Image: Boar Photography

Student politics: Aggression won’t burst the bubble

Walking into the Duck last Friday I was immediately struck by the energy in the room. Nerves were tangible, and only thinly masked by spectators laughing, drinking, and cheering at every passing comment the host made. As the winning candidates were announced it was touching to see people become so emotional at the chance to work for the SU – seeing campaigners shedding tears at the results really demonstrated the love candidates put in, and their earnest desire to be elected.

I was filled with a sense of admiration for the teams behind their campaigns, jumping ecstatically at their success or hugging each other at their lack thereof. It was clear how deeply people care about their SU and the Sabbatical positions within it, and moreover how passionately people want to improve students lives.

However, when I took a few steps back from the haze and excitement my thoughts turned to the hundreds of Freshers queuing for the U1 on their way out to Neon, the students in the library at that very moment finishing essays, and the staff at the Duck trying to stay on top of their debt with a part-time job, and I remembered how little most people care. The frenzy within the Duck was an incredibly insular bubble of students. They seemed fixated on the importance of what they were doing, and oblivious to the fact that thousands of students wouldn’t even bother voting.

I was immediately struck by the energy in the room

This obliviousness was reinforced when, after one candidate won, a conflict occurred between two campaigners. Signs from an unsuccessful candidate were childishly ripped up in front of the students who had spent weeks working on that campaign. Supporters became aggressive, calling the losing campaigners ‘scum’, and squaring up to people who only tried to calm the situation. The atmosphere shifted from hope to aggression so quickly that I was at a loss as to how it happened, and there were moments where I genuinely thought the fight would become physical.

What really amazed me about the situation is that students would be so quick to rage over an SU election. It’s astounding that some people care so greatly that they are willing to isolate and attack those who disagree. When someone tried to pop the bubble of this “unapologetically political” group they reacted with such venom that I was appalled to have voted for their candidate.

Supporters became aggressive, calling the losing campaigners ‘scum’

Ultimately, these elections epitomise the SU’s bubble. It displays just how isolated it is from regular students, most of whom wouldn’t get aggressive over a political dispute, especially not one as small as an Sabb election. This bubble preaches things most students want, but the passion that makes them so brilliant quickly turns into a violence that few can respect. Winning and losing with dignity is the mark of maturity, and when groups throw tantrums regardless of the result it makes me question their integrity.

Perhaps if these students spent a little less time getting aggressive from any form of dispute, and a little more time listening, communicating, and engaging with the students they claim to represent, then they wouldn’t be such an isolated group on campus.

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Comments (6)

  • Having been somewhat removed from the crowd at the front of the room, I observed this from a distance and it was plain to see who the aggressors were. They also know who they are, and if they didn’t wake up the next morning feeling pretty ashamed of themselves then I find it pretty hard to see how they’ll ever be able to take any kind of moral high-ground against others again. “The atmosphere shifted from hope to aggression so quickly that I was at a loss as to how it happened, and there were moments where I genuinely thought the fight would become physical.” Me too. It was ugly, and it’s not what a sabb election should be about. Disgraceful behaviour from a small but very, very aggressive and vocal group.

  • Steven Orage

    You’re removing the political context here. Tories voted for welfare cuts which are decimating communities. They are in the process of dismantling the NHS and their austerity program has been criticized by the UN for being discriminatory and breaching human rights. They sell weapons to brutal dictatorships. If this small list of just a few of the Tories’ more scummy policies isn’t enough to justify calling them scum then I don’t know what is. You should be proud that your campus is home to actual passionate politics rather than dull Tristan Hunt wannabes vying with dull David Cameron wannabes to improve their career prospects by getting elected to a sabb role where they won’t do shit to fight for students’ rights/needs.

  • Steven Orage

    The aggression was mutual there are no black and white right and wrongs here. Emotions were high and both sides were overly aggressive at times. But that’s how confrontations work, they spiral out of control. And by both sides I’m including the journalists who got involved despite the fact that they should be trying to be impartial.

  • Perhaps if they weren’t completely drunk the students who exhibited such bad behavior would have been able to apply proper judgement and behave like adults.

  • Confrontations don’t just spiral out of control when people are in a fit state of mind. Spiraling out of control after having consumed considerable amounts of alcohol is drunk and disorderly behavior – a criminal offence. This isn’t a case of politics, ethics or world views, this is a case of people needing to act responsibly or be told to go home and sleep it off.

  • You can try to justify their behaviour all you want, but ultimately Steven it was aggressive, nasty and threatening behaviour, and it was totally uncalled for. As I said, I wasn’t part of the crowd so can’t say for sure if anything was said to provoke the response, but what it seemed like to me was a group of people who were trying to rub the result in the noses of a losing candidate and their campaign team, and then responding with callous aggression when they were challenged for their actions. And the response of ‘oh, they’re Tories, they deserve it’ grew tiresome a long time ago. None of the people in that room are expressly responsible for the way the country has been governed in the past 7 years, beyond the expression of their democratic right to vote. Even if the group were Conservative supporters, which I’m led to believe a number of them were, to assume that they are all completely in support of everything that the government does is frankly rather ignorant. And regardless of the “political context” you refer to, the fact still remains that it was an ugly display from a group of people who had no reason to act in the way they did other than out of their own petty spite. They’d just seen their candidate win a sabb position, they should have behaved with grace and magnanimity, especially given that their figurehead was espousing a doctrine of “unity” not long beforehand. “Actual passionate politics” are great: mindless thuggery categorically isn’t. I fear for an SU where people with such authoritarian views seem to wield such influence.

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