I’m of the firm belief that voting in the SU elections will make no palpable difference. The candidates themselves undoubtedly want to work hard and improve our university experience, but there are a myriad of reasons why I, along with many other students, doubt the efficacy of student politics in producing tangible change.
Firstly, a range of the 16 different positions ultimately had only one candidate to vote for including, in the greatest irony, the full time, salaried position of Campaigns and Democracy Officer. If students aren’t even disposed to stand as candidates in any substantial number, it’s a wonder anyone expects the student body at large to be inclined to vote en masse.
The limited number of candidates who do stand for election provide manifestos that overlap significantly. Take just one role: non-portfolio officer, which had six candidates for four available positions. Every candidate but one promised to improve mental health services on campus, half pledged to lower prices in the SU shop and half commit to making the SU more accountable. These issues urgently need addressing, but the exact same promises have been ubiquitous in student manifestos for years across multiple positions and, if anything, the problems have only worsened.
Many of us hold a common fallacy that elections are the sole method of generating political change and realising democratic rights. But look no further than the ongoing lecturer strikes to notice that far more people, no matter their views, can be engaged in political debates through campaigning and industrial action than through receiving £1.50 off your A-list ticket, a paltry benefit of voting. Admittedly, some of the turnout-based rewards are appealing. But the success of these ideas must be measured in the effect they have on turnout, which is infamously abysmal.
There are many issues facing us at university that our union desperately needs to address, but the elections simply do not offer the solutions. However, there are other ways to make a difference. Start a campaign on an issue that matters to you, fundraise for a charitable cause, or join a group that seeks to make a positive change in our community. We students have a voice, but it is not limited to just our elections.