With the annual Students’ Association elections over, we now know who will be representing the interests of the student body next academic year. Competition for sabbatical positions has been particularly high this year. Reading through the manifestos of every candidate impressed upon voters a multitude of innovative policies advocated by various candidates, most of whom of course have not won office. However, unsuccessful candidates must not be disheartened and should understand that they have a right and perhaps a responsibility to continue to pursue their policies next year.
Expanding the Go Abroad fund from summer to all breaks, a cross-school second-hand book market to relieve the cost of textbooks, and a commitment to name and shame exploitative landlords: these policies would all benefit thousands of students, yet they are each advocated for by different candidates running for President. If next year’s sabbatical officers strictly pursue their own policies only then many of these ideas may be forgotten about, and that would be a terrible shame.
There are numerous access points within Edinburgh University Students’ Association for students to put forward their ideas without needing to hold an official elected position. Extra funding for the counselling service has previously been secured by passing motions through student council and the university’s recent commitment to divest from all fossil fuels was achieved through sustained pressure from student activists. This article serves as a call for all candidates to follow through on delivering their manifesto commitments regardless of the election results.
All candidates equally must try to look at the policies of their rivals to understand which of these resonate most with students. In this way, a successful candidate would be able to deliver on far more throughout their time in their role, thereby improving the reputation of the association among the student body and encouraging more people to take an interest in its proceedings. This might lead some candidates to feel that their policies are being stolen and passed off as others’. However, it would be wrong to think like this, especially if sabbatical officers were to invite these former candidates to work alongside them on their implementation. A former Vice President Services brought back the halloumi burger into Teviot after seeing that their opponent’s commitment to improve the vegetarian options in Edinburgh University Students’ Association buildings was very popular. This was a fantastic example of an elected officer trying to deliver as much as possible for the student body, rather than doggedly sticking solely to their own policies.
Perhaps Students’ Association representatives do not have the mandate to implement other candidates’ policies, but to take such a view completely ignores the lack of democratic accountability within Edinburgh University Students’ Association. Only a fraction of students actually vote and those that do often do so for their friends or people they’ve merely heard of. We have a long way to go before ensuring policies triumph over personalities at election time. We will only reach this goal when more students start voting in the elections, and they will only be inclined to do so if they see Edinburgh University Students’ Association doing as much to help them as possible. This is why representatives must take inspiration from the manifestos of others.
Ultimately, to run for any elected student role is commendable. By presenting their ideas to the student body, candidates are able to champion issues close to their hearts and articulate why and how aspects of university life should be changed. It is a disservice to these candidates for any elected representative to allow these policies and proposals to be forgotten.
Image: Andrew Perry