On the eve of the local elections, an email was sent to all Sociology students at the University of Warwick, asking them to “consider going out today to vote for Kindy”, a Sociology member of staff who ran as a Labour candidate in the Earlsdon Ward election.
Kindy Sandhu later won the seat, described as a traditional Tory stronghold, becoming the first Labour Councillor in the Earlsdon ward since 1996. Mrs Sandhu gained 156 more votes than the nearest candidate, Conservative Mike Ballinger.
Sociology students were asked to vote for Kindy, as “there may be as little as a couple dozen votes between her and the other leading candidate.”
The email went on to state that Sociology students should “consider encouraging your friends in Earlsdon to vote for her.”
The message was sent by Maria do Mar Pereira, Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender at the University of Warwick. She was recently awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize, in recognition of her “achievement as an outstanding researcher.”
Pereira stated: “I appreciate it’s unusual for departments to send out emails relating to elections, so thank you for your patience with this message. It’s not every day that we have a colleague in the department this close to getting elected to such an important role.”
As well as calling for students to vote for Kindy Sandhu, Maria do Mar Pereira included a statement from Mrs Sandhu and a link to her campaign’s Facebook profile.
Mrs Sandhu explains: “I am an alumni of the University of Warwick, twice over (BSc Computer Science and MA Interdisciplinary Gender Studies). During the whole of my adult life I have volunteered in my local community supporting victims of domestic violence, setting up a social enterprise for BME women, parent Governor and board member roles at a local housing association and sexual abuse centre.”
The University told The Boar that the Associate Professor was “perfectly entitled to [her] own political views”, and clarified that the email was not “an official endorsement of this candidate by the University nor this Department.”
The University continued: “However, the academic and administrative leadership of the Department will be reminding colleagues of what constitutes an appropriate use of university email lists, particularly in light of the new GDPR regulations soon coming in to effect.”
Elsewhere in Coventry there were few changes, with only three seats changing hands. In the nearby Leamington Willes County elections, Labour’s Helen Adkins was elected with a total of 1164 votes.