It’s February and we all know what that means: it’s SU elections time. Every year as spring comes around, the piazza fills up with students waving colourful cardboard signs, my phone buzzes relentlessly with Instagram follow requests from campaigning hopefuls, and I get confronted with a barrage of leaflets for just trying to enter and leave the library.
As a third year, I would be lying if I said I haven’t been cynical of the SU elections: the prospect of selecting which one of the people screaming slogans from across campus has never filled me with much excitement.
Nevertheless, for two years now, I’ve taken to sitting down at my computer to pour through the manifestos of candidates pleading for my vote for them to become the next SU President, or Societies Officer, or any other of the numerous roles members can run for.
It’s important that we are able to have an impact on such a central aspect of our education
However, I can’t help feeling that throughout my university career, my experience with the SU has changed very little. Now that I think about it, I can’t even remember whom I voted for last year – I’m sure they were highly competent people who promised policies I agreed with, but after clicking the submit button, I went back to my normal day and I haven’t thought particularly hard about SU politics since – and that’s a problem.
As students, it is important that we feel represented in our student union – this could be by electing the people whose platforms we want to see realised, or making sure the people who are supposed to speak for a group you are a member of actually understand your issues and concerns. We should also feel like our vote matters: that it’s not a case of simply which name ends up on the minutes of SU meetings and that we feel we have the ability to select candidates who will enact the changes that we want in the union.
So much of our everyday lives is shaped by the SU – whether that be grabbing a coffee at the cafés dotted around campus, becoming a member of one of the many societies available to us, or barely surviving a night in the Copper Rooms, it’s important that we are able to have an impact on such a central aspect of our education.
And if you truly can’t find anyone you feel represents you, there’s always the ‘RON’ option
Just like every other year, there will be the jokers whose mates bet them a fiver if they put their name down as ‘Chancellor Palpatine’ or ‘Rolf the cat’; there will be the candidates who are running only because they think it would plump up their CVs; and there will be those who nominated themselves on a whim, then completely forgot their name was on the ballot. But if you genuinely want an SU that fights for what you believe, then you have a responsibility to elect the candidates who will act on those beliefs and actually get things done.
And if you truly can’t find anyone you feel represents you, there’s always the ‘RON’ option. Just like a spoilt ballot, a mark of disapproval will mean so much more than simply abstaining. Not only does it show that you are dissatisfied with any of the options presented before you, but it also means that a more candidate more to your liking might actually get the position in a second round. This is actually far more likely than you might think since the ranked-choice method means that the winning candidate must have the support of at least half of the remaining votes.
The real reason why SU elections can feel not particularly important is that turnout is poor. I’ve heard so many of my peers complain endlessly about the minutiae of student life, whether that be grumbling over decisions made by the SU, or there not being any recourse by the union against the university’s actions, and yet so many of them forgo their right to vote.
If you feel that nothing ever seems to change, it’s because our SU is what we make it – and how can it possibly represent your interests if you can’t be bothered to take a few minutes out of your day? The SU, while often feeling distant, is our best tool to actually make a difference. So, you might as well vote…
Because let’s be honest, we both know that you’ll just be scrolling through TikTok otherwise.