Your SU Needs You!
Don’t be alarmed by that headline. I’m not suggesting everybody who reads this article about the upcoming Student Union elections needs to actually stand in order to make a difference (unless you’re up for that, of course!) Instead, the purpose of this piece is simply to highlight just why engaging with the contest, getting to know the candidates, and most importantly, casting your ballot is so easy and so important.
To understand just why it’s so important to get voting, let me tell you the story of the 2019 elections which determined the SU officers for the 2020/21 academic year. As The Mancunion reported at the time, this contest was rife with controversy. Accusations of cheating were made against four candidates – including the eventual winner of the General Secretary ballot Kwame Asamoah Kwarteng and successful Postgraduate Officer candidate Rana Phool.
The independent Returning Officer responsible for the contest determined that they had been part of a ‘slate’, or common platform, which had broken campaigning rules in various ways. This included snatching phones to vote for themselves. An unprecedented number of complaints directed to the SU regarding the conduct of the candidates led to the Returning Officer suspending them from physical campaigning in the final days before the ballot opened.
Students at the time were reported to have felt ‘intimidated’ by the ‘slate’ contenders. Despite an appeal, the ban was upheld. It is worth acknowledging that all four candidates against which the accusations were made deny any wrongdoing.
Whilst previous years’ elections may seem an irrelevance – none of the candidates discussed above are still in office after all – it remains important to learn from such a farcical contest. If you care about the integrity of our SU Democracy – and you definitely should when you consider the enormous number of issues to have affected the student body over the last year with regard to Covid, strikes, mental health support, and increasing diversity – then don’t be like one of the 80%+ of students who didn’t vote in 2019.
If 4 in 5 students don’t care enough about who their representatives are to cast a vote, then ‘popularity contests’ where alleged ‘intimidation tactics’ can sway the outcomes as in previous years could easily occur again. It goes without saying that a well-informed and well-engaged student body is the most essential tool in student democracy.
What’s more, if you don’t vote then how will anything change? Every student I know has some sort of gripe or grievance with the university, the SU, their course, or their society. The SU Elections are a perfect way to solve that. You can easily get in touch with candidates to ask them questions and offer policy ideas during the campaign because they’re all students just like you or I (well, like me. I don’t know who you are). Why would you pass up that chance and simply whinge about it to your housemates instead? At the very least do a bit of both!
So, you’ve kindly stuck with me up until this point (thanks for that!), and you’ve been convinced that voting in the SU Elections is important. But how do you go about finding out who to vote for? Well, that is an easier question to answer this year than ever before. Student media will be offering blanket coverage of the election through Fuse FM’s flagship news show Fuse in Focus (Listen every Wednesday at 2pm). Candidates are also being quizzed using gameshow formats on Fuse TV and, of course, The Mancunion’s news team will be bringing you candidate interviews and all the info on when and how to make yourself heard.
These events are the perfect opportunity to put your specific issue to the candidates and see some material change at the place where we all study. When it comes to results, a live show on Fuse FM will bring you coverage throughout the day on the 11th of March.
So, you’ve agreed to vote. And you’ve worked out who you want to vote for. But how do we know they will actually improve the university? Well, it was the Students’ Union who successfully campaigned for a break in rent for students who weren’t in Manchester due to Covid. They campaigned for the university to divest from fossil fuels, and are offering training on anti-racism resources as part of a broad liberation scheme. Choosing who should head, expand, and implement these campaigns is a right more students need to exercise.
So remember: the polls open on the 7th March. Get voting!