCU, said that the rule was first mooted by equal opportunities representatives last year, on the grounds that "people will vote on who looks better in their photo", a move he opposed.

He said that during the debate on the matter one person made the point that the union was "behaving like the Taliban, and the next step would be to try to make people wear the hijab in public meetings".

"Not publishing the photographs is an insult to members who, its seems, cannot be trusted to make a proper judgment," he said.

Mr Ibrahim said the rule had meant that election papers were now confusing and prevented people from knowing who was whom in a union where activists were likely to know candidates by face, through branch meetings, conferences and public speaking, but may not know their name.

He said the move was "complete nonsense - it shows what happens when a union gets out of touch with reality. The next step is to tell people who to vote for."

Roger Kline, head of equality for the UCU, said he was not aware of the reasoning behind the move, as he is standing for general secretary and candidates were not involved in the discussions about election procedure.

He pointed out that images of the the three general secretary candidates had been published in the union's official journal, UC , and that photos of him and his family were on his website. "I certainly have no problem with photos being used," he said.

Mr Kline recently advertised a meeting at the London College of Fashion on "challenging the new management culture" with a flyer that included a photograph of him and his two daughters dressed in full karate kit - complete with his green belt (right).

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