Do our student elections matter?

Newcastle University campus.
Image: Wikimedia, Sarah Cossom.Newcastle University campus. Image: Wikimedia, Sarah Cossom.

Over the past few weeks, it’s been hard to avoid the omnipresence of NUSU election season; every toilet cubicle in the university has been adorned with pun-ful posters, lecture shout-outs have been abundant and your Facebook newsfeed has undoubtedly been filled with the same cringe-worthy campaign videos over and over again.

The SU elections for the six Sabbatical Officers and nine Part-Time Officers (PTOs) are an integral part of the union’s democracy; the purpose of the Union is to represent students, and thus the students must have a say in the choice of figureheads to represent them. Unfortunately, however, the student body seems somewhat indifferent towards these elections with only 5439 students having voted in them out of a total of more than 20,000.

Unlike most other elections in society, it can be hard for students to determine exactly what impact their vote may have; although the Sabbatical Officers and PTOs undoubtedly work incredibly hard and contribute towards student life, safety and wellbeing in Newcastle, it can be difficult for passive university students to understand the role of the officers and their importance.

“Unfortunately, the NUSU elections have ultimately been tainted by their connotations as popularity contests”

Whilst it can be argued that, yes, the elections should primarily aim to benefit voters who are actually interested in being an active part of the student body, it is also true that the elections must ultimately be democratic and reflect the wider student body. In order to do achieve this, the election turnout needs to be increased.

To increase turnout, elections must be made more relevant to these inactive members of the student body. Instead of elevating their BNOC status and releasing comedic if not rather irrelevant online videos, candidates actually need to focus on the role at hand and what they as an individual can contribute towards this.

Unfortunately, the NUSU elections have ultimately been tainted by their connotations as popularity contests between BNOCs, as recently criticised in The Tab. Whilst this year’s candidates offered an impressive breadth of experience, passion and knowledge, their jokey campaigns are seen by some as ultimately exacerbating the demise of the NUSU elections.

As someone who regards themselves as an active member of the student body, however, I fully enjoyed following the NUSU elections and feel like they encapsulated the spirit of student life; the candidates this year epitomised the passionate, good-humoured, free-spirited nature of the students of Newcastle University.

Walking around the campus and seeing the election posters made me feel a sense of pride in my university and showed me just how many amazing students there are out there, and I felt proud to be a part of it.


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