It’s fair to call the latest Students’ Union (SU) exec officer elections… controversial. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll stick to facts.
Every year, the SU holds elections for the eight exec roles, who are the officers that run the Union. They are mandated to do so by law. This year, four candidates who ran on a joint slate were banned from campaigning in-person due to complaints received by the SU over campaigning tactics, some of which were shared on social media.
The ban was handed down by the returning officer, who is supplied by the NUS – that means the decision to not disqualify those candidates, which some students have called for, is out of the hands of the SU.
At the time of writing, two of those four candidates – Kwame Kwarteng and Rana Phool – won their elections to become SU exec officers for 2019/20. Anas Riaz lost to incumbent Officer Lizzy Haughton, and due to the unprecedented number of complaints about “more than one” candidate in the International Students’ Officer position, the decision was made to delay declaring the winner until 20th March.
On top of that, voter turnout fell by 0.4% from 2018. That means only 19.4% of students voted in 2019 – 7,771 to be exact.
Banned candidates winning, others under investigation, and student voters falling. It’s not a pretty picture. So, what can the student population do?
Well, the good news is that the SU is incredibly well set-up to listen to student feedback through student Senate, held three times per semester. There are two Senate sessions left this academic year, and the next one on 28th March has seen two motions proposed to effectively bar Kwame Kwarteng and Rana Phool from entering office.
The Mancunion is politically independent – so I won’t be using this platform to pass any judgement on what decision should be taken over Kwarteng and Phool. I will use this platform, however, to encourage every student to attend March’s Senate. And the Senate after. And the Senate after that.
In previous years, Mancunion elections headlines have read along the lines of ‘Voter turnout still below 20 per cent in Exec elections’, which was met by the very apathy that created it. This year, our headline read ‘Banned candidates win SU elections’, which was met by the very anger that created it. Manchester now has a hugely unique opportunity in student politics: a wide student body which cares. That’s not to say there has never been a student who’s cared about their politics, it’s to say that these elections have multiplied the number of students who care.
I, as the Editor-in-Chief of The Mancunion now call on you to go to Senate. Express your satisfaction or dissatisfaction at the elections. Do the same thing for the whole of the SU and University.
Rolling your eyes at the introduction of jazz hands doesn’t change anything. Dismissing the SU as ‘shit’ for the latest elections debacle doesn’t change anything. Moaning to housemates about the food choices on campus doesn’t change anything.
The Mancunion says this: It’s time to end the apathy.
The next student Senate meeting is on 28th March at 6pm in the SU Theatre. The final Senate meeting of 2018/19 is on 9th March. You can view the previous meetings’ minutes and upcoming agenda on the SU website.